‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin Criticizes TV and Film Adaptations: “They Never Make It Better.”

'Game of Thrones' Author George R.R. Martin Criticizes TV and Film Adaptations: "They Never Make It Better."

The popular Game of Thrones franchise is one of the best-known and most popular adaptations in history. But it is just a drop of water in a vast ocean of adaptations that have been present since the earliest days of cinema. Now, for years, people have been debating whether adaptations are good or not, whether they can properly present a work or not, or whether they can elevate it. While most people will agree that an adaptation cannot be as good as the original, there are examples where an adaptation elevated the original work, like in the case of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, where the movie remains far superior to the novel.

Author George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, has recently provided his own opinion on the matter and has aligned himself with those who think that adaptations don’t really do much for the works in question.

This stream of thoughts was published by Martin himself on his own blog, georgerrmartin.com, under the title “The Adaptation Tango“, in which Martin expressed his views on adaptations, saying the following:


That was all back in 2022, but very little has changed since then. If anything, things have gotten worse. Everywhere you look, there are more screenwriters and producers eager to take great stories and “make them their own.” It does not seem to matter whether the source material was written by Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, or… well, anyone. No matter how major a writer it is, no matter how great the book, there always seems to be someone on hand who thinks he can do better, eager to take the story and “improve” on it. “The book is the book, the film is the film,” they will tell you, as if they were saying something profound. Then they make the story their own.

They never make it better, though. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, they make it worse.

Source: “The Adaptation Tango”

But, if you think that the outlook is completely grim – it is not. While his general stance remains unchanged, Martin has expressed his opinion that, from time to time, good adaptations can appear, and has cited the recent example of Shogun as a great adaptation:

Once in a while, though, we do get a really good adaptation of a really good book, and when that happens , it deserves applause.

I can came across one of those instances recently, when I binged the new FX version of SHOGUN.

Must confess, I was dubious when I first heard they were making another version of the Clavell novel. It has been a long time, a long long LONG time, but I read the book when it first came out in the late 70s and was mightily impressed. (I really need to give it a reread one of these days, but there are so many books, so little time). And the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain as the Anjin was a landmark of long form television, right up with with ROOTS; why do it over again, when that version was so good?

I am glad they did, though. The new SHOGUN is superb. Better than Chamberlain’s version, you ask? Hmmm, I don’t know. I have not watched the 1980 miniseries since, well, 1980. That one was great too. The fascinating thing is that while the old and new versions have some significant differences — the subtitles that make the Japanese dialogue intelligible to English speaking viewers being the biggest — they are both faithful to the Clavell novel in their own way. I think the author would have been pleased. Both old and new screenwriters did honor to the source material, and gave us terrific adaptations, resisting the impulse to “make it their own.”

But don’t take my word for it. Watch it yourself.

Acting, directing, set design, costume… it’s all splendid here. Along with the writing.

And if SHOGUN is a big enough hit, maybe the same team will adapt some of Clavell’s other novels.

Source: “The Adaptation Tango”

So… if there’s anything we can take away from this blog post, it’s that Shogun is worth watching, and we can only agree with that, and we can only do what Martin did as well – advise you to go and watch Shogun as quickly as possible.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments