George R.R. Martin Slams TV & Film Adaptations: 'Never Better Than the Book'

George R.R. Martin discusses adaptation trends in latest post.

by Nouman Rasool
George R.R. Martin Slams TV & Film Adaptations: 'Never Better Than the Book'
© Amy Sussman/Getty Images

George R.R. Martin, the famed author of "Game of Thrones," has recently shown great disdain in a candid new blog post for today's fad of film and television adaptations of books, lamenting that such projects all too frequently fail to measure up to their original, literary masterpieces.

This takedown was part of an exchange on a panel between Neil Gaiman, creator of the "Sandman" series, and others. Martin, reflecting on the state of adaptations since 2022, expressed concern over the growing number of screenwriters and producers who are too eager to put their own spin on established works.

"Everywhere you look, there are more screenwriters and producers eager to take great stories and 'make them their own,'" Martin observed. He noted that this trend persists regardless of the literary giant behind the original work, be it Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, or J.R.R.

Tolkien. Highlighting the pervasive attitude in adaptation circles, Martin quoted a common refrain: "'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." However, according to Martin, these adaptations rarely enhance the stories they aim to translate to the screen.

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

Shogun: A Rare Success

Despite his critique, Martin acknowledged the occasional success, pointing to the FX series adaptation of James Clavell's 1975 novel "Shogun." He reminisced about the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, which he described as a "landmark" adaptation.

The recent rendition of "Shogun," Martin suggested, stands out as a superb exception that might even rival Chamberlain's version, although he admitted to not having rewatched the 1980 series since its airing. Martin praised the new "Shogun" for its fidelity to Clavell's work, noting significant yet respectful differences, such as subtitles that made Japanese dialogue accessible to English-speaking audiences.

"Both old and new screenwriters did honor to the source material and gave us terrific adaptations, resisting the impulse to 'make it their own,'" he concluded. This reflection from George R.R. Martin underscores a critical conversation in the entertainment industry about the integrity of artistic adaptations and the delicate balance between creative interpretation and loyalty to original texts.

As more literary works continue to be envisioned for the screen, Martin’s insights offer a poignant reminder of the challenges and responsibilities faced by those adapting beloved stories.