Comparison of a Short Story and the Film Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Nov 12th, 2019


The Adjustment Bureau (2011) is romantic thriller film adapted from the Adjustment Team, a science fiction story. A film adapted from a novel/ book derives characters, plot, ending and theme from the book/novel. However, when it comes to The Adjustment Bureau, critics say that the movie is ‘loosely attached’.

Therefore, the adaption of the film from the story is unsuccessful. What are the major differences between the film and the story? This question will help us find out whether the film is ‘loosely’ associated with the story and whether its adaptation is successful.

Characters and Plot Adjustments

There are major plot and character adjustments in the film in relation to the story. In the story, the dog is supposed to bark early at around eight-fifteen in the morning to summon Ed’s friend to drive Ed to work but unfortunately, the dog does not do so (Dick 1). In the movie, a scene with major differences substitutes this part of the story.

Harry Mitchell is required to meet with David, knock him and spill his coffee so that David is late for work. We get to know that this scene represents the part of the story that we have discussed because, just as the dog failed, Harry also fails to spill David’s coffee.

In the story, when Ed gets to the sector that is undergoing adjustment, all things are gray. As he says, all things seemed like ‘gray clouds of dust’ (Dick 5). The men who chase him are in white robes. We can see the statement ‘men in white robes they had chased him’ (Dick 5).

The film, substitutes this part with a scene where David goes to his office and realizes that all people are incapacitated. Unlike in the story, everything is in color (not gray) and the men chasing him are in suits, not white robes. In the movie, the men with suits seize the main character, David while in the story, the main character, Ed manages to flee.

In the story, the central character is married to Ruth. We can see that when Ed is troubled, Ruth encourages Ed to tell her what is worrying him. She tells him “I’m your wife”. This shows that she wants Ed to be honest just like any other man would be with his wife (Dick 6). In the movie, the main character is single. We see David falling in love with Elise like a single man would. He openly fights for her love and is ready to take risks to make sure Elise is not married to another person, an indication that he wants to make her his wife.

In the book, the name of Adjustment team leader is ‘The Old Man.’ Ed is re-energized and the Adjustment Team summons him. We see how Ed regards the Old man highly. Since he is re-energized, something that has not happened before, he gets nervous. He becomes more worried with the Old Man’s response once he discovers that Ed has already informed his wife about the process. As we can see, the Old Man twists his face angrily (Dick 12).

As a result, he has to humble himself to his master, plead for his life and make a pact that he will not inform anyone about the process. Contrary to this, the name of the Adjustment Bureau leader is ‘the Chairman.’ In a scene where Richardson is explaining that he and the men with him come from the Adjustment Bureau, he provides a complex document containing the plan; a document attributed to their leader, ‘the chairman’.

Theme Alteration

In adapted films, both the film and the novel/story ought to share the same theme to signify that the film is adapted from the story/novel. However, in The Adjustment Bureau film, this is not the case. The main theme of the story is saving people from war while in the film, the main theme is manipulating human behaviors to create a haven for human beings.

In the story, events conducted by the Adjustment Team are supposed to bring educated people including scientists from ‘both sides’ intending to start the war together. As written, the ‘nonnational discoveries’ will provide excitement that will divert people’s attention from war and make them concentrate more on forming an international society (Dick 11). As a result, people will direct their efforts to the society, and ‘the war tension will somewhat wane’ (Dick 11).

In the film, the Adjustment Bureau makes ‘the Plan’ that controls the main character’s behavior. David Norris cannot get involved with a woman she loves. As a result, he spends his entire time in the movie trying to fight for his right to love. As shown, David is running for presidency while Elise, the woman she loves is a dancer. The Bureau controls David’s choices claiming that he risks loosing his presidency as well as risking Elise’s career as an international dancer if he does not stop seeing her.

This implies that David will be a president while Elise will be a successful international dancer if both do not see each other thus creating a haven for David and Elise. In a different scene, we see the Bureau altering their schedules in order to separate them. Throughout the entire move, The Bureau tries to control David’s behavior to create a haven for him and Elise.


Unfortunately, not even the ending of the story, which draws upon the events happening in the story, corresponds to the movie’s ending. The story ends with Ruth, Ed’s wife demanding that Ed should tell him the truth about the re-energized process. A doorbell rings and Ruth heads to the door where he finds a sales man that captivates her with his demonstration.

Ed is glad that Ruth is distracted and he can keep a secret that would have cost his life. The story ends as he says words of gratitude (Dick 14). Unlike the story, the movie ends with Elise and David walking while holding hands with Harry’s voiceover hypothesizing that ‘the chairman’ will let humans write their own plans.


Neither the least adaptable elements from the story nor the major ones are included in the movie. The film has altered the characters, the plot and the theme in relation to the story. Even the ending that would have made the audience think that in spite of the differences in the plot, characters and the theme, the film is somehow adapted from the story is a disappointment. This shows that the film is ‘loosely’ associated with the story, an indication that the adaptation of the film is unsuccessful.

Works Cited

Dick, Philip. K. Adjustment Team. Google Docs, 1954. Web.

The Adjustment Bureau. Dir. George Nolfi. Perf. Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, John Slattery, Terence stamp, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Kelly. Universal Pictures, 2011. Film.

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