Thursday, July 28, 2011

Late Night Rant: On the subject of Movie Adaptions

I like movie adaptions. I like them a lot. I think that, when they’re done right, they’re a great opportunity to expand on the already-proven premise of a book and turn it into even more awesome than it was before.

So it bugs me when people start judging the movie before it even comes out, just because it’s an adaption.

And it really, really bugs me when their reason for this is, “The actors/setting/costume design is nothing like I imagined.”

You know why this frustrates me? Because it is an unreasonable expectation to have, and it’s not a fair standard to set. Even if the cast and crew of a movie could read viewer’s mind, there is no way that any one movie could match the imagination of every reader.

More than that, I hate this because it completely misses the point.

You don’t want the movie to match your imagination.

What you want is for the movie to give you something more, something beyond the original story, something that lives up to the heart of the characters you love and stories you adore while still bringing something new to table.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a successful movie adaption.

Movie adaptions are not meant to replace the book. Most – the mediocre ones, the ones churned out with no passion just to make a buck – are simply an excuse to extend your enjoyment of the story you love and share that enjoyment with your fellow fans, just like anime conventions, fan fiction, cosplay, and internet forums. Even the bad ones, the “Batman and Robin”s, are, at worst, a testament to why the original story was so great.

But the best movie adaptions take the story and turn it into something more.

Lord of the Rings became a cinematic masterpiece and cultural experience that brought epic fantasy into the mainstream consciousness of America.

Harry Potter was turned into one of the most ambitious projects in the history of cinema, keeping the same cast and same ongoing story through ten years, eight movies, and the horrors of puberty without ever sacrificing their standard.

And Marvel’s superhero movies of the last few years – like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America – have brought comic book-style continuity to the big screen for the first time, opening movies to the kind of rich, expansive world-building that is exactly what makes superheroes so unbelievably epic.

These are all extreme examples, of course, but my point remains: a good adaption will always give you more than you could have imagined, and those that do are worth the dozens of “Just okay”s and even the occasional stinkers.

Besides, if all the movie adaption had to offer you was the exact same thing you could imagine for yourself, there would be no point in creating a movie adaption at all.


  1. I completely agree about books. Maybe not so much with the comic adaptations, though, because then there IS a visual standard to adhere to. When Eddie Brock was that skinny little whiner in Spiderman 3, I was pretty irritated. That's just not Venom, you know? We have an existing ideal (something like Sin City tried really hard to keep the visuals very similar, and it paid off really well in my opinion).

    But for stories that don't have a predefined image, the individual reader isn't going to be "right" about the appearance of characters. This is just the movie's take on that character. Maybe it's not ideal, but it's like a sister-entertainment piece, either complimenting or contrasting the original. :)


  2. I disagree actually, at least in the context of American comics. There are some iconic visual standards that are adhered to for identification purposes - like Superman's costume - but everything else varies heavily depending on the artist and the theme of the work in question.

    I mean, look at how many different versions of Batman there are out there - the original Adam West series, the Tim Burton movies, the DCAU, and the Dark Knight are all legit adaptations of the same character, even though they're so different from each other. There's some personal preference in there of course (like, I think The Dark Knight portrayal is overrated and the DCAU version is the ideal) but they're all legit.

    Overall though, I think we can all agree that a good adaption movie is a good movie that, like you said, complements or contrasts the original.