In recent years Hollywood has been desperately mining already popular material in the hopes of producing ready-made hits, so we've had a great bonanza of classic Scifi, fantasy and comic book films blasting onto the silver screen with the likes of The Lord of The Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Starwars things, Ninja Turtles remakes, Transformers, Superman, Spiderman and Batman reboots, X-men films by the bushel, Hunger Games, Tron, Harry Potter, Twilight and more. TV has had its share with the reboot series of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, comicbook fare like The Arrow, fantasy like Sleepy Hollow, Game of Thrones, The Pillars of Heaven, classics like Sherlock Holmes etc.
Apart from being already massively popular material, these properties are also all adaptions. Creations always have to be adapted in various ways to accommodate the changes needed to make them fit into another type of media or in the case of a reboot: another kind of audience in the SAME media. Adaptation is a fraught process, there are a lot of competing pressures: you have to remain somewhat faithful to the source material, you have to throw a bone to the fans who're responsible for the property's popularity to begin with, you have to try and open up and expand the audience so you're NOT just limited to those original fans, if the source material is dated then you have to work out how to make it more contemporary, and you have to let the writers and directors put their own creative stamp on things.
Some of the biggest failures in adaptions have been when they tried too hard to be contemporary or appeal to a broader audience and ended up weakening the connection to the original source material, the Star Wars prequels suffered somewhat from that as well as the newer Conan movie, Spiderman, and Superman also probably fit into that category. Some terrible failures as well as some of the biggest successes have been when the director and writer were allowed to put their own stamp on things: Lynch's Dune was a failure because his style was a terrible fit for the material, Burton's Batman was a massive hit because his unique style was a great fit!
As fans, we generally tend to prefer adaptions to pay as much homage as possible to the source material and tend to be quite disappointed when they don't. People trawl the net for the latest production news, scouring movie trailers for hints and clues, eviscerating proposed costume designs and casting choices (wonder Woman comes to mind). It can be very hard to put away the virtual fedora, shave off the virtual neckbeard and try and accept an adaptation on its own merits instead of always judging it in relation to its predecessor: look at them as unique creative properties and not just other versions of something else.
If the adaptions are appealing enough we can learn to love them AS WELL as what they were adapted from but not in the same way; more like the way you might love a different book by the same author.
Tankgirl is one of my favourite examples of that: The movie has very little to do with the comic, but it has its own wacky charm that made it a slow burn cult hit. Conan the Barbarian is another good example; the film is a great dark epic spaghetti-western style Nietzschian fantasy, with Schwarzenegger's Conan depicted as a simple innocent who is forged like sword steel by the evils and pressures of his world and driven by the fires of revenge; while Howard's original stories were typically short-form, episodic sword and sorcery fantasy. His Conan was a crafty, intelligent, avaricious, lustful, greedy, selfish thief, driven entirely by animal self interest and self preservation at all costs. And yet both versions are equally fantastic.
Finally, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series is a great example of the adaptation process: All mostly driven by the same man, Douglas Adams, it was first a radio play, then a book, then a radio play again, then a TV series, then more books, then more radio plays, and finally a movie. Since they're all written by the same man (mostly), they all have the status of pretty much representing the same story… and yet most of the adaptions are very different from one another. So how do you reconcile that? With all the changes over all the different versions which one IS the real story? With The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy you really do have to just accept each version as a separate work, roughly inspired by the others. It's also a very good example (along with Star Wars), of why the original creator is definitely not always the best person to adapt their work to the needs of different media or audiences, Adams like Lucas was not a great film writer.
What are some of your favourite adaptions and why? What are some of the worst?
ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Nov. 21, 2014
Movie and comic adaptions conan the barbairian hitchhikers guide to the galaxy batman spiderman x-men tankgirl starwars
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