Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Film Adaptations and the Dangers Therein

CE Jenkins

Remember that time that the movie of your favorite book/sequel to your favorite movie came out? How you followed its development with excitement over the months before it hit the theatres? How you went into the film in a haze of blind faith and enthusiasm, and left the theatre with the feeling that all the good had been leached from the world and the urge to join some kind of nihilistic cult? Because I remember. Oh yes. I remember.  
Keanu 30 minutes after seeing the latest Shrek installment. Seriously guys, just let it die. Or kill it with a shovel. Either works.

Now, I’m not saying that movie adaptations are always destined to fail; some of my favorite movies are based on an original work, such as LOTR. What I am saying is that when Hollywood cooks up the movie version of a book you enjoyed, the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher for your movie-going experience. Few things hurt more than being shut in a room and forced to watch your favorite franchise defiled on a forty-foot screen for an hour and a half. Need I bring the painful memories of The Last Airbender and Eragon to mind?
I thought my heart had healed. But no, the sight of this movie poster still makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a plastic spoon.

But the crushing betrayal of certain failures hasn’t been enough to deter most of us from resignedly shelling out every time they club a concept over the head and drag it onto the silver screen. Somehow that tiny sliver of a chance that they might not completely butcher it is enough to make us go pay ten bucks to confirm that they did. Alright, maybe I’m being a little gloom and doom here. Like I said, good movie adaptations/sequels exist; the key is surviving all the other stuff. And even a good adaptation can be easily ruined by a slew of factors unique to films based on other work. So here are a few tips and thoughts on my process for getting the most out of your movie-adaptation experience.

·         Think of the movie and its source material as two separate entities; ideally, the filmmakers should have done so as well. Movies and books are worlds apart from each other, and the source material often requires a whole lot of translation before they’re suited for the big screen. Sometimes a scene that works great on paper just doesn’t have the same ring to it aloud; other scenes have to be modified or cut out entirely to fit the 2-hour screen life. But if you can try your best not to spend the whole time comparing the film to the original, it will make it a whole lot easier.

·         Don’t read the book/comic/whatever right before you see the movie. Preferably, you won’t have referenced the source for quite a while when the movie comes out. That way you go into the movie with a clean slate, or at least a slate that’s been smudged around a bit. Reference the source right before, and you’ll spend the whole movie thinking about how they left X out, or how they totally didn’t get what the author was going for in Y. Instead, go back to the original a bit after you’ve seen the movie and re-read it then. You’ll still pick up the parts the movie may have goofed, but it won’t be as obnoxious as having to watch them play out on the screen as you writhe in anguish in your seat.

·         Watch the previews. If it looks iffy in its two-minute incarnation, prepare yourself for more of the same when you see the movie for real. Of course, there will always be good movies with poor previews and awesome previews advertising comparatively bad movies, but they’re often a decent indication of what to expect.

·         Lower your expectations. This one is rather obvious. If you go in expecting Lord of the Rings you’re going to spend the whole movie noting every time it falls flat. If if you go in accepting the fact that the movie might not be amazing, the bad parts will be taken for granted and the good parts will redeem it. If you go in expecting The Room, then you may want to reevaluate why you’re seeing this movie in theatres.

Oh yes. That’s why.

·         Buy popcorn. Or candy. Or one of those dubious “blue-flavored” icee drinks that inevitably spill in your lap or make you need to pee really badly. The delicious(?) food will help keep you in a forgiving mood, and when you’re imagining crushing the director’s bones between your molars the crunchy popcorn helps make it more vivid.


Stop trying to convince me that blue is a legitimate flavor. I’ll still drink it anyways.

                Of course, there will always be some franchises that you’re so emotionally invested in that the most you can do is bring some ice chips to masticate and try not to rip the stuffing out of your seat every time they misquote a line. For example, if Avengers is anything less than orgasmic I will write a strongly-worded letter to Joss Whedon then wrap it around a brick and throw it through his front window. And if the Hobbit fails to make me cry my frontal lobe into a napkin at least three times, I will fly all the way to New Zealand to tipi Peter Jackson’s house. And then I will set the toilet paper on fire.

I know, I have too many movie-related-feels this year. I can’t possibly be expected to hold them all in one non-psychotic vessel.

Photo References: 
Keanu http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_yBQddwlzoEQ/TLD_IWnYzBI/AAAAAAAAAus/f0KirQvz35I/s1600/Sad-Keanu.jpg
Blue Raspberry: http://rookery1.viary.com/storagev12/557000/557031_d216_625x625.jpg

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