How faithful do you like your adaptations?

  1. Calum

    Calum Crabbit Minger

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    It’s safe to say that most of us want to see the works we love faithfully translated to the screen. Yet it’s a surprisingly fickle process. Some films follow the source material to the letter yet turn out less than successful, while others cut the works they’re based on to pieces yet still manage to produce fine films.

    Of course, many adaptations end up deeply compromised when they deviate from the books they were based on. The theatrical cut of I Am Legend was eviscerated by a studio mandated ending after the original version didn’t go down well with test audiences. Will Smith blows up the nasty vampires in a big fiery explosion while his sidekicks spirit his cure to a top secret military compound in Vermont which despite the scarce resources of a post-apocalyptic world still manages a reassuring sprinkle of Americana (Complete with church bells, white picket fences and the Stars and Stripes flapping in the morning breeze. I wish I was making this up). The original, bleaker conclusion stuck much closer to the spirit of the novel, where it’s revealed that the creatures hunting down Dr Neville are not mindless beasts but sapient beings trying to put a stop to his slaughter of their kind. I’ll leave you to decide which was the superior conclusion.

    On the other hand my two favourite Shakespeare films, Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Orson Wells’s The Chimes at Midnight take great liberties with the Bard’s stories, dialogue and even their themes. The former places Macbeth in feudal Japan and uses none of Shakespeare’s original dialogue, while the latter shifts the focus of the narrative from Prince Hal to Falstaff, changing the tone from an optimistic coming of age story to a man’s tragic fall and betrayal. Throne of Blood also has deeply different themes to Macbeth.

    In the play Macbeth’s actions stem purely from selfish ambition, driving him to murder a just king and throwing the natural order of the universe into disarray. His counterpart in Throne, Washizu on the other hand kills his version of Duncan largely out of fear that he will be eliminated as a potential rival, for rather than the benevolent monarch of Shakespeare the Duncan figure of Throne of Blood slew his former master and usurped his place. Rather than his ambition disrupting the natural order of things Washizu is something of a puppet trapped in a cycle beyond his control. This is further emphasised when he’s shot down by his own soldiers, another departure from Shakespeare’s play and one that fulfils the subtext of the cycle of betrayal. Yet despite these deviations both these films work.

    For one thing they mark themselves out as enough of their own animal that it makes it easier to accept them on their own terms rather than compare them to the orignals. This is something reflected in the changed titles, with Wells placing Falstaff’s name front and centre, making it clear even before you enter the cinema that he will the centre of the story, and clueing the viewer in that this won’t be a straight adaptation of Henry IV. Indeed, one of the failings of I am Legend is that the film is very blatantly structured to support the original ending. The Darkseeker’s intelligence is foreshadowed frequently, with hints that they can set up snare traps and domesticate dogs. The tone of the film also fits better with the more thought provoking mood of the original ending.

    I am Legend takes a lot of time to delve into Neville’s disturbed mental state and explore the psychological ramifications of his loneliness and isolation. Consequently it feels jarring when the movie resorts to a typical triumphant Hollywood ending, as it doesn’t suit the feel that the film had established up until that point. For contrast an earlier adaptation of the book, Charlton Heston’s Omega Man takes a similar degree of liberties but presents itself as a light, pulpy thriller from the start, making it clear that it’s mostly using the book as a spring board to tell a story focused more on action and humour than heavy ideas and concepts. This makes the changes easier to accept as you know going in that it’s mostly trying to do its own thing.

    On the whole, I can accept a lot of changes from page to screen, though more drastic revisions work best when an adaptation clearly sign posts that it intends to diverge from the source material early on. Deviations are most frustrating when the film makers resort to half measures, creating something that fails both at being its own entity or a faithful translation. Though we can all be thankful that that sweet angel of mercy Peter Jackson chose not to blight cinema with the dirges of Tom Bombadil’s caterwauling. But how close do you guys like an adaptation to stick to the source?
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  2. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I know the limits of the visual medium and I know not's not possible to do a faithful adaptation in a two hour time frame. But what I hate is when filmmakers and producer arbitrarily throw out the original story and reimagine it beyond recognition because they either don't know how do a reasonable adaptation or are not short enough talented enough to make the the effort to do so.
     
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  3. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

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    But, isn't that exactly what you want them to do with Tomb Raider? Add a story that never was and doesn't belong?

    :p
     
  4. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Im taking about fiction not video games.
     
  5. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

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    Is it really faithfulness fans want?

    One of the least well-received Stephen King adaptions was Firestarter. Yet, the dialogue is a nearly perfect match to the book!

    Some stories don't adapt well. Others are destroyed by stupid writers, directors and/or Executives.

    Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None was a great story. Every great thing about it, however, was destroyed by the ending they gave it in the original movie version. Yet, it could never have worked, as written, asa movie ending. Which is why I wish they just wouldn't have put it on the Big Screen.
     
  6. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

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    Okay... but an adaption is an adaption, n'est ce pa?
     
  7. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Sure.:D:p
     
  8. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    I was furious with the ending to I am Legend - given the film they made, the film title doesn't even make sense.
    It SHOULD have ended with Neville roaring with laughter whilst awaiting execution as he realises that too the Vampires he will become a mythical bogeyman, who will frighten children in years to come, much as before the Virus, Vampires were the same to humans.

    It's frustrating and feels a little fraudulent when they buy the rights to a book/game or even an old movie to reboot, and then, severely change the plot, basically they are making a rubbish film, they know it, before they even start filming, so they buy the title to something else hoping to fool people into seeing it.

    The two best examples of this, though neither involves a book adaption is;
    "Children of the Living Dead" the infamous John Russo, he who screwed over George Romero was behind this. As he has ownership of the copyright to "of the Living Dead" He used it for this movie, which didn't even appear to be set in the same reality as Night of the Living Dead. It was written by his daughter, a journalist who had never even seen a Horror Movie, let alone a Zombie one, not even Night of the Living Dead. The Director was creatively crippled from the start, he realised on day one, the film was going to be a disaster, neither Russo nor his daughter had any creative ability whatsoever, yet considered themselves to be amazing, so they refused almost every single change the director wished to make.
    The only bit of the film that is any good is the first 5 minutes, He got Tom Savini on board, to play a random Hero the film opens with fighting the dead, and its a great set of scenes, then it becomes Russo and his offspring's movie and its dire. on Set, Russo and his daughter didnt even know who Savini was. Afterwards, the Director published a letter of apology to zombie & Romero fans, explaining that as he was new to directing, it would have damaged his career far more to resign, than presiding over a dreadful movie, and explained in detail exactly why the film was so bad, including the stuff I mention. This was an attempt to cash in on Romero's films.

    After the Dawn of the Dead reboot, which I did enjoy, even if it tampered with the mechanics, there was a "Reboot" of Day of the Dead, iirc also starring Ving Rhames - this had nothing to do with the Dawn reboot, different studio, different people etc. And its awful, it also is not a reboot of Day, the only thing it shares with the original Day is that both movies have Zombies. The Day reboot was another clear attempt at misusing a well liked brand to try and fraudulently attract fans of a particular Franchise, and fool them, and indeed normal members of the public into viewing.
     
  9. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    If you can check out the BBC version from a while back.
    BBC’s And Then There Were None puts a darker spin on Agatha Christie
    Christmas BBC viewers will be stunned by new Agatha Christie adaption | Daily Mail Online
     
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  10. Steve Harrison

    Steve Harrison Well-Known Member

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    In my opinion, film versions of books rarely come anywhere near the quality of the novels (exceptions include The Godfather and Jaws, which I thought were better as movies), but that's because no one can match an individual reader's imagination. And having written screenplay adaptations on two of my novels, I discovered it's very difficult to be faithful, as film is far more restrictive than the written word.

    I like to watch movie versions of books I have enjoyed, but more out of curiosity about the adaptation than with any expectations.
     
  11. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

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  12. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    Well not all of them one faked it then killed them self.
     
  13. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Definitely do - it's a superb production. :)
     
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  14. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

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    Indeed - and I maintain that, had I known what the term "red herring" meant at the time (I was a senior in high school the first time I read it), I would have figured it out! But all ten were declared murders, and it would have remained an unsolved mystery, if the letter hadn't been found.

    I'm still not convinced, though, that the book ending would translate well to the screen. Audiences probably wouldn't like it.
     
  15. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    And because it's the BBC and not Hollywood it was faithfully done. My family loved it. :)
     
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  16. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    I haven't yet gotten all the way though the original novel of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, found it hard going somehow, but I loved and found the BBC TV Adaption to be far better, lots of the waffle cut out.
     
  17. wintersmith

    wintersmith Innocent country mouse

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    I think it's important to separate the two. A good book is a good book and bad film is a bad film, independent of whether the story is the same or not. A movie intending to be faithful to a great book can fail horribly if the story is difficult to interpret to film, but a film intending to reinvent a book has to rely on a lot of creativity and hope that fans of the book won't slaughter their effort. Either way, it's a gamble to make movies. :D
     
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  18. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    The Harry Potter movies were good films. And fair enough, they had to cut stuff given the size of the novels starting with Goblet of Fire.
    But some scenes they so radically altered, changed or left out, made absolutely no sense at all.
    Like, I don't mind the House Elf, Winky being left out of Goblet of Fire, with such a crammed plot to prioritise, she just was not vital enough to the narrative, so stuff like that is fine. But the way in Deathly Hallows they utterly changed the actual final Duel between Harry and Voldermort, it is impossible to see why it couldn't be faithful to the book, if anything, the film Duel is actually far more special effects and CGI laden than being faithful to the book would be. Not to mention Voldermort having a wierd/supernatural type death, which annoyed many fans. I think the form of his death in the novel is very much intended to be how it happens to prove a final point. As Voldy's lifeless corpse drops to the floor and his eyes gaze at nothing, its the final nail in his legend - this is no super being, at the end of the day, he is just a human being, like everyone else - I thought it quite important :)

    And of course, the changed finale of the film, following on from Harry's supposed death in the Forbidden Forest, killed by Voldy himself means they miss another hugely important point - the series has come full circle, Twice Voldermort in his Arrogance, and his total lack of understanding of emotion has Killed, or at least attempted to kill a Person throwing themselves in between Voldermort and the people or person they love, meaning that anyone who that person loved is Protected - in the books, Death Eater, and even Voldy himself's cursing simply stop working properly. Because like his mother, Harry metaphorically threw himself under a bus to save those he loved.
    The last important point imho, is that Harry has been through absolute Hell, in the last 3 years, since Cedric was murdered right before his eyes, he has seen friends and loved ones die, some of his best friends are lying within Hogwarts dead, he has seen pure evil and utter darkness, yet as he stands there, facing Voldermort for the final time, he is still the the boy that Dumbledore loved. Harry is a Good Man, and he proves it. "Come on Riddle, try, try and feel remorse for what you have done" he still gives him a chance. :)
     
  19. wintersmith

    wintersmith Innocent country mouse

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    Absolutely, I agree, there were many MANY things I had a problem with in Harry Potter. They were "creative" in places they didn't need to be. And also in ways that I don't personally like. (Honestly, I didn't even like Harry's character very much by the end.) They had great books and went "how can we cut the story to make room for more action?" If you just omit story because you want to set fire to more things, that's lame.

    Take How To Train Your Dragon, though. A movie very much changed from the brilliant children's book that it was, and it worked very well. It's all about who's in the driver's seat, no?
     
  20. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    Aye indeed. The problem with the Potter adaptions is there was no justification for what they changed. I was very sad not to have the scene during the Battle of Hogwarts when Kreatur leads Hogwarts House Elves out of the Kitchen and into Battle against the Death Eaters, bellowing "fight for my master" I could see that being pretty expensive and complex, stage managing all the humans having a pitched battle, then adding the presumably entirely CGI Elves to the scene, but so, I can understand why it is taken out.

    One of the weirdest most random "what the hells????" moments has to be, again in Deathly Hallows, when Neville comes up to Harry and Ginny.
    "Have you seen Luna?" "Why?"
    "I'm mad for her. I think it's about time I told her, since we'll probably both be dead by dawn! "

    Apart from not being in the book, it was something with absolutely zero foreshadowing, literally a bolt out of the blue, with no prior indications. Some very odd editing. If you watch the Deleted Scenes for the HP Movies on youtube, they shot some scenes, sometimes from the book, sometimes original to the movie, and there is some wonderful stuff, but it got cut out, so maybe the Editor wasn't quite up to the task.

    I am very surprised there has never been a Director's Cut release - they must have miles of unused footage, be interesting to see a fairly altered edit of the movies - maybe have a chosen by JK Rowling Cut, where she selects from the available footage the editing that best represents her vision.

    Various Americans involved in the production side were quite sneaky at the time it seems - an important part of the Contract and negotiations with WB and JK Rowling, something she would not budge on, was an insistence that it was all British Actors. But from various sources, and the people themselves boasting, a few American kids were flown over to the UK (such a waste of cash just to presumably give a mates kid a bit of work) and were extras in the background. Mind, these people are supposed to be Celebs, I have never heard of them, I think they are of the "famous for being famous" variety, do something stupid, or silly on youtube/instagram and suddenly, your getting invited to everything, including the opening of a Fridge form of Celebrity :D So maybe they were relations of whatever Suits, Warners Brothers sent to monitor production.

    Sticking with the same Author, JK Rowling, last week, I watched the TV Adaptions of her first 2 novels about ex Army MP turned Private Detective, after losing his leg in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike, which she wrote under the Pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
    I really enjoyed it!! Nothing too dramatic had been changed, well not in the first one, it had just been streamlined for TV, the Actors playing Strike, and Robyn his new Secretary are absolutely brilliant - Robyn and her Fiance Matt even had the right accents, West Yorkshire. It's been a while since I have read them, but I didn't recognise much in the Silkworm adaption - I think they did change a considerable amount, but it was still a delight to watch. The only thing that had me a bit hmmm? Over was Strikes Accent - they got Robyn and Matt bang on, but they have Strike speaking in a strong Cockney/working class London accent, and whilst the books say he did spend a couple of years there as a kid, he appears to have spent the majority of his childhood in Cornwall, where his Mother was from, Strike and his Sister being left to live with their Aunty and Uncle for much of that time. But the accent thing for him isn't a major issue, but then you meet his Sister, and the logic goes a bit wibbly, as the actress playing his sister speaks with a posh RP/Middle Class Home Counties accent, and I am sure I detected a bit of Girls Public School polish to it. You would think they would at least have the same accent! :D
     
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