Film Adaptations Part I: Why They Suck

Ever read or hear about your favourite comic book or novel being turned into a movie? What was your reaction? Was it an initial bout of childish glee followed by a sick feeling in the pit of your soul? Neither? Both?

Well, in this post, we’re focusing on the latter – that tidal wave of naseau that hits when you realize that they’ll probably screw it all up, that seething rage that makes you consider Hulk Smashing your cat (but you don’t because Ms. Mittens is just too damn cute!), that sallow disappointment you haven’t felt since the series finale of The Sopranos.

This is all about why film adaptations suck.

Reason 1: The story always changes 

You love the part in chapter three where dude rips other dude in half lengthwise, releasing an evil like no other upon Earth’s unsuspecting populace, leaving him and his ragtag team of half-satyr, half-minotaur (satours, as they are called in their world) plumbers to save the planet that once banished them. So you grab your friend and some allowance money and head to the theatre. Four and a half hours later, you emerge from the theatre…

"There is no God."

They got rid of that scene, destroying any semblance of a rationale for the film’s final act. Hell, everything in the movie hinged on that moment, and they screwed it up.

This doesn’t always happen, of course. Sometimes there are minor adjustments that are made so the film doesn’t get too beaver-shit crazy. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s final scene, for instance. It wasn’t as poetic as the books, but it made the story palatable for an unfamiliar audience and probably saved the filmmakers a couple of bucks, too.

Exception: The film version of The Road, while wholly depressing, exactly followed Cormac McCarthy’s book, which was also wholly depressing.

Reason #2: There is always one casting choice you completely disagree with

When you read a comic or a novel, you have a pretty clear idea of what a character looks like, acts like, drinks – you’re an expert on that dude, and you know exactly who should play him. Unfortunately, the casting director doesn’t agree with you, and even emails you and makes fun of your mother.

Then she goes out and casts that guy. You know the one – he totally doesn’t even look right for the part and probably didn’t even read the comics.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is great, if only because you get to see the death of the guy responsible for making your mom table dance at your cousin's wedding.

To be fair, casting the perfect person must be tough. And sometimes they nail it (name a better fit for Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr.). But sometimes, the dude from Dune turns into Sting wearing a blue version of Wonder Woman’s bra for a thong.

And even fewer imagined he'd be so psyched about it.

Exception: Jackie Earle Haley was Rorschach incarnate. No matter what you think of Watchmen as a whole you can’t deny his brilliant performance.

Reason #3: The inevitable, unceasing comparisons to the source material

No matter what, someone is always going to misinterpret “based on…” as meaning “the bringing-to-life of…” And that person will always point out the most minute, unnecessary details and predict what is going to happen next while whispering way too loudly in his friend’s ear. And you just happen to be lucky enough to be sitting near him in the theatre.

That's why nobody ever went to the moving picture theatre with Marilyn Monroe. She never issued spoiler alerts.

“Oh, I love this part. This is when that guy…”

Reason #4: When it’s done wrong, it taints the source material.

It’s nearly impossible to divorce the source material from its film adaptation. Whether you despise or just dislike it, the two will be inseparably joined until the end of time. So when a film so greatly annihilates anything about the source material that made it great, the source material suffers as well.

Little known fact: Bzzt killed himself after this film was made.

People only familiar with the film will then forever assume (and you know what happens when you do that) that the source material must also suck. But such is not always the case!

Sometimes, the public is forgiving. Sometimes, there is an odd misstep in an otherwise stellar line of film adaptations, but it doesn’t stop people from seeing anything that comes afterwards.

Sorry Chris O'Donnell, we had to sacrifice your career to save the Batman film franchise.

Tune in tomorrow, when we explore the reasons film adaptations are awesome. Got any more reasons? Leave ’em in the comments.

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One thought on “Film Adaptations Part I: Why They Suck

  1. Most of them are just cash grabs by studious looking to cash in on a built in audience. They don’t care if it’s good or not because they know people are going to see it either way.

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