Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When we get upset that a film adaptation strays from the source does the outrage stem from being told to color inside the lines?

Why do we get so upset when a film adaptation of something written fails to follow the events that we're used to? When I seek to answer this question in my head, I think of all those times when (as a kindergartner) I used to color outside of the lines. I would happily plop down crayons of whatever color looked good at the time and envision my own lines. Sometimes I would draw them in using black crayon and then color. I made the creation my own. But this kind of inventiveness was deeply discouraged by my peers (usually led by a girl with more aesthetics than my own) who would insist that a picture just didn't look good if you strayed outside of the lines.

You actually can see this kind of herd mentality at play in other areas of life too. For example, some people buy only white and silver cars because it enhances the resale value (those being very popular colors that other people will find attractive). Hence, don't stray outside the circle designated as "aesthetically pleasing." What about house decorating? It's the same there too with neutral colors for walls and wooden floors because they are "in" right now. So it's natural that it spills over into other creative areas like book to film adaptations.

Just to be clear, I discovered long ago that straying from a book's plot really doesn't bother me. When Lost World had a T-Rex stomping all over a modern day city I didn't flinch. I thought it was cool and took it for what it was worth: entertainment. When the Hobbit took liberties with the script I didn't care at all. Hey, it was a story with this amazing dragon in it and some pretty impressive looking battles. Oh and it all blends itself so well with the Lord of the Rings trilogy now (with all that backstory). Great stuff. And now we come to "The Shannara Chronicles," which has Terry Brooks's blessing but my friend's Jake, Justin, and Sasha just railed about it this weekend.

"I'm horrified with what's going on with the Shannara chronicles," Jake said. I asked him "why" and then showed him my review that I wrote last week. His immediate comeback was, "You just like it because it features half-naked gorgeous guys in every scene." I was It's still a good story. There's this scary demon and the characters are visceral and real to me. The effects look dang cool...what's there not to like?

He started listing off his complaints: they screwed up Eretria, the trolls don't look like that in the book, and what's with all the decaying remnants of old Earth? None of that stuff was in those early books. It all came later. That's when you found out how the world collapsed. Also, he says that the elves are not descended from people. They are descended from fairy. In short, they've screwed up everything.

I just shook my head. I think he's wrong (of course) but I'm someone that can easily argue for why stories need to be changed and freshened up from their stale source material baked in an oven sometime in the eighties. Audiences today want young adult stories, and the Shannara chronicles is exactly that making its female protagonists front and center.

Do you think the outrage goes back to kindergarten when most of us were taught to color within the lines?


  1. Funny, I'm a big fan of the series (my favorite trilogy of all) and I'm not really bothered by the changes. It's on MTV, so I expected the angst. Yes, they have changed things, focused on minor stuff, but the overall story arc and key plot points are the same. (And after watching last week's episode, they've also finally slowed the pace to less than breakneck speed.) So I'm enjoying it. It's not perfect, but it's fun and I like seeing the story from my childhood come to life.
    And I enjoyed Jackson's version of the Hobbit as well!

  2. It all could've started in Kindergarten. I also think it's also about having an open mind too. Does ones stick to what they think something should be or do they think "that really is good, even if it's not what I expected."

  3. I'm finicky about movie adaptations. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. For the Shannara series, I think it works. When it comes to classics like Les Miserables, I wish people would stick to the source material.

  4. I've no experience with the book or show you are talking about here, but I can of course still follow the topic. With me it depends on how it is done. When they take a book and turn it into a movie and just change everything, it does sometimes make me really mad, after all that was someone's hard work there that they're messing around with. That said, in some cases I understand that in order to squeeze everything in, it needs to be done and also an update can be essential if the book is older. I just wish sometimes they were a little more gentle about it. Ultimately though, I do think you need to judge them individually in these kinds of situations. I think though I will always be the sort of person who loves the books more lol. Well for the most part. I should probably note though, that I was one of those people who was always very careful to stay inside the lines lol

  5. Hey—there's nothing wrong with half-naked gorgeous guys. As my significant other suggested yesterday, that's part of the reason why I enjoy Arrow so much. :)

    But anyway, I don't generally care when film adaptations stray from the book, especially in cases where I know the author signed off on the changes. That's why they say this film/show is based on this book.

    I haven't watched Shannara yet. It's sitting on my DVR, waiting for me to finish my revisions. Someday, I'll get to watch it.

  6. It depends if the change is for the better or not.

  7. When I was a kid I couldn't understand the concept of "staying within the lines." At best I wanted to redraw or eliminate the lines. Maybe that's why I became an artist.

  8. When you love a book, you really, really want to see that story you loved filmed just the way you remember.

    I never read the Shannara books. (I know, shame on me.) So, I can just enjoy the show that's being presented without constantly comparing to the source. But, when I've read the book, I get all out of sorts when things are changed. I miss the book I loved.

    Then again, Douglas Adams was all for tweaking things from the radio play to the book to the movie versions of Hitchhiker. And Bridget Jones's Diary benefited from changing the movie from the book (primarily due to casting of lead man).

    I guess it depends.

  9. I like what Liz said about loving a book so much you want to see it filmed faithfully. Sometimes I like changes a movie/series can make, other times they drive me nuts. It all depends.

    I'm definitely with you on the tiresome use of neutrals and bland decor - kind of a beige decor for beige people. Give me color! Give me crazy, wild touches and details! Unfortunately this may give you an idea of how I've decorated my home.

  10. This is an interesting thought but I think the issue is deeper. If you pick up a coloring book you have no investment in the black and white drawings but it's different for a book or a movie that has touched you in some way.

    Think about all the angst against George Lucas when he changed it so that Greedo shot first. Many people loved the roguish nature of Han even if he did shoot someone in cold blood but Lucas' new portrayal changed him.

    The other thing is when changes are made purely for profit as was done in the Hobbit movies. They shoved in way too much extraneous stuff to stretch it to 3 movies and I refused to pay to watch any of them after the first. They changed a great children's tale into a more-of-the-same prequel that soured me on Peter Jackson until I read his quotes in this article at Slashfilm.

    Here's a quote:
    Because Guillermo Del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn’t wind the clock back a year and a half and give me a year and a half prep to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing. It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all. You’re going on to a set and you’re winging it, you’ve got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you’re making it up there and then on the spot.... I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it. Even from a script point of view, Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn’t got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction, so that was a very high pressure situation.

  11. Interesting point about coloring inside the lines. I just can't get that worked up about this kind of thing either way. I understand people can be disappointed but with some they are truly outraged and I don't get the anger and downright rage some display online.

    I have read some comments re: people who are furious that Idris Elba may be cast in the Dark Tower movie if it ends up being made. They don't want him to be Roland because Roland is white in the books. I couldn't care less and Elba is a big plus to me, he's gorgeous and a great actor. But even if I didn't like Elba I wouldn't be angry about it. There are lots more important things to be angry about in the world.