Changing a Legacy – Adaptations and Remakes

There are two type of movies that seem to overrun Hollywood. Adaptations and remakes ( I also includes reboots in this category). I’m not saying whether this is a good or bad thing, because I am usually more excited for these movies than others. These films/TV shows bring with them a double-edged sword for nerds. First, is the initial commotion of being able to see some of our favorite characters and situations play out on the silver screen. This is when the hypothetical conversations start with the possibilities of cast, crew, characters, and story lines of every nerd’s dreams. We all do it and we feel like as long as the filmmakers are able to pluck what we’re imagining from our heads and put in on the screen then it will be the best adaptation/remake ever made. After this initial excitement dies down actual details start to emerge. Here is the point where flocks of furious fans start most likely start dumping on the film before anyone has even stepped on set yet.

Obviously from the point of view of a film studio the safest bet for a movie is to put money into something that already has a fan base. I also think that people are more likely to give something a chance when they hear “Based on the” fill in the blank. On a personal note I don’t think there is anything wrong with it only if it’s done right. The first kneejerk reaction to the idea of a adaptation is that it has to be exactly like the original. This type of mentality is normal. People do not like change and certainly not when it comes to something that has 40+ years of background. Sometimes we need to look at the material from the eye of a filmmaker. When “Watchmen” was being filmed I went back to the graphic novel for a second look. I reread and as I was doing so I was cutting scenes out. With a filmmaker’s eye, I was trying to determine what was necessary to the main story and what was not. Wouldn’t you know it? I agreed with them on many of the creative decisions that they made. There were other decisions I did not agree with, but that’s for another time.

When it comes to adaptation I feel like the material needs to evolve. Much of why a character/story has become popular may not work in our modern day and age. Unless you want to make it a period piece you will need to update it.

Let’s take Green Lantern as an example. I’m a pretty big fan of GL, so in the early stages of talk about the movie I did all the things listed above. In my imagination everything would have the look, the feel, and the themes of the modern day Green Lantern comics. I’m talking Geoff Johns’ current run. Then, Entertainment Weekly gave us our first look at some of the character designs. I admit that I was hesitant at first, but I was still backing up DC since I wanted a GL movie. An acquaintance of mine went on Facebook and immediately started badmouthing the movie mostly based on how his costume looked. He had said that he was boycotting the movie and would just wait until the reboot came out. I’m sorry, but this is very closed minded. In my opinion, he was upset that this image he had in his head was not replicated at all.  Would Green Lantern’s costume worked any better as spandex or would he look as silly as Superman in any of the original movies? (Let’s admit it. It did look silly).

The Walking Dead

The exact same material does not always work on different mediums. For this let’s look at “The Walking Dead.” Right off the bat, it would not work as a film. Kirkman’s reason for the series was to find out what happens at the end of any number of zombie movies. The status of life cannot be shown in two hours.  The best way to discuss this overall topic is to compare the most jaw-dropping events of the comic books and how they would or would not be able to work on TV. *SPOILERS* I also don’t want to ruin too much for people who are currently reading “The Walking Dead” so I will stick to some of the earlier events that have occurred and stay away from the current issues. First off since there were six episodes in the season I thought it was an obvious choice to go ahead and base them on the first six issues. Vol. 1 in a season, it even has a great AMC-esque ending for the season. While watching the pilot episode with some friends, one in particular wanted to follow along in the comic since she had never read it. I liked how close the basic plot points were in both. This is of course until he gets caught in the tank at the end of the episode. This moment is where I stepped back and thought “I guess they may not follow everything to the letter even though Kirkman is working on this.” The discussions that came about with my friends who had at least read the first volume led us to the ending. Would Carl shoot Shane? In the books this event leads to many themes and resulting actions from Carl. This is the type of life-changing event that makes for interesting storytelling. But will this play as well on the small screen? My obvious answer is “Yes” because I know what it can lead to. For Joe Q. Familyman showing a child killing an adult, even in the defense of his father, might cause quite an uproar. I’m not going to even start on the events of Woodbury. I’m the sure there are plans for the Governor to make an appearance at some point, but there’s no way what happens there will be even insinuated on screen. Maybe on HBO or Showtime but sure not on AMC.

We enjoy familiar characters in new situations. There is a trend I find happening more often in comics than anything this else is the “alternate reality.” The first time I heard about it was during the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline. As a young boy this idea blew my mind. As of late with both “Flashpoint” and the “Age of X” we see similar themes. It’s the characters that we know and love, but with a subtle twist. I feel like the problem is that there are aspects of the universe that the comic writers want to change. They want the world to evolve. The only downside is  that this would cause new readers to not want to jump in. Even when there are huge changes made in a particular universe (i.e. Superhuman registration in the Marvel Universe through “Civil War”) it often gets reset back to the way things were (end of the “Siege”). I continue to read titles of both DC and Marvel, but I have found myself reading more Image Comic titles (Kirkman and “Chew” mostly). These titles will evolve making for more interesting storylines and the fact that you actually feel like the characters are in danger. And for the most part if a character is dead, they are dead. DC last month started their relaunch, but the different titles seem to be all over the place when it comes to continuity. It seems like their timelines are all askew. I guarantee this will lead to fans complaining once they get one or two story arcs in. I do like the balls it takes to do this relaunch and I hope they don’t reverse the decision.

This is a great moment to be able to break these characters of their shackles that we as a nerd society have placed on them. We need to be seeing more of this in our films, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has shown this so far and will hopefully finish strong. Marvel Studios should also get a nod for their forethought with “The Avengers.” I still have high hopes for that, even though I don’t care for the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week (it looks shabbily thrown together). When it comes to comics we can just wait and hope. Though hats off to DC’s new 52 (here’s hoping), Marvel’s Ultimate series, and many Image titles. Well thought out changes to a legacy to keep it evolving is the only way we’re going to see our prosperous nerdy livelihood continue.

By the way I’m sure you’ve seen it but here’s that Entertainment Weekly cover.


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