Friday, October 12, 2007

See, we're not so crazy after all! (More Dark is Rising stuff)

As a fan, I've had a lot of people tell me "the movie doesn't have to be just like the book!" and that I'm overreacting when they change something stupid and it annoys me. Now, personally I think I'm pretty relaxed when it comes to movie changes I don't think Superman: Doomsday butchered the plot of a graphic novel, but rather told a lovely alternate version of that story. Same for the DCU animated series from the past ten or fifteen years, the last two X-men cartoons, and the Batman Begins. (X-3, on the other hand, was like someone took a jackhammer to the X-Men mythos, but I digress). Change can be good in a good movie.

Still, I get "You're overreacting" a lot when I complain about a Hollywoodized property.

Its not often I see anything along the lines of "Maybe you're not being that melodramatic." Today I saw something like that:
However, when properly processing the aforementioned list of changes, it does seem like director David Cunningham and writer John Hodge stepped over the line. I can see the justification for a large number of the modifications (which mostly seemed geared towards increasing conflict and tension), but in total it's a pretty dramatic reinvention of the story. For one thing, instead of learning about his powers by magically absorbing the content of an ancient text, our young hero learns about "the light and the dark" by Googling it. For real.
(Googling, good god.)

Okay, so the reviewer isn't completely on our side, but she changed her mind about making fun of us. That's better than I (dyed-in-the-wool Green Lantern fan that I am) usually see. She says after that she doesn't fully empathize, but she's asking for people to share the traumatic destruction of their childhood favorites as they moved from book to film. Go share.

And as long as I'm sharing Seeker reviews, these guys are pretty mean to the movie.


  1. I tend to take the "over-reaction" of fans on a case by case basis. This situation, I side with the fans. The Transformers movie or whining that G.I. Joe is no longer a branch of U.S. military? That's "over-reacting".

  2. Wait - GI Joe isn't going to be part of the US military? What are they - a UN task force or something?

    Also - why do I need a FLASH PLAYER to read a gorram review? That ebert and roeper link wants me to upgrade my Flash player. WTH?

    Ahem - anyway. I can certainly understand changes to source material to "punch it up" and make it more visual. And I can understand the need to introduce more action into a fantasy/sci-fi series for a movie version (commercial expectations and all). I can see changing the visual appearance of characters because you want certain actors to fill the roles (though Lord of the Rings did a very good job with showing that this doesn't need to be doen). I can even see moving the main character from being British to American for commercial reasons (though one would think that Harry Potter would be proof that this little change is utterly unnecessary).

    But removing the Arthurian elements? Come on - that's a backbone of the series. And even if that hadn't been done, at some point you reach a critical mass of small commercial changes that turn the work from a "loose adaptation" into "why did they bother paying for the name in the first place" territory.

    This was the thing that bothered me about the "League of Extraordinary Gentlement" adaptation too. They made so many changes that it reached the point of "why did you bother to pay for the name?" It sounds like this is going to be about the same.

    I'm starting to wonder if the change in marketing for the movie is an acknowledgement that they're going to get nothing but negative press from fans of the book series if they keep trying to link them together. It could be that they've moved to a strategy of trying to fly under the radar of the fans and get at folks who have never read the books. I doubt that can work as a strategy - fans keep connected with their obsessions, after all - but I could see a studio trying to do it.

  3. My view is that if the finished production sucks - and it sounds like The Seeker really really does - then fans of the source material are perfectly justified in bitching about every change which brought it down. Whereas if the movies turn out pretty good in their own right - e.g., LotR, Narnia - then complaining about the changes seems like a lot of nitpicking, in the sense that there was no way they could make a movie which was all things to all fans; but if they preserved the gist of the source material and made a reasonably entertaining film, I'd call that a win.

    [Note that I can't think of a film adaptation which took gross liberties with a book but was still entertaining, which strongly suggests that deviating from a great book's plot is a bad idea.]

    There's also the matter of how good the source material is. The Dark is Rising series is a bonafide classic of modern fantasy; the Transformers was a glorified TV ad for toys which a lot of 80s kids were inexplicably fond of. There's only so far the latter can be dragged down. [More of a Robotech boy myself.] It's called keeping perspective, folks.

    So your complaints about The Seeker mirror my complaints about The Black Cauldron two decades ago: i.e., they mucked with the original story and made a crappy film out of it. I'm still waiting for a worthy film adaptation of the Chronicles of Prydain. :-(

    P.S. Eff Tom Bombadil. Oh yeah, I went there.

  4. Oh, and one other point: obviously, not all change is a bad thing. I think we can all agree that if and when someone decides to revive the Lensmen, it would be a good idea to leave E.E. Doc Smith's raging hard-on for the cult of masculinity (or whatever they called it back then) in the dust-bins of scifi history.

  5. I agree with ferrous here, even though I'm not a big Dark is Rising fan, due to the fact that it's the book that had me peeking at the endings of books (and resulting in a spoiler-immunity that annoys my friends to this day) for some years after.
    I would have done an adaptation that was faithful in every way except to do something about That Damn Ending.

  6. ferrous buller,

    The movie version of "Howl's Moving Castle" is probably the only movie I can think of that deviates greatly from the book yet manages to be a great movie in its own right. But then, most people aren't Hayao Miyazaki, so I agree with your general point.

  7. Apparently, it did only $3.7M in its first week of release, despite being put out on 3000 screens. that's in "record low" range.

    that's what they get for tragically misunderstanding the story...