It started out as a single idea; one item that was a set of words contained between two hardbound pieces with a picture rendered, glossed up jacket or box to top it off. The book with a captivating title waited on a library shelf or a store display. A movie waiting to be watched. One by one, the book was picked up again and again. The movie gained buzz. Games were played. The flame ignited for the world inside the covers, and so wildfire was born.
We are living in a time of pop culture fire, my friends. This means that geek culture + pop culture = the GPCF (geek pop culture fusion). If you haven’t noticed, our sub-cultures have melded with many items deemed “hip.” What does this mean? It means you can get out of the convention and in to the realm of public opinion. Here at TGC, we’re kicking off our return to the blogsphere by wondering what of subculture equals the “Next Big Thing”. Every enterprise has trends they monitor in order to determine what product or service will be the most marketable. What is the public in to right now? What has someone else done that can translate in to success with the right turn in another industry?
Cinema alongside books, comics, and games is a union so official it might as well have a pluralist marriage license. The want to adapt is decades old, and will only increase in fervor as studios look for new spins on the old favorite. Or, better yet, what they haven’t done.
The good thing is that fan favorites have a chance to be reborn in a way that only artists of other mediums can provide. The bad? Expectations can fall terribly short. While every project has its naysayers, there is a difference between faithfulness to the source material, and just plain hacking it to pieces. So what can the Next Big Thing have so it has not only forward presence, but promise of staying power? The most hallowed space after the fires have gone down to a steady simmer is, after all, cult classic.
1.) Know your source material: You can’t turn a book, comic, or game in to a movie until you read said book, understand the comic’s world, and play the game. If you want to take creative license, it is best to understand where the license originates. There is nothing worse than watching a movie where they all but drag themselves to the finish line. A fan shouldn’t be thrilled the movie is over because it blows. They should be on the edge of their seat until fade to black. Harry Potter did just that. Thor and Captain American now have me salivating for The Avengers. To contrast, I am afraid of the horrors that could come with The Last Airbender franchise. The first film was a cinematic train wreck for the most part. The few elements that were redeemable will probably be crushed by number two, and turned to ashes by number three. Shalaman’s direction was bad enough, but the script was terrible. The acting, for as bad as it was, couldn’t help it if the script was already worse. When your source material is an animated series that illustrates for you the people, agendas, and corresponding mythology, the point loss is even greater than if it were a book where the imagination is the only stage. Bad script = bad adaptation. Bad script from rich source material = loss of respect. People are telling the man who brought us The Sixth Sense to go back to film school. Ouch.
2.) Who’s going in with you: Make sure your partnerships will be remembered for the joint effort. They have to correspond like nothing else. The Adventures of Tin Tin featured a partnership between Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg that will go down in history. Both come with the vision and the resources to compliment where the other lacks, and the outcome was a justice done to the world of the journalist that was magnificent. Universal’s loss was Sony’s gain when the dropped co-production ball went to them a few years earlier. Who’s the most daring? Who won’t be afraid to push it with you? Let alone, if money is what they were looking at..it’s Jackson and Spielberg. Mr. Middle Earth and Mr. Indiana Jones. Universal what were you thinking?
3.) Sometimes cuts aren’t for the best or trust in your stuff: Sometimes the hardest thing to do is trust. New Line Cinemas was hoping for another Lord of the Rings in The Golden Compass. The source material is based on the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass comes out as one of the most expensive films New Line ever came out with, but was lackluster. I watched the movie then and even now, and still feel it was..missing something. Do you remember the controversy surrounding this movie in regards to the books alleged themes on rejection of established religion and the abuse of power? Boycotts were being hurtled in the media left and right, and many were calling the movie a gateway to the books, which was a gateway to atheism. All of that fuss really didn’t amount to the burning stove in the kitchen of heresy it was supposed to be leading us to. What The Golden Compass became was a movie that had the potential to be better than the some of its parts, but wasn’t because you got the feeling either the director of the studio couldn’t commit to what they had. What they had wasn’t just your a-typical fantasy novel, but a world that was rich in its darkness as it was in what could be light. New Line didn’t commit to that darkness. In fact, it left director Chris Weitz to leave and return after New Line lost it’s second director due to creative differences. It mattered little in the end that the Magestrium was played down to represent all matter of organizations that try to control, influence, or abuse people away from free thought or expression. What mattered most is that New Line didn’t trust what it had, nor who was at the helm, or themselves to represent it. It’s been nearly five years since the first film and as much as Weitz hopes the sequels will come, I think it’s going to take quite a lot for that to happen. If the sequels were commiserate on the success of the first film, then New Line set it up for failure. By deviating so far from the novel, shifting things around, shunning the true darkness, and being afraid of the potency of what it possessed the film was half-baked to fans and so so for critics. It’s a franchise though, that if ever picked up again, has hope in take two if they pay attention to the lessons written here. You know you should really listen if even the director feels like its a hack job.
In part two we will examine a few adaptations that excel, and others that have fallen short, and those we hope will become The Next Big Thing
Please Note: All corresponding links to Wikipedia, Imdb, actor’s sites, and more will be added on Thursday, January 19th when TGC resumes posting. Tomorrow on the 18th we will be going dark to join with those who are against the SOPA and internet censorship