It's past 3:30 in the morning, I have class in approximately 8 hours, and yet I cannot for the life of me sleep. There are times when I have nights like this, when I am suddenly awakened by the unwelcome presence of brain activity. I consider this a bit of a word vomit, a word exorcism to get these thoughts out of my head so that they'll let me sleep but I'll try and make it palatable for you as well.
I'm thinking that adaptations are thought about the wrong way. What I mean to say is that when people (including myself) look into an adaptation, say, a book made into a film, we're really looking for is a translation, an exact copy of the original work with moving pictures and real people in it. This is not an illogical line of reasoning: if one is paying to see an adaptation, then presumably they were already a fan of the original work, or at least interested enough in the work to see it remade in another medium. One also wants the core of the work preserved as best as possible- too often plot threads and key supporting characters can be thrown out the window in the name of keeping the film's runtime under 3 days. Every single one of the Harry Potter movies has had this issue, or at least has had complaints about this- Peeves, for example, has yet to show up in any of the films, and most likely never will.
That being said, I have to wonder if there is a line to be drawn between audience expectations and the film team's goals. Watchmen, for example, cut out a major subplot and was forced to change its ending, and even then ran for almost 3 hours. Whether or not this worked out in the end, I do not know- I've little interest in seeing the movie version of a comic that was intended to be unfilmable, however exciting it may look. The change does bring up an interesting point, though- complaints are often raised when a movie drops subplots and supporting characters, but Watchmen seems to have dodged that bullet, at least from my minor sample of moviegoer friends. Is there something more to an adaptation than simply copying and pasting?
One adaptation I feel works brilliantly is Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I have a hard time choosing between the film and the original comics, but not because one if decidedly better than the other; rather, each takes the core concept and puts its own spin on it. The original comics put more of a focus on Scott's developing relationship with Ramona, as well as the more mundane happenings of his acquaintances. The movie, meanwhile, cuts out what some might consider the "boring, emotional stuff" and gets right to the cheeky videogame references and outrageous humor. Both works follow their maker's strength; O'Malley's earlier comics were more about people being people than people punching each other into mounds of coins, whereas Edgar Wright's snappy comic timing and large special effects budget accentuates the surreality that Scott seems to inhabit. Neither version of Scott is right or wrong in a canonical sense. Instead, it comes down to which part of the story you find more entertaining.
On the other hand, a director adding his personal touch to a film can go too far with audiences. I was certainly a fan of Spike Jonze's version of Where the Wild Things Are, but it seems the my opinion is in the minority. A major complaint that I've heard from my aforementioned sample was that it was "nothing like the book". Which is a bit of a fair statement, seeing as the original's ten pages never included any sort of emotional trauma, giant wicker structures, owls, or genuinely frightening parallels to child abuse. I loved the fact that the movie turned out like this, and can't imagine a better way to do it. A 90-minute version of the Wild Rumpus might seem fun and cheery, but it'd be nothing but empty calories, a spectacle separated from meaning that would be quickly forgotten and buried under its own merchandise. No, the film version is a much different beast, but one that adheres closer to the spirit of the book than most seem to realize. Not many remember that Where the Wild Things Are was a controversial book back in its day- during its first publishing, there was shock at how frightening the monsters appeared, and how the child misbehaved so violently. What's more, there was also a great deal of attention to psychoanalytical interpretations of Max's journey- the story leads to Max dealing with his anger and even gaining power over imaginary creatures, power that is held over him in the real world.
Taking these into consideration, the film version seems to make much more sense on a deeper level. The story is allegorical, as Max's encounters with the Wild Things mirror a real life dysfunctional family, and the scenes where Max appears to be in grave danger fit in perfectly with how scary the original book was to kids in its heyday. This is the kind of adaptation I'd like to see more of, something that results as a hybrid of the new director and his own interpretation of the original work. If you worry about the sanctity of the book, don't- it's still there, after all, and in this case, Maurice Sendak himself approved Jonze's script.
But perhaps this is too great of a difference for the average audience- after all, they tend to want something close to the original work they held dear, and the original trailers were not quite exaggerating when they named Where the Wild Things Are "the most beloved book of all time". Later advertisements on Nickelodeon somewhat cruelly played on this notion, the idea of the happy cheery book they remembered. The spots focused on Max dancing with the Wild Things, running a loop of a brief moment of pure joy that only lasts a fragment of the whole film. The people forgot the book was wilder than they remembered, and the television ads forgot what it was really selling. Neither this film nor Scott Pilgrim stormed the box office, and I wonder if marketing is at least partially to blame. Setting up an audience for one experience and giving them another isn't a great way to gain money, but that seems to be what happened.
This is where my brain starts to finally wind down... I'm sure there are some more thoughts to be thunk, but I'll be darned if I can form any more coherent sentences. Good night unto you all, and I bid you all a better sleep than I can afford.