In the spirit of The Beast Must Die’s (excellent) contribution to that S.M.A.S.H. event, here are nine statements on movie adaptations:

1.       The only good adaptations are the ones that take maximum liberty with the details of their source material. Think of the way Blade Runner strips Philip K. Dick’s novel down to its bare bones then builds a damp, wheezing engine on top.

2.       Adaptations that are painstakingly faithful to the surface details of their sources provide a unique opportunity to see the original clearly. Dave Gibbons’ contributions to Watchmen have never been more obvious than they were in the light of that movie, which mimicked the composition of so many of his panels while conveying the weight of none of them.

3.       The only good adaptations are the ones that overlap with their source text in a way that creates a separate, overlapping narrative – see, for example, the mix of hyper-fidelity and brutal compression in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

4.       Different mediums have different strengths and affordances so it makes sense to identify the things that, say, a book does that a movie can’t before trying to turn one into the other.  The delicate waltz between Charlie Kaufman and Susan Orlean in Adaptation is proof that this approach can pay off.

5.       Becoming overly fixated on the process of adaptation can easily become an excuse not to solve the underlying problems, hence why the “delicate waltz” of Adaptation ends with one dance partner farting a hole clean through his trousers.

6.       A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favorite work is a gift to the source material.  The wobbly PG camera work might neuter The Hunger Games movies as movies, but Jennifer Lawrence’s performance brings something extra to the Katniss of the books.

7.        A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favourite work is a curse to the source material.  There are lines in the Scott Pilgrim comics that I cannot read without hearing Michael Cera’s voice now, and this is not always appropriate for the rhythms of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work.

8.       The best thing an adaptation can do is to provide financial security to a working artist. Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore both live in the house that Jack built now, and this alone is enough to justify the Hughes brothers version of From Hell.

9.       All adaptations are equally useless.

None of the above should be taken as anything other than an endorsement of our rolling Omni-brand, Lego be praised and all hail The Virgin Money Street of Light™!

You can read more on movie adaptations and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the London Graphic Novel Network site, including a very sexy poem about your inevitable doom by the Kraken podcast‘s very own Martin Mazin!

3 Responses to “Adaptation(s): 9 Statements for the London Graphic Novel Network”

  1. thesaintgodard Says:

    Ut! All adaptations are *not* equally useless.

    Certain adaptations provide opportunity for a larger audience where previously one did not exist. Jules Feiffer’s ‘Little Murders’ would likely have been forgotten as an “arty” off-off-Broadway farce had it not been for Alan Arkin’s film adaptation.

    This did not provide security for Feiffer– who didn’t much need it, being a workhorse of a working artist with a bulging portfolia –as the film, too, was a B.O. flop… But this time enough people noticed that the play was kept in print by Penguin, and eventually demand brought Little Murders on VHS, thusly over time it accrued a Cult, leading to its existence on DVD and Youtube et bloody cetera.

  2. Illogical Volume Says:

    “All adaptations are equally useless” does not mean they’re all useless :-p

    I think most adaptations are useful in one way or another, even the ones that I want to set on fire, so that last point above was an attempt to sum up and synthesise the contradictions of the previous eight statements.

    It’s also a nod to The Beast Must Die’s tooth-tappingly aggravating final statement on comics criticism, which means that it’s… half trolling, half something I actually believe, if that makes sense?

    A shite joke, then. Aren’t they all?

    (when I make them? yes)

    I like your response though, a fresh example for me – thanks!

  3. thesaintgodard Says:

    I love your shit jokes. I also love plugging Jules Feiffer. Mea maxima culpa?

    Do watch ‘Little Murders’. The final twenty minutes are pretty much the exact state of my stupid little country today.

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