Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Based on"

I'm all for artistic license when it comes to adapting books to film, video games to film, film to book, film to video game, real life to book... whatever. But sometimes it doesn't seem like anything from the original (the adapted-from) remains in the new version (the adapted-to).

Image result for i am legend movie poster

If you're a long-time reader of RMT, you know that, while I enjoyed both the book and the movie of I Am Legend, I recognize that basically nothing other than the main character's name and his general circumstances remained the same between the two. (If you don't like the dog part of the movie, go read the book. No, really. Do it. Trust me.)

I've never read nor seen this one, yet I have been told the ending of both, and I know that they are essentially polar opposites. This is an example of the kind of change I'm fine with: one major piece that they thought played better on film in a way that was different from the way it played in print. It's a choice the screenplay writer, director, producers, etc. have to make; sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it backfires.

Speaking of making hard choices that change the screen version drastically from the print version... I recently (last night) started reading Game of Thrones again. (You may recall that I didn't make it too far last time I tried.) Before, I hadn't watched a single second of the show when I tried to read it. Now, I keep gasping because I think I found some huge thing (I keep mixing up all the dead Targaryens who were kings and princes and whatnot, and I realized only after seeing it in print that Ser Ilyn Payne is actually related to Podrick, even though it's just as distant cousins). Most viewers know that by now, the little changes here and there in past seasons have added up, leading to bigger and bigger changes. This is an example of an adaptation that is drastic, but I still think it's great. I've been warned that there are long swathes of these books that are... Lord of the Rings - like. You know what I mean: long walks, followed by more walking, and some walking interspersed with walking. HBO wouldn't be able to sell that. Or the hundreds more characters the books seem to have by this point. At any rate, you know the ending to the show will be different from the ending to the books, which is good, because can you imagine how pissed the readers would be if the show told them the end before they could read it?!?

All of this brings me to why I brought this up this week:

I know it must be difficult to adapt an autobiography to fiction... and comedy, at that. Especially when the subject is so... non-comedic. Piper Kerman wrote a fairly serious book about her experiences during a year in prison. Someone at Netflix thought that would make the perfect basis for a comedy series. I read the book first, then tried to start watching the show. I made it three minutes. The tone is all wrong, the scenes that are similar to the book are just weird because they're so displaced... I don't know, maybe I have to see a whole episode, or maybe something other than the first episode, but I feel like just making a totally separate prison comedy would have been a better idea. But making the show "based on" her book means Piper Kerman is famous now, and a lot more people have read her book, so I guess that's a good thing.

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