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C'mon Hollywood: Have some integrity with your "adaptations"

07.02.2013

Last week I went and saw WORLD WAR Z with an open mind. I read the book, ironically, while at a combat outpost in Iraq and it was an amazing, provoking, and creative tale that brought forth some awesome imagery, especially given my circumstances. It was so much more emotional and resonant than I thought it would be and when I finished the last page my first thought was, “That would be a hard book to adapt.” Jump forward to me sitting in the theater six years later and my original thought returned to me. After all the fuss made over the production and all the changes, it became readily apparent as the movie unfolded that this was WORLD WAR Z in name only. So, that being the case, why did they even attempt to adapt it in the first place?

I read J. Michael Straczynski’s script a few years ago and felt that it was much more on par with Max Brook’s novel, even though it deviated in many areas. However, those deviations were easily overlooked, as so much care had been taken to really bring the novel to life. Obviously, you have to let some things go when you’re translating a 432 page book into a two-hour movie, but at some point you just have to call it what it is if you can’t make it work and WORLD WAR Z is damn near unadaptable within the confines of a typical Hollywood movie runtime.

WORLD WAR Z isn’t a bad movie. It’s not really good, either. Brad Pitt is solid, as usual, and I wish he’d do more roles like Gerry Lane, but he’s operating within the pages of a book that has started to become a modern classic. Merely capturing the “feel” of the book by having a bunch of different locations isn’t adapting the material. It’s rat-f*cking it to fit your runtime. And the oversaturation of PG-13-ness in the film is obnoxious. There’s hardly a drop of blood in this, let alone a truly memorable or scary zombie. They mostly operate as blurs across the screen and everything you want to see in a zombie movie happens off camera.

When a zombie TV show on a cable network has more blood and gore than a Hollywood film, then you know it’s in trouble. However, that particular show, The Walking Dead, has its own issues of integrity. I’ve read all the comics up to the current trade and have watched a gradual drop in faithfulness to the source material since episode one, to the point that I no longer even compare the comics to the show. The show now exists in an alternate reality, completely separate from the comic. It’s a well-made show, so I stick around, but it irks the shit out of me that such massive changes are made. In a way, its like saying the source material doesn’t really matter so long as you “capture the spirit” of the book. Really, what the f*ck is that supposed to mean, anyway?

Thankfully, there are still adaptations that get it right. No adaptation gets it perfect, but many come beautifully close. In terms of TV, Game of Thrones is the show to beat. I devoured those books within a few weeks and sit in awe of each and every season, as I’m able to see so many epic (and small) moments leap off the page and onto the screen with relative faithfulness to the source material. Pitt, despite WORLD WAR Z, has had great luck with adaptations in the past, with both INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and FIGHT CLUB being stunning and faithful adaptations. It’s such a rare instance to see such attention to detail, such care and respect not only for the work, but also for the fans that cherish it. Pissing in the face of such details is the ultimate insult to those who stand by the work and ultimately make it successful in its native format. Now, I don’t think Brad Pitt and Marc Forster wanted to urinate all over us, but I think they simply got it wrong. They didn’t make a bad movie, they just didn’t make the one they pretended to be adapting. So, why not just make their very own zombie movie and call it something else?

Some may feel that a “waa-mbulance” should be called for fans whining about integrity, but I call bullshit on that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see an adaptation done right and with integrity. Otherwise, it’s not an adaptation, but an interpretation or, worse yet, an abomination of the material. Adapting is not an easy task, and certainly there are things we have to let go in order to do so, but cutting nearly every aspect out and retaining the name is just disrespectful. If a book, comic, or whatever is successful enough to adapt in the first place, then it should be done so with the utmost integrity, not just a passing regard for what “works” and what doesn’t. If it can’t be done right, then don’t do it at all. I’d rather have no adaptation than a half-assed crappy one, leaving the material untainted and open for someone to tackle with respect in the future. Until then, I’ll stick to the source.

Otherwise, we're in store for shit like this:

Extra Tidbit: Other faithfully executed adaptations include A Clockwork Orange, Trainspotting, No Country For Old Men, Red Dragon, The Road, Rosemary’s Baby, etc. What do you think is the best faithfully adapted book-to-film? What’s the worst
Source: JoBlo.com

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