So, last winter I may have spent some time just before the pandemic combing the local comic book shops to check out indie graphic novels that haven't had any commercial adaptations for film or television.
I also may have spent some time compiling a list of my favorite finds, conceptualizing what it would take to adapt them for the screen, what format would be most fitting (stand alone film, film series, episodic television series, etc.) and gauging which ones would be the most reasonable to produce a spec/proof of concept project/pilot episode.
I may have thought about what the budget for such a project might be. I also may have a good friend who lives out in California and is looking to develop just such a cool indie project.
In the grand scheme of things this is/was probably just an exercise in process. Ideas for projects come and go and sometimes even great ideas are dropped due to circumstances (such as a worldwide pandemic that brought film and television production to a complete standstill).
After all, we were mostly just emulating what is probably the most exciting, yet also arguably the most hated practice in Hollywood right now: The adaptation.
Don't get me wrong, adaptations are not inherently wrong...people just hate them. There is nothing bad about taking a great story and translating it from the printed page to the big screen. However, some people do get really upset about some of them, and even I can relate.
For example, years ago Syfy (back when it was still called Scifi, if I recall correctly) did an adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea series that was just horrendous. Trust me, it was horrible. But then again, the producers of that film were up against my own brain and it's very difficult for anyone to beat me on my own turf. I have been told that I have a very big brain* and I have read Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy (and some of the supplemental works) many times and I know what that world looks and feels like. I just do. So what gave my big brain such an advantage over the producers of that film?
Creativity allowed my mind to create a world that was full of complexity and vibrancy and subtlety (and also included lots of inner dialogue, which is the bane of novel-to-screen adaptations!).
On the other hand, the process of producing that film required the creators to lock down details, imagery, and concepts into a single vision that lacks all of the aforementioned complexity that the human brain can juggle while reading a novel. This specific vision of the story was also someone else's vision. This is a sort of imagination bottleneck that is ultimately determined by the director of the film and it is quite limiting when you think about it.
This is not to say that a director can't capture some of this wonder**, hell, even my all time favorite film is an adaptation. I'm just saying that creativity is always going to be limited to some degree on this type of project.
Besides, isn't working from source material inherently un-creative? During the exercise I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I may have asked myself this very question.
However, I think the answer to that is: ...not exactly.
The problem with creativity in adaptations is that any new idea or significant change that is brought to a story by a production team is scrutinized by fans of the original book/graphic novel and ultimately will be hated by at least some of them... i.e. "the book was better!".
Yes, it definitely always was.
I'm sure that I'm not the only person who saw the David Lynch Dune adaptation and loved it as a kid. It was dark. It was twisted. It was completely awesome.
Unfortunately it was also reviled by everyone who read and loved the books***. The Lynch Dune may have become The Dune to me, even if it was inaccurate.
I guess I'm just another victim of the Hollywood adaptation machine, eh? (At any rate, I'm eagerly awaiting the new Denis Villeneuve adaptation because it looks amazing).
This is not to say that new ideas will always be rejected by the hardcore fans. For every Batman suit that includes nipples for some godforsaken reason there is a brand new ending that is arguably better than the source material.
Look at the 2007 adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist. The book didn't end like that. Boy it didn't.
With that in mind, I would still like to defend the adaptation. I generally do prefer films or television shows that I have no preconceptions about, but what on this earth is actually "completely new"? Nothing, that's what, so stop being a baby ****.
Let Hollywood do their own thing and if you hate an adaptation then don't watch it. If you hate all adaptations, then don't watch any of them.
I learned something years ago from a 'political' punk band that never left me: "One dollar = 1 vote, Vote responsibly"
So feel free to abstain from voting for Batman 'nipple' suits by not going to see them. But do your due diligence and research adaptations before you just insist that "they are terrible because the book was better".
You wouldn't vote in a major election without researching the candidates, right? Right? (uuh...let's just agree to leave this one alone, okay?)
Besides, before that Hollywood adaptation you hate so much got made, someone probably spent a long time making a very detailed list...
* Yes, this is definitely a joke, but the rest of the sentence is serious
** Just look at what Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings!
***Haha, suckers, I never read the books!
****So just stop it!