Saturday, July 23, 2011

Literature to Movie Comparison

Here is an important lesson for movies.

If you say a movie is "based on" something, there should be strong similarities to the source material. You don't have to be an exact, word for word retelling (or shot-for-shot if you are making a movie based on an old movie). These tend to be very faithful with minor changes; take the modern "Psycho" and compare it to the 1960s version. Even movies like the "Lord of the Rings" can say they were based on the books by Tolkien, because they really are. There are some looser interpretations and the action is pumped up a bit and some parts are cut out entirely, but it is still recognizable to the source material. To show that this doesn't imply high quality, even the the Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" movies are based on the books. Stephen King's "It" is based on the book (just without all the really icky parts -- and I'm not talking the blood).

Inspired by is for movies that are not exact replicas. Here's where we get into a bit more vague and nebulous territory. Here's where we start getting pseudo-historical movies that are "inspired by" real events. Like those bad Life Time (Lifetime? Anyone who watches that and knows, kudos). Things often get exaggerated and made larger than life to fit into things. What's worse is a movie inspired by a book that is often less than accurate. These are still recognizable as related to their source material, but significantly more liberties have been taken. Maybe you've changed a man to a woman, turned a heroic figure into a neutral or nonexistent figure. Maybe five different cops are now Sheriff Joe for ease of story-telling. Maybe a movie like the "Mario Brothers" movie is more "inspired" by the video games than really based on. It's got recognizable pieces from its source, but you only recognize it because it tells you "This plumber is Mario. He jumps on things."

Then? Then you have this. I think Hollywood needs a whole new term for this. Note how they try to avoid either of these with the nifty new phrase "From the classic novel." That's a new turn of phrase, but maybe I'm just not that aware of movie trailers. But, let me tell you something. M'Lady being some sort of ninja? That's not from the classic novel. That's, maybe, from some really creepy fanfic. I think a much better phrase is "tangentially related to" or "milked from the same money pot as."

Look, I can even accept a phrase like "A re-imagining of the classic novel." That's being honest. But, it has been a few years since I've read "The Three Musketeers." So, maybe I forgot the part about Buckingham ruling the skies.

Oh wait. No I didn't. Speaking of that line, the parallel construction was actually not bad. Until they get to the third person and they just break it. Why not say something like she rules the night or some other classic "Oh, she's cute and kills people" sort of line? It's not because the writers care about the text or dialogue coming "From the classic novel," I think Athos (or is that Aramis?) may only have said anything close to "Round 2" when ordering ale, maybe, at one of the rest houses when they all realize that they're horseless now? Maybe? I don't know. But, we really need a hard concept fidelity to movie execution scale. That way we know what these terms mean.

I suppose, though, that: "OK. Then, text comes across the screen: 'An acid-induced mish-mash I remembered from senior European Lit,'" doesn't sell at a board meeting.


  1. dude I totally had this exact response to the trailer for the movie one day, which is not nearly as intellectual as what you are talking about but it was definitely a "wait have you even read the book" moment for me. stephen fry wrote a novel that's a really good retelling of the count of monte cristo called revenge (I think)

  2. also I haven't used this since college how the fuck do I follow you?

  3. No idea. The Blogger blogs I read I just check in once or twice a week using regular bookmarks.

  4. I figured it out. I bookmarked this at one point, but my bookmarks are confusing.


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