This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while. Pretty much after every comic- based movie that I see I think about it. I finally decided to take the plunge after Guardians of the Galaxy 2 came out, for reasons I'll get into below. But for me... the TL;DR version is- most movies that are based on a comic are inferior to the source story. That's just my opinion, is true in some cases more than others, and I fully realize this may be an unpopular opinion. I'm going to lay out my reasons below and I hope you share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.
Naturally this post will contain some spoilers for the movies I talk about.
Let's take Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The thing that really made me decide to write this was the story about Steve Englehart, the creator of Mantis, and how he felt about her portrayal.
"Well, I was not happy with Mantis' portrayal. That character has nothing to do with Mantis. I will say that I liked the film quite a bit overall, they're doing good stuff and I enjoyed my night at the movies so long as I turned my brain off to the fact that that's not Mantis up there. I really don't know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis. That I do not know. I liked her, but that's not Mantis."
Sour grapes from a comic creator? Well I can see his point. Not only did Mantis look horrible (at least I thought so, and that's a separate discussion) but she bears very little if any resemblance to the comic version. In the comics Mantis is a German- Vietnamese woman taken in by a pacifist Kree cult. In the movie she's not human and is a servant to the living planet Ego. Pretty dissimilar.
Look, I get that they can't recreate comics word for word- they have to adapt things to fit the medium, they have to be able to attract a wider audience, etc.- I get all that. What I am suggesting is that they follow the storylines more closely, because again when they stray too far they usually do not end up with a better story. Take the Dark Phoenix storyline, for example. Anyone who's read it knows what I mean. They tried shoehorning that into X- Men and it was a disaster. That story requires its own movie to properly do it justice, and it's very cosmic in scope. The movie people must agree because they're redoing it in the upcoming X-Men Dark Phoenix next year.
You can read more about the Dark Phoenix making it to the big screen (again) here.
You can read more about the Dark Phoenix making it to the big screen (again) here.
Another example is the Wolverine movie where he goes to Japan. Based on a series that defined his character and is widely considered classic, they made so many dumb changes that it turned out terrible. Important characters like Yukio and Viper were totally changed, and I've always thought that the conclusion of that storyline would have been fabulous on screen. Especially if they would have cameo'd Anna Paquin as Rogue (she plays a pivotal role in the story) or some of the X-Men (they were also involved). I would encourage anyone to read the original story and them compare it to the movie, and see if you don't agree.
Obviously not everyone is going to agree, and I constantly see articles that say you can't adapt the comics literally. Well no not literally, of course some things won't work, but given the track record I think the screenwriting could use a push towards the original material. The biggest thing for me is- if not for those original stories, there would be no movies. It's the classic stories that put those franchises on the map- so why not tell those stories? The right way.
Do not even speak of the one where he goes to Japan...bad bad badReplyDelete
I think this argument could go for all book to movie adaptations. It's like screenwriters have agreed to write the film script from the book but really they want to write their own, different script instead.ReplyDelete
I agree. For me I think the screen writers try to adapt the material, and of course they mean well, and in some cases sure changes need to be made or to update the times, but... I think a lot of the classic stories would be well suited to adaptation that's more faithful, because again those stories paved the wa y for the movie in the first place.Delete
Agree with Suzanna. Sometimes it happens to book to movie adaptations. I haven't watched or read any comics lately but I'd been a huge fan when I was in high school before I discovered novels (books). Awesome discussion, Greg. :)ReplyDelete
Yes, it definitely happens with book adaptations too! So many times we hear of authors who are disappointed or want to disavow the adaptation! I think if you're going to call something Divergent or whatever the property is, you have a responsibility to make it as faithful as you can. Sure some changes will have to be made, and some movies get it right- but when they don't it's frustrating. :)Delete
I wonder if they adapt the movie to suit the general audience? Which isn't smart seeing that die-hard comic fans who are the target audience would quickly notice the big changes.ReplyDelete
I think so. I mean most moviegoers are not going to be familair with the comics, and I'm sure that's part of the equation. They can't just write it for the fans. I guess my point is if they adapt the story faithfully it would still appeal to the general, because A) it's a good story, and B) a lot of times their take isn't better. Although the movies make money so they probably don't care what I think!!Delete
I'm going to go along with Laura a bit, about changing the comics to appeal to a broader audience. I've generally liked all the comic book movies we've seen, but then again, I wouldn't know anything about changes that have been made; at the same time, my husband will sometimes be like, what? Because he knows the characters. However, I think it's important to stay true to the source material, because that's what the fans have come to know and love - I hate when book-to-movie adaptations change important things, like, you know, the ending!ReplyDelete
I agree, I think they feel the need to do that. Appeal to a larger audience. I guess as a fan I'd like to see them stay closer to the source, and that that shouldn't be exclusive to it being a good movie? Like the Mantis thing- they didn't HAVE to do it that way, but the screen writers (or whoever) thought it would be BETTER, presumably. I guess I fall on the skeptical side there.Delete
I know what you mean though, for many they won't know (or care) about the difference, they just want to see a fun movie. So it's a fine line. :) I'm with your husband though, some times I like what??? And yes books to movies too- don't change the ending lol!!!
I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy2 and Mantis but I don't know anything about the source material.ReplyDelete
I can see how it's frustrating. The same goes for book adaptations. They take these brilliant characters and even the stories and twist them so that they are something else entirely.
Like....why did you want to make this in the first place if you don't respect the original material??
Cutting out some things or adapting a bit for the big screen is expected but to change it entirely is dumb.
For What It's Worth
Yes, I really don't like it when they change books- that's even worse than comics maybe. :) Because right, if you're adapting a property I don't see WHY you would want to change it- at least not wholesale changes. I mean, if th book is hot enough to warrant a movie, then adapt the book! Don't make your own lol.Delete
"most movies that are based on a comic are inferior to the source story." - this is sort of my feeling as well, and not only with comics. Adaptations on the whole are tricky to pull off. That said, some of the newer Marvel movies have been good, as writers are more willing to think outside the box so I guess there's a positive side to doing new things too.ReplyDelete
~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum
I thought that might be a controversial statement, because someone might think well that's just your opinion. and it is just my opinion, but I can't help it- when I look at Dark Phoenix or that Wolverine movie, I can't imagine why they made some of those changes lol. Imagining the original story on the screen just screams at missed opportunity.Delete
And you're right, it's not all bad. I've enjoyed the Marvel movies to differing degrees, and they do a wonderful job of bringing those characters to the screen. There is a lot to like, and adaptations ARE tricky. You're never going to please everyone. :)
I've never been a big comic book reader though I enjoy the movies. I do think the should at least try and stay in the same vein of the original characters. I get that not everything translates well but nothing good can come from completely changing the characters. Book Mantis seems awesome - movie Mantis seems kind of creepy. Plus for people like me who aren't familiar with the original sources I don't feel like I know the stories any better and that's kind of a shame.ReplyDelete
Great point- if you're going to see Dark Phoenix or something considered "classic" it would be nice to at least get the same story. Sure they're going to change things, but if it's unrecognizable why even do it?? And yes I think they should stay as close as they can- realisticallyDelete
I think that the biggest problem of course is that the comic-to-movie industry has realized that they can make a shit ton of money, and so they can do whatever they want. And let's be real, they won't be hurting for money at the end, no matter how they mess things up. But that doesn't mean it's right. Like, if I were the creator, I would probably be pissed, and I know I would be as a fan. Like, I get that things can't be exactly the same, of course. But I think that changes can be made while still staying true to the source?ReplyDelete
I'll use The Hunger Games as an example, because I think that's the truest I have ever seen an adaptation stay to a story. They obviously had to adjust some things for the screen. We can't be in Katniss's head the whole time, they can't show the level of violence in the books, they needed to show other characters' stories that Katniss didn't see in the books, etc. But, even with the changes, it stayed very authentic to the characters and the overall themes of the books. And I don't see why that isn't possible in comic movies.
In the example of Mantis... wow. That IS a big difference. And honestly, the movie version looks kind of stupid, whereas in the comic she looks totally badass. I don't understand why that kind of change would help the movie? I wonder if it's that the creators of the movies simply don't care about the source material? Want to put their own stamp on it? I really don't understand what the gain would be in changing so much of the story. And I feel like more authentic adaptations are always so much more loved, so it really is confusing.
That's my thing- I don't expect them to do it word for word, that'd be unrealistic, but for crying out loud stay close. If you change it to much why even bother? If those original storie were good enough to inspire a movie, it must be a pretty good story?Delete
Great point about the Hunger games. Obviously I haven't read the books but I have heard the movies were pretty close, and thank God. They deserve to be adapted properly. Not get the Marvel treatment. And not to bitch about Marvel, because some of the movies are fun, but...
I think movie Mantis is ridiculous. Not only changing who she is but her appearance was horrible. I think maybe they thought we're not going to comic Mantis, but we are going to introduce her this way and just using the character broadly is enough. and for the general moviegoer, who cares? But for people who've read the stories, it is pretty jarring.
I watched the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but never read the original comics. And sometimes I think that's the best way to enjoy a movie adaption, by not reading the source materials first as then you won't notice all the things they changed. I watched some movie adaptions after reading the book and I can't help but point out all the differences And half of the time I don't get why they made those changes. So I guess I can see your point of why make it different if you can also stay truer to the source materials. But maybe it's more of reaching a different audience and those who haven't read the comics, won't notice anyway?ReplyDelete
I don't get it at all. I am not familiar with any comic source material but there are definitely some great (Hunger Games, LOTR) adaptations that worked with the material and only changed what really needed to be changed to fit the medium and some horrid, horrid (I cried walking out of Eragon I was so horrified) ones.ReplyDelete
PS. Saw Guardians 2 and was not impressed. They should have stopped at 1 :-/
It's a common complaint even in the book world that there are too many adaptations where the point of the plot is just lost or characters become cardboard cutouts when things are changed for the screen. I'm not surprised to see that in comics too. Maybe I'm lucky that I don't read comics so have nothing to compare the films to.ReplyDelete
I haven't read any of the graphic novels featuring the characters you mention and so don't really have an opinion to share. My husband is much more familiar with the original comic versions and I sometimes look to him to be a litmus test for how well it translated from page to screen. I have heard a number of people express the same view of the movie version of Dark Phoenix as you.ReplyDelete
That's too bad that they wandered so far astray with Mantis. I wasn't completely enamored with her film character myself. Although, I did enjoy the movie overall. I liked the first one better though.
I don't really have an opinion on this exact topic because I don't read superhero comics are you gonna really watch the movies, but I agree with what you're saying. Books/comics and movies are different mediums, so they do have to be adapted to fit, but there's kind of a limit. and if you pass that limit, its like its not even an adaptation but rather something different. I mean, completely changing who a character is? That's just aggravating.ReplyDelete
I didn't know too much about Mantis going into the movie so I wasn't aware how huge of a change it was but as soon as we left the movie my husband filled me in, and said he wasn't happy about her hcaracter at all. We still enjoyed GotG2 but he wasn't happy with that change. I 110% agree with the Wolverine movie when he goes to Japan. I hated it...and that killed me a little because I LOVE Wolverine. He's always been my favorite. I had no idea about the Dark Phoenix movie...I must have missed hearing about that. Loved this post!ReplyDelete
I didn't like the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and I'm really worried about upcoming Avengers movie because there will be so many (too many?) superheroes...I didn't know what Mantis looked in the comics before I read your post. She did look more epic in the comics though and I think the people responsible for the casting process should at least try to get some of that epicness right.ReplyDelete