Have you read the Harry Potter books and seen the movies? I have. Enjoyed them all. But when someone asked me what I thought of the second half of Deathly Hallows, my response was, “You could see David Yates all through it. It’s a shame, because he did such a thorough job with the first half.” I’ve never been terribly complimentary toward what Alphonse Cuaron and Mike Newell did to their respective books, either. There were plot points that were important to me that didn’t make it in or felt too summarized in the movies. But Rowling was involved in the movies, and she didn’t seem to be overly disturbed by those missing elements, so I feel silly for even complaining about them.
I react the same way to X-Men. My friends who are hard-core fans have long complained about all of the problems in the cartoons and the movies, and my response has always been, “Yeah, but Stan Lee was involved with those. He was fine with the changes.”
We so often look forward to movies based on favorite books. We want the world in our head to appear on the screen. We want to see what the moments that really touched us looked like. Then we see the movie and walk out disenchanted because it was nothing like what we imagined. That’s because movies are creative adaptations- often marked as “based on the books by” or “inspired by” so we will keep our hopes in check. But some of us take it really personally when the director’s vision doesn’t match either the book’s own descriptions or our own imaginations.
By and large, though, creative adaptations can be lived with. On the other hand, what I call “second chance reimaginings” take a little bit more patience. This is actually a new territory for me. I’ve seen many movies, television series, and cartoons based on books and comic books, but I’d never seen one that claimed to be based on the books where I had to add in the word “loosely” to calm myself down.
Have you ever seen or read Pretty Little Liars? While I’ve seen the entire series so far (and I’m not ashamed to admit it), I’ve only read the first four books. Unfortunately, I read through them quickly enough that I learned who A was and who Alison’s killer was before the series made it that far.
Except it didn’t. The first A never materialized (because there is apparently another A in the second four books). And the series has left some doubt as to whether or not the killer actually killed Alison. So reading those four books didn’t actually spoil anything in the series for me. In fact, outside of the character’s names and favorite pastimes, I had a hard time seeing the connection between the two. That’s because the Pretty Little Liars series doesn’t creatively adapt the books. It seems to tell a “But this is how it could have happened” version of the same story, and I find that just fascinating. I don’t know what led to it, or if that was Shepard and Alloy’s plans for the series (since Alloy published the series to begin with), but it opens the door to wondering what other books would be well-received in this reimagined format.
It also leaves me hesitant to read the rest of Pretty Little Liars or start The Lying Game.
Having experienced both creative adaptation and “second chance reimagining”, I’m not sure which I think is better. Both leave room for appreciation, derision, and discussion, but the reimagining really leaves you with little room to think, “Ooh! I wonder how they’ll interpret this event”, because you don’t know if it’s really coming or not.