Monday’s Musings -The Slight of Rewrites

Before I settled on pursuing a design major, I started my vocational study in radio and television in high school, then an associates in film/video and audio production. There I learned the finer points of telling a story in visual and auditory ways. So I know better than most the sacrifices that have to be made when making a movie. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with it.

I can understand that it’s difficult to translate a 400 page book into a two hour feature film. Usually one page of a script is equal to one minute of screen time, and a screen play can include important scene descriptions, camera shots, visual, and auditory cues along with dialogue. The thing I hate most is when movie makers mess with the integrity of an adapted work.

Normally this is done with slight rewrites used to make the film more sellable or appealing to a broader audience. For example, I don’t know whose decision it was not to put any money into Twilight or who felt it needed that added storyline with James and his friends killing town folk. But I cringe at the bad choices made in making that film. Twilight had the most important thing possible, a built-in audience. Who cares about wanting to attract male movie goers? The book is 400+ pages of building romance, women alone could’ve made up the difference in ticket sales even if they didn’t drag their men along with them. Whoever couldn’t see the massive brewing hit they were sitting on has to be the most oblivious person on earth.

I am glad to see that a studio had the foresight to put a good deal of money and thought into making The Hunger Games. I would’ve like a crisper more vivid look to film, I think they could’ve gone farther and pushed the world more, I was a litter apprehensive after hearing about The Hunger Games creative curb on killing, and while I understand that the film makers wanted to make the movie accessible for younger kids to see the film, I think they took out the best part of the book. Not that I’m blood thirsty or anything but it was the abhorrent disregard for life and how these children where forced to fight to the death as a form of control, containment, and entertainment, that made the books so shockingly good. And in all honesty I barely ever had trouble getting into R-rated movies growing up. Though while the movie wasn’t as watered down as I thought it was going to be it was still toned down in many ways, probably in an effort to keep the movie from getting too stylized or borderline campy.

Another film I’m sad to see stripped of it’s concept is the Heist Society movie. Again while I understand the reasoning behind the aging up of Kat and her crew, I think they’re taking the best part of the books and ruining it. The point is that the characters are like some teenage version of Ocean’s Eleven. Taking the age factor out of the equation just makes it a weaker version of Leverage.

A great example of the age up factor is the Percy Jackson movie. I love Harry Potter, in my opinion the Percy Jackson books are just as good if not better than HP. I feel like Percy’s adventures always have a great flow and humor to them that make them easy to read and really entertaining for anyone. So I was very surprised by how bad the film was, considering the producer/director is the same guy who did the first two HP movies. Aging up the characters changed the dynamic of the audience from kids film to teen movie. Which was a huge mistake because children’s movies are one of the biggest box office draws. Along with some truly awful script changes, which I think could have been handled better, odd casting choices, (really how hard is it to find a blonde actress to play Annabeth, or Athena, who didn’t need to be played by an actual Greek actress) that tanked the franchise before it got off the ground. Even with the modestly received first film, and the second one on the way, it has a lot more ground to cover to get a green light for a third.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the people making these decisions don’t ever read the books, or get them like readers do. It’s just a job, some seemingly random title on the New York Times bestsellers list optioned and honed by a movie executive’s arrogant notions of what a hit formula needs versus what fans want. Otherwise I can’t explain the epic fail of Twilight or The Lightening Thief. I can only hope that Hollywood takes better care of our favorite books in the future.

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