They’ve been on my mind recently. Everyone’s coming to the realization the Watchmen movie is actually coming out; the gears for The Spirit‘s media blitz have begun churning in earnest; the latest Star Trek film might count depending on how you look at it; and…I guess there’s that Chun-Li movie.
Anyway, it’s not like this is a new phenomenon. Old timey Hollywood would make the same film three separate times in the space of a decade. Shakespeare was never above stealing other people’s stories and based Romeo and Juliet off a poem by Arthur Brooke. Which was based on a poem by Pierre Boaistuau. Which was based on a story by Matteo Bandello. Which was based on a story by Luigi da Porto. Which was based on a story by Masuccio Salernitano.
Still, nothing gets the blood of fans boiling quite like the idea of their favorite intellectual property being thrown to the insatiable wolves of Hollywood. And it’s always Hollywood. No one ever gets upset that their favorite radio play is going to be molested by the New York suits at the publishing companies by making it into a novel. Novelizations, licensed games, and theater adaptations based on preexisting stories never quite coax the same kind of ire film adaptations do. It’s an unconscious affirmation of the idea that movies occupy the top spot in the media hierarchy. Turn The Karate Kid into a musical? That’s cute. Harmless. Produce a remake? KEEP YOUR GODDAMN HANDS OFF MY CHILDHOOD!
It’s hard to articulate exactly why people care so much that a toy line they played with as kids is being turned into a summer blockbuster. Okay, sure, the detailed, rich narrative of your favorite graphic novel is going to be bastardized all to hell by some hack with an inflated shooting budget. So? Is this a problem? The studios aren’t going to knock down your door and confiscate your book. You can still read it. Trust me. Hey Max Payne fans, your series was turned into a crappy movie starring Mark Wahlberg. That’s too bad. But I can sympathize; the exact same thing happened to my favorite movie. And you know what? I don’t care. Never have. Don’t plan to.
Okay, so maybe more people will know about a story through the movie version. Once again, what’s the problem? If you’re arguing the merits of a piece of art and someone can’t separate it from the film adaptation then they’re not worth winning over anyway. There’s a slim, non-zero chance the Watchmen movie’s quality will approach that of the comic. There’s a larger chance it will blow chunks. But does that matter? The comic’s still right there for everyone to read, appreciate, and debate. Then we get to say “The book was better,” which is really all we want anyway, isn’t it?