Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Close Expectations of the Third Kind

So I saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last weekend, and enjoyed it. I'd read it as a kid, at least thirteen years ago, and remembered virtually nothing about it except that it featured (among other things) a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe. I didn't have a lot of specific expectations about whether the book would be translated faithfully to the screen.

I started thinking about adaptations and wondering what was important about translating a well-known work (novel, comic book, etc.) to the screen. Some people get furious if anything is left out; these are the people who bitched when Tom Bombadil was left out of Fellowship of the Ring. Frankly, screw those people. In the long run, a movie's quality and contribution to cinematic history is only vaguely dependent upon how faithful it was to its source material.

This isn't to say that changes away from the source material are always non-negative; usually, if a novel is being made into a movie, it's because a lot of people like it, and that's usually because it's a good story, so why tamper with a proven work? But that's more about whether you want people to like your movie in the near-term. People constantly discuss the near-mythical greatness of the film of The Godfather, but rarely does anyone mention the quality of Mario Puzo's novel, and nobody these days gives a crap about whether or not the movie was different from the book.