Embrace adaptation: Resist entitlement

U-News Staff

I recently had a conversation with my friend about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” where he proceeded to tell me all of the inaccuracies of the film’s plot. He was steamed about how little the film represented the comics and how poorly it represented the iconic figure, Spider-Man.
I should preface this story by saying that I am thrilled to talk movies, music, art, or whatever with someone, especially if our reactions to a piece differ. I am not writing this to slam my friend or his opinion in print. I take issue with the method of his criticism, and by exposing its emotive nature, we can hopefully create a more positive discourse.
I had to take a step back and try to determine why he had such an angry reaction. He explained to me that he read Spider-Man growing up and had a lot invested in this character who taught him about responsibility, loss and philanthropy.
It was clear that this movie had offended his sensibilities by misrepresenting a seminal influence of his childhood. I know this because I, too, have felt and fumed whenever a book I enjoy gets made into a mediocre movie or whenever a newer, and worse, “Transformers” movie is released.
What I suggested to my friend, and what I too am trying, is that we get over ourselves. Adaptation is nothing new, but because it has become so popular in Hollywood, we experience a rash of films being made with adapted screenplays from books, comics, television shows, plays and even toys. We can’t change film production practices overnight, but we can change how we react to it.
For many of us, these original sources are a big part of our identity. To see a work we identify with become less than what they are in our hearts and imagination is painful. It is an affront to the core. Have we become so entitled that we are resistant to new ideas? Are we to enter the movie theatre only to begrudgingly compare the film to our impossible expectations? We can’t keep judging adapted films based on their similarities to original source work. To judge adaptation only as a goal of imitation undermines the complexity and beauty of the transition, and also denigrates the cultural insights given by these re-imaginings of the original piece.
My suggestion to my friend, to myself and to readers is to try to look past how Michael Bay ruined “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or to look past how much better “The Hunger Games” books are than the movies. If we expect these characters and narratives to survive, we need to be open to how they are reinvented for future audiences.