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Old 09-20-2012, 12:06 AM   #1
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Default How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

How close should a comic book movie be to its source material? Where does one draw line between being faithful to the source material and making changes to make things work better on the big screen?

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Old 09-20-2012, 12:20 AM   #2
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

It's entirely a case-by-case thing. It's dependent on the stories and characters you're working with.

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Old 09-20-2012, 01:20 AM   #3
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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How close should a comic book movie be to its source material? Where does one draw line between being faithful to the source material and making changes to make things work better on the big screen?
An adaptation should always make as few changes as possible. When a CBM is being made, it's because of a printed work that already has proven characters and storylines that have worked. Otherwise, the film wouldn't be in production. It's certainly true that some things don't translate well to the silver screen (this is especially true of costumes), but the biggest CBM flops are ones that decided to ignore their source mythos, ie Catwoman.

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Old 09-20-2012, 02:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

What I find interesting is that, most of the time, an alternative-universe comic, which make MASSIVE changes to the source material and characters sometimes, are often well-received. However, when a name or part of the origin is changed in the movies, there is out-cry from some fans. I don't get it, why does it need to be done in the comics first? I actually prefer these films than the comics that do the same, personally.

I think that the essence of the characters and story need to remain, and often that is wrapped up in aesthetic elements as well as the general plot. As long as these are intact, I'm happy. I don't see much point in taking the comic itself and frame-by-frame transposing it to film. Not to say that isn't enjoyable sometimes, however.

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Old 09-20-2012, 04:05 AM   #5
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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What I find interesting is that, most of the time, an alternative-universe comic, which make MASSIVE changes to the source material and characters sometimes, are often well-received. However, when a name or part of the origin is changed in the movies, there is out-cry from some fans. I don't get it, why does it need to be done in the comics first? I actually prefer these films than the comics that do the same, personally.

I think that the essence of the characters and story need to remain, and often that is wrapped up in aesthetic elements as well as the general plot. As long as these are intact, I'm happy. I don't see much point in taking the comic itself and frame-by-frame transposing it to film. Not to say that isn't enjoyable sometimes, however.
Regarding the argument against origins that have been altered in their cinematic adaptations, there are more cases than not where I agree with the overall discomfort. A character's origin serves as a major element for any superhero, perhaps moreso than its classic design. To take key components away (particularly significant qualities attributed to the roots of the story) would be to take away the very spirit of the character. I mean, filmmakers can do whatever they want. That is the cold, hard truth. But there is a heavy risk in misrepresenting the spirit of a character that has been honored and loved for ages.

With that said, I don't see anything wrong with experimenting with the more general plots. But then again, there is nothing really "wrong" with experimenting with the origin either. The films are, after all, creations with the intention of appealing to a universe of audiences--audiences that don't always have a predisposition to the original story line in the first place.

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Old 09-20-2012, 06:03 AM   #6
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

Depends on what it is you're changing about it.

For example, a character from the comic has three aspects that can be altered, but the three are not equal in terms of importance.

Appearance: Appearances have been altered in almost every comic book ever adapted to big screen, some minor, some major. These are fine as long as you don't go over the top with them and keep them at a strictly cosmetic level, though some might be more ridiculous than others.

Backstory: Alterations such as location and names of people who were key elements in the character's growth can vary depending on how similar they are to the comics. For example, If a character's origin was in the north pole and it was changed to Antarctica for a film, that's minor. However, if the character is an earthling and was changed to outer space, that's major and cause for concern.

Personality/demeanor: By FAR the most important aspect of any character, and should be altered very marginally, otherwise you may as well just make an entirely new character.

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Old 09-20-2012, 04:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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An adaptation should always make as few changes as possible. When a CBM is being made, it's because of a printed work that already has proven characters and storylines that have worked. Otherwise, the film wouldn't be in production. It's certainly true that some things don't translate well to the silver screen (this is especially true of costumes), but the biggest CBM flops are ones that decided to ignore their source mythos, ie Catwoman.
But I don't think that's a realistic attitude. The Nolan Batman are not exactly like the Batman and yet those films are very good.

The thing is though some of these stories were written 50 or 70 years ago and comic books can't be adapted in the same way books can, because super hero comic books are stories that never end and thus have decades of continuity behind them.

Look at say Iron Man, doesn't make more sense to set the movie in Afghanistan, then trying to set it in Vietnam and doesn't make a bigger impact that Stark was injured by weapons created by Stark Enterprises, then random weapons used by the Vietcong. Also I didn't mind the changes they made to villains like Sebastian Shaw and Whiplash, some of the villains in the comics are not very well developed or compelling.

I don't think the problem with say Green Lantern was not being true to the source material, with that movie it seems more like an incompetent execution of the source material, then not being faithful to it.

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Old 09-20-2012, 04:28 PM   #8
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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It's entirely a case-by-case thing. It's dependent on the stories and characters you're working with.
This.

For a finite, beginning-middle-end story being adapted, like Watchmen, for example, I think it is very important to try to stay as close as you can. Not EVERYTHING will be able to make it to the screen, but since you have a set blueprint for the story and characters, you should try your best to stay within the lines of that. That being said, some things are ok to change or delete, as long as they do not completely alter the story. Even the ending of Watchmen got a pass from me because the giant squid wasn't as important to the story as the idea behind using the giant squid/Dr Manhattan.

For comics that have been around for decades, there is much more room for change. For example, if you make an X-Men movie, you don't have to have the original five be the team, and then bring in characters in the order in which they appeared in comics. People don't want to sit through movies about the original five and Polaris before they get Wolverine. Wolverine is the selling point. Get him in there early. One way to handle this, and this was done very well by the first movie, was to have the X-Men as a fairly established team and not worry about telling their origin story because their origin story (we were born different) isn't that interesting the way Batman's or Spider-Man's is.

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Old 09-20-2012, 05:17 PM   #9
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

An adaptation should be as close as is necessary to deliver the essential myth of the character, and no closer. "Accurate" ( just like it is in the comics ) is less important than "Faithful" ( respectful of the source material ).

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Old 09-20-2012, 05:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

I think you can break it down into a few categories but there are exceptions for each:

Powers - Should be indistinguishable from the comics. Best example is Spidey's webshooters. But the counterexample is Thor stamping his hammer on the ground to make thunderstorms.

Origin - Can be altered to modernize, but should hold solid ties to the comics. Bruce Waynes parents need to be murdered, but Tony Stark can be held hostage by terrorists rather than communists.

Villains - The origin and powers of the villains should follow the above criteria. No robotic Green Goblin suit , but its okay that Two Face was burned instead of melted with acid (more realistic/modern?).

Love interest - Almost doesn't matter in most cases. Rachel Dawes: 100% Nolan's invention and perfectly functional. But Peter Parker changes from Gwen's death and almost requires both her and MJ for his story to be told properly.

Chronology - Besides key points (origin), chronological order need not be adapted. Certain things should just be dropped all together if they aren't used. Iron Monger can be Stark's first villain, but Spider-Man has to meet Gwen before he meets MJ.

In the end, as stated above, its case by case. As long as there is Potential for exploring the source material and Continuity within its own developed universe (I'm looking at you X-Men), I say pretty much anything goes.

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Old 09-20-2012, 08:23 PM   #11
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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For a finite, beginning-middle-end story being adapted, like Watchmen, for example, I think it is very important to try to stay as close as you can. Not EVERYTHING will be able to make it to the screen, but since you have a set blueprint for the story and characters, you should try your best to stay within the lines of that. That being said, some things are ok to change or delete, as long as they do not completely alter the story. Even the ending of Watchmen got a pass from me because the giant squid wasn't as important to the story as the idea behind using the giant squid/Dr Manhattan.
I do have a problem with that, but in this instances it isn't the fact that they changed it but what they changed it into. The point of the squid was that it was a wholly foreign threat that the world powers could unite in opposition to and despite being nearly god-like Manhattan wasn't that. He was American.

I bring this up because Snyder's Watchmen is one of the strangest adaptations I've ever come across. In some places it was too much like the comic where it was recreating it panel by panel and stifling the cinematic flow. It was like a moving slide show to me. And yet there were other times that it diverged too much from the comic like removing or neutering essential lines. So I didn't think it totally worked as a movie, which I what I think a film based on a comic book or superhero should be first and foremost.

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Old 09-21-2012, 07:10 PM   #12
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

IMO, it depends on the audience.
Fans of the comic: Extremely close to the source material
Film Critics: As far as possible from the source material
General Audience: It doesn't really matter

Saying that I'm a huge Batman fan (Comics first, movies second) and I found Nolan's portrayal quite far from the source material yet I loved his trilogy, so I have just completely contradicted myself.

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Old 09-21-2012, 10:42 PM   #13
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

I think it has to do with the approach that the director wants to do with the movie. But the most important thing is to keep the core of the character. Take what works of the character, its essence and treat the material with respect. And that includes the imagery and themes. Once you get that, most likely the product will be a film that appeals the fan base and the general audience.

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Old 09-22-2012, 10:40 AM   #14
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

I should note that specifically targeting the fans of the comic the best way to guarantee absolute failure. Simply put, there aren't enough of us to matter. So, an adaptation *has* to target the GA. Now, a lot of the time, a faithful, high quality adaptation *is* the best way to target the GA. . . but the people producing it need to have a good sense of what elements will be an easy sell to the GA, which elements are a harder sell, but necessary ( and thus need the most effort ), and which elements are superfluous. IMO, this is a big part of what killed Green Lantern.

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Old 09-22-2012, 04:56 PM   #15
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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I should note that specifically targeting the fans of the comic the best way to guarantee absolute failure. Simply put, there aren't enough of us to matter. So, an adaptation *has* to target the GA. Now, a lot of the time, a faithful, high quality adaptation *is* the best way to target the GA. . . but the people producing it need to have a good sense of what elements will be an easy sell to the GA, which elements are a harder sell, but necessary ( and thus need the most effort ), and which elements are superfluous. IMO, this is a big part of what killed Green Lantern.
Worst than that, that small fanbase that you mentioned can't even agree with each other.

Take X-Men, for example.

1) Who should be on the team?
2) Wolverine: Awesome or overused?
3) Magneto: Hero, misguided anti-villain, or completely evil?
4) Superheroes with flashy costumes or a military-esque team with realistic uniforms?
5) Fantastic adventures dealing with space aliens and time travel or a down to earth metaphor for civil rights?
6) Stuffed to the brim with characters or focus on a small team so each individual character can get more development?
7) Beast: Human, Classic Blue, or Cat Form?
8) Emma Frost: Hero or Villain?
9) Rogue: Ms. Marvel Powers or Not?
10) Jean Grey: Better off with Phoenix powers, better off without Phoenix powers, or better off dead?
11) Main Character: Cyclops or Wolverine?
Etc.

The fanbase can't agree on anything, so even if filmmakers do try to cater to them it ends up backfiring anyways.

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Old 09-22-2012, 05:12 PM   #16
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

An adaptation should try to be as close to the source as possible but change whatever need to be changed, unless it just wants to take characters, aspects and plot from the comics but make its oun story.

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Plenty of male-led action films fail, yet the actors' gender is not blamed. Why should it be different for women? Especially since far more male-led action films are made than female-led action films?
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Old 09-22-2012, 05:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

It depends on the source material and what has been done already.

If the source material is weak then it needs to be upgraded.

If the material has been covered already then you can take things in a different direction.

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Old 09-25-2012, 05:26 AM   #18
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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But I don't think that's a realistic attitude. The Nolan Batman are not exactly like the Batman and yet those films are very good.

The thing is though some of these stories were written 50 or 70 years ago and comic books can't be adapted in the same way books can, because super hero comic books are stories that never end and thus have decades of continuity behind them.


I don't think the problem with say Green Lantern was not being true to the source material, with that movie it seems more like an incompetent execution of the source material, then not being faithful to it.
Nolan's Batman drew directly on several stories: Year One,The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Knightfall (and I think Nolan/Goyer have mentioned a few others) for the trilogy. It mirrored the unabashedly grim tones of those stories, which was something not even Burton's Batman did.

GL is weird one to call because it started out being completely unfaithful to it's source material. They gutted Parallax and tried to squeeze him into a part of GL's mythos where he didn't fit. Pretty much everything that happened in GL beyond that was an attempt to be faithful, so the overall product wasn't that bad.

Yet I don't understand why the writers didn't try to reflect Emerald Dawn or Secret Origin. Having the movie center around Hal's training and introducing the audience to the diversity of the GLC would have worked so much better than a poop cloud of yellow-sucking energy.

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Old 09-25-2012, 05:21 PM   #19
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

I suppose a simpler rule of thumb: an adaptation should change things from the source material only when it has a *reason* to change them. There may be lots of things that should be changed for lots of reasons, but not one thing should be changed for *no* reason. "Because I like it better" or "Because comics suck" are not reasons.

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Old 09-29-2012, 12:19 PM   #20
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

This is one of those things that can never be answered. Nolan changed a lot of stuff and got praised, yet stuff has been changed before and gotten blasted. It depends on whether or not we like the director, to be honest.

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Old 09-29-2012, 12:37 PM   #21
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

It allways depends on the story you're working with, i think filmmakers already found the right balance for comic book adaptations, it's Video Games and anime/ manga adaptations that still get butchered because they don't pay respect to the source and choose the worst filmmakers around.

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Plenty of male-led action films fail, yet the actors' gender is not blamed. Why should it be different for women? Especially since far more male-led action films are made than female-led action films?
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:02 PM   #22
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

Paul W.S. Anderson more or less just said "**** it" after the first Resident Evil.

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Old 09-29-2012, 01:12 PM   #23
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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An adaptation should always make as few changes as possible. When a CBM is being made, it's because of a printed work that already has proven characters and storylines that have worked. Otherwise, the film wouldn't be in production. It's certainly true that some things don't translate well to the silver screen (this is especially true of costumes), but the biggest CBM flops are ones that decided to ignore their source mythos, ie Catwoman.
I agree with Happy Jack - it's a case by case basis. I mean, you've got Blade in your sig as one of your favourite comic book movie adaptations, and that's pretty drastically different from the source material. And I'd agree with you, Blade is a kick ass movie. It's pretty clear that those writing, directing and starring in it have respect for the script - if not the comic book - and to me that's the key component. Changing things isn't necessarily a 'no-no', but you've got to at least respect what you're doing.

I much prefer Singer's X-Men and X2 to the rest of the X-Men related films, and yet they were directed by someone that seemed to look down on comic books. (At the time anyway - not sure if he still does.) Even if the director isn't a fan of the comics, if they have some respect for the characters that are being portrayed in the film then changing certain elements isn't always the kiss of death.

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Old 10-01-2012, 09:31 PM   #24
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

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This is one of those things that can never be answered. Nolan changed a lot of stuff and got praised, yet stuff has been changed before and gotten blasted. It depends on whether or not we like the director, to be honest.
In Nolan's case I think he struck the right balance by drawing substantially from the source material and incorporating it into the story he was telling. He paid homage while still augmenting it for his own purposes.

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Old 10-01-2012, 09:34 PM   #25
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Default Re: How close should a comic book movie be to its source material?

^Any director could say that though.

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