When to Branch Away From Source Material


Since the first few years of the 21st century, we’ve seen a major influx of movies adapted from comic book franchises. While some of these films were commercial successes, fans of the original source material gave way to extreme outrage at how unrecognizable their beloved heroes had become on the big screen.

Let’s take a look at these adaptations.

Changing the source material to suit the big screen does make sense. Some features of the comics could never make it onto the big screen otherwise newer potential audiences wouldn’t find the adaptations appealing. They might end up laughing it off, saying it’s too childish or ridiculous. An example would be the upcoming movie Amazing Spider-Man 2. Just Google it, and you’ll come across Jamie Foxx looking really blue. He’s playing the villain Electro who has direct control over electricity. His original costume is so outlandish that audiences probably would have thought he was a clown. So for the sake of common sense that look was abandoned. These are the kinds of adaptations that most people will agree make sense.

But then there are the adaptations which are loosely based on the source material. This is the type of film which antagonizes most fans. You can change the look of the character. Maybe even change the event which molds their personalities. But when the character is portrayed in a manner that is totally unlike the source material, it counts as a considerable loss of the original fanbase. The tragedy for fans is that in some cases these adaptations were box office smashes. The best example is probably the X-Men franchise. Good movies – but a lot of fans of the comics totally disagree. Too many of their characters were not fully portrayed and others bore little resemblance to their comic book versions. They can give you an extremely long list on what they found wrong with this movie.

The kind of adaptations that smash the box office and appease fans

As a fan of some franchise, you have to be fair towards filmmakers. Your favourite comic could never make an exact transition to the big screen. The whole point of movies is to produce a film that sells well. And for some filmmakers that means not only striving to appease the original fanbase but to try and attract a new fanbase for the films.

A truly high quality movie has good acting, a cleverly constructed storyline, the right setting, and all the other elements which are necessary in making a good movie. A high quality adaptation has all these qualities, but it has a few things extra. These are the key issues:

Strong resemblance to the original characters

You can change the look of the character, don’t misunderstand. It’s inevitable at times that the look will change. Sometimes the look won’t change but that’s based on how deeply rooted it is in the character’s history. It also depends on how popular it is.

The resemblance that is especially important is the portrayal of the characters. While they should never have the same dialogue to the original characters, they should at least act in a way that is resembles the portrayal of the original character. One of the best examples is The Dark Knight. While this movie branched away from the world which exists in the original Batman comics, its realistic approach is intelligently constructed. The feature that cements it as a good adaptation is the portrayal of Batman and the Joker. Christian Bale’s performance truly captured the darkness of Batman’s character while Heath Ledger’s approach was a true reflection of the almost hilarious madness of the Joker.

Other issues inevitably come up but whether they’re really important again depends on how deeply they are entrenched in the franchise. Issues like this can refer to the abilities of characters, their nationalities, etc. But these decisions also fall into the hands of the filmmakers. Fans will just have to have faith that these movie makers will remain respectful of the original source material.

Ultimately you should just go to the movies to watch a good movie

As much as it may hurt fans, it might be better to let go of the issue of whether the adaptation is faithful to the original source material. The only issue that should concern fans is whether it’s a truly reasonable adaptation and whether it makes up a high quality movie.

Image credit: Eva Rinaldi