Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Versus Movie

The I Am Legend press preview was this morning. I couldn't attend, but since this was a movie adaptation of a book (by the great Richard Matheson, no less), AND the novel was also adapted into a graphic novel by comics bigwig Steve Niles, I just knew some hilarity would ensue.

Sure enough, the fanboys cried foul that the movie isn't like the book. I suspect some had also wished that the movie should have looked like the comicbook (like, you know, Frank Miller's 300, you know, like, that was so awesome!), but I speculate!

I've always maintained that one shouldn't be comparing apples and oranges, or mee rebus and spaghetti, when it comes to film adaptations of written works. First and foremost, they are two different mediums, and secondly, film audiences and book lovers are different targets. Last week it was the Philip Pullman fans who got their Pampers in a knot when they found out that The Golden Compass had a different ending than the book. This week it's the Matheson and Niles fans crying foul that the movie is similar to the book only in name.

Look at it this way - if Peter Jackson had followed every word in the Tolkien books, we would have had to endure hours of songs by Tom Bombadil. It's already possibly the most boring trilogy in movie history - OK, so maybe I'm the only one who fell asleep at all three movies, but the point is, it's ludicrous to expect a film to be exactly like the book from which it's adapted.


I'd told a friend of mine the day before, that I couldn't be bothered whether I Am Legend the film was different from the book. I loved the book, I said, and I only hope that the film makes as strong a point as the book does, even if their points differ.

I read the book some years ago, and like The Old Man And The Sea, and almost as long too, it is basically a one-man act. But so great is Matheson's imagination that he manages to draw us deep into the protagonist's mind. The final chapter is just such a jaw-dropper, although it's not really a twist. I knew about the ending but it still knocked me off my chair.

What Matheson had done was to look at the whole idea of good and evil in terms of perspectives. In today's world, the story takes on a whole new relevance when you consider that there are people today eagerly wanting to paint the world in shades of black and white, to draw clear lines between the good guys and the bad guys. In this respect, I Am Legend can be seen as a story about the intolerance of humanity, of selfishness, of how if we succumb to our baser instincts, understanding becomes less of an option. It could also be an allegorical tale about being different and in the minority. There's so much in today's world that could be explored with the story, the potential is huge.

I'll have to see what they got up to in the film, but I'm definitely not complaining that the San Francisco setting has been changed to New York, or that Will Smith doesn't "look" like Robert Neville, the last man on earth.


I hated V For Vendetta the movie, and was quickly admonished for being a fanboy who hated it only because it's not like Alan Moore's graphic novel. That, I must clarify, is entirely untrue.

The movie can hardly be said to be faithful to the book, which I absolutely worship, but that's not the main problem. The filmmakers' seeming eagerness to adopt the subversiveness of Moore's story completely lapses at the movie's ending. That was the problem for me, not because it's different from the book's ending.

In the book, V is an idea, one that has the capacity for living on, being passed from hand to hand every time the one who dons the Guy Fawkes mask expires. It is individuality against the mob mentality, against the control of the herd, the one who inspires and embodies freedom, and emphasises the importance of differences. But towards the end of the film, an entire crowd of Guy Fawkes mask-wearers appear. Where's the individual? Beats me. Where the V of the book was fighting fascism, the movie seems to advocate a new form of conformity after V.

And now we have to brace ourselves with yet another possible bastardisation of an Alan Moore masterpiece - Zack "300" Snyder's movie version of Watchmen, the hallowed ground of modern superhero comics.

Good if Snyder can pull it off, but Watchmen has long been recognised as an unfilmable story. And Snyder's attention to imitating every one of the comicbook's visual details is a little disturbing, as it mirrors the current trend of making a comicbook-to-film adaptation look exactly like a series of comicbook panels. Out with substance, in with visual wonder.

I'm not exactly holding my breath for this film. Lest I turn as blue as Dr Manhattan.


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