Is Source Material REALLY being ignored more than it once was?

Is Source Material REALLY being ignored more than it once was?

We frequently complain about changes to the original material, but Hollywood's track record indicates that film-makers are actually getting better about this.

I see it in the comments section of articles posted on this site almost daily: fans are furious with the liberties being taken with the characters and stories that they love. Differences in characterization, story arcs, and costumes are all recipients of a barrage of criticism from loyal, lifelong fans of the source material. And, with good reason. The characters in the comic books we all love represent the sweat and toil of hundreds of creators and editors, writers, artists letterers and colorists. To see their vision corrupted seems insulting to these talented people. But it goes deeper for us. We have many years and sometimes thousands of dollars invested in these characters. We've come to know them as well as we know our closest friends, or even family members. Our emotional investment is even greater than our financial one. Time after time, we watch as Hollywood bowdlerizes our heroes. They have, in essence, spat upon our icons.

It is clear that the reason some of these characters have been with us for decades is that the characters and the stories were well conceived, well written concepts, and to deviate from what has been written in stone, or at least in a four-color printing process, would remove what made these characters and stories special to us. Hollywood is clearly trying. Superman is not Superman without the Kryptonian origin, the Smallville upbringing, or his interpersonal relationships, and, so far, no one has really tried to mess around with this formula. Where they get into trouble is in trying to take what they see as a product for a niche market (us!) and turn it into something palatable for the mass market consumer. This is complete folly. A good story is a good story, regardless of genre, and if you create a quality film and let people know it's out there, they will go and see it.

But is Hollywood really getting worse about this? I've been watching a great many old movies lately, and many of the films which are today deemed classics are, in fact, adaptations of existing works. The first that springs to mind is the 1931 Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi in the title role. Leaving aside, for the moment, some of the film's flaws as a piece of cinema, it completely fails as an adaptation. Characters are transposed, combined, or omitted, and the final two thirds bear no resemblance at all to the Stoker novel. Were it not for the first act, set in Transylvania, it would be completely unrecognizable as Dracula.

Another example is 1934's The Black Cat, "suggested" by the Edgar Alan Poe short story. As anyone who has read the story knows, the titular feline is the harbinger of madness and death for the murderous narrator. In this "adaptation," the cat is reduced to scenery, appearing a handful of times without consequence or relation to the narrative. The entire screenplay, it seems, was spun out of whole cloth, without any reference to the Poe original at all. To get some idea of how separate from the story this film is, think of "The Lawnmower Man."(1992.)

In the current era, we have had "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy brought to life on screen. We have seen "Spider-Man" swinging through New York in ways that, as a child I thought would be impossible to create in a live-action film. We have seen the "X-Men" battle Magneto's Brotherhood on Liberty Island. Certainly, changes were made, and debate about those changes continues to this day,(I STILL read of people bemoaning the absence of Tom Bombadil in "The Fellowship of the Ring.") But at least they are trying. No film adaptation of our heroes will please everyone, but it is clear that efforts are being made far above and beyond what has gone before.
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