Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Next Trend?

How long did it took you to realise that screenwriters aren't as busy as they used to be? First, they trade paper and pen for the typewriter. Then they switched from typewriters to computers. Then they forget about writing new one, they just pick up a novel and adapt that instead. Then they don't bother to read through every line of a novel, and just adapt movies from comic books. Convenient; the dialogues are there, and the storyboard is already provided.

Alright, that may have been an overstatement, but I'm just trying to make a point here. Nowadays, more and more producers opt to make movies out of novels instead of the good old traditional screenplay. Again, let FPBM! clarify that indeed we are aware that adaptations have been going on since the printing press was invented. We're just trying to strike a conversation here.

Reading Glasses vs 3D Glasses

H
ere in this country (Malaysia), the impact is not much felt because... well, we're not a reading society. But I dare say that half of the great movies out there are adapted from bestselling novels. The highly-successful Slumdog Millionaire [2008] is based on the the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup. The Da Vinci Code [2006] and the soon to be released follow-up movie, Angels and Demons [2009] are both adapted from the novels of the same name by Dan Brown. Need I mention the Harry Potter franchise? Of course not, you might have heard of it already.

Here at FPBM!, we are not against adaptations. Why should we argue if what they're doing is giving more exposure of a good story to a wider audience? In fact, some might find it more pleasureable to simply watch a story go down before their very eyes, instead of flipping through pages. To each his or her own, I always say.

Comics as Storyboard?

300 [2007] is not the first movie to be adapted from comic books (or graphic novels) and the so-called trend is nothing new. Come to think of it, movies such as Spider-man, Batman, Sin City, 30 Days of Night, Superman, The Crow (and others too numerous to mention) were all based on comic books. But 300 is one of the more successful ones and gained a lot of attention due to how faithful it is to the comic - it served as storyboard for the film.

This is where FPBM! takes a step back and think about whether or not that is a good thing. Granted, 300 is an entertaining (although shallow) testosterone-fuelled action flick. They did a good job translating what they see on the pages of the comic book to the silver screen. But was it really necessary? Adapting from novels is a different thing, there are only wordy descriptions of what is going on - it leaves a lot to the imagination. But with comics, everything is already there. What is there left for interpretation?

But it can't all be bad. On their defense, comic books do not reach as far here in South East Asia. So it would be a good idea to translate comic books into movies - much easier and perhaps cheaper for "transferring". And of course, it's a business opportunity.

Hollywood producers might have hit gold with the release of the dramatic superhero movie Watchmen [2009]. Akin to 300, this movie was also adapted from the comic book of the same name, frame by frame. But the greatness of the movie is only due Alan Moore's exceptional writing. However, kudos to the screenwriters and director Zack Snyder for Alan Moore once stated that Watchmen is "unfilmable". They did a spectacular job, and this proved that comic books - just like novels - carry enough credibility to be taken seriously as a form of media. That's a good thing, FPBM! would like to think so for I am a big supporter of everything artistic.

So far, all of these adaptations have yet to show that it is a bad idea. Well, I suppose we should have seen it coming. Video games have long been the victim of bad movie adaptations, let's hope that comic books (or graphic novels) will not share the same fate.

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