My Most Anticipated Adaptations for 2017

Happy New Year, everybody!

In no particular order, here are the adaptations I am most excited about in 2017:

A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix (January 13)

I regret to inform you that the information I am about to pass on to you is extremely unpleasant: I haven’t finished this series.  I only got up to Book 11: The Grim Grotto and then I guess I just started getting frustrated by the lack of answers to the series’ mysteries.  But the books are so good that I’ve started rereading them, and this time I plan to finish them.

I’m absolutely psyched about the Netflix show.  Patrick Warburton looks like a perfect Lemony Snicket and Neil Patrick Harris should be fantastic as Count Olaf.  Visually, it looks very similar to the movie.  However, that’s only fitting because the movie successfully captured the look of Brett Helquist’s illustrations.  It’s also nice to see a little diversity in the cast.  Overall, the show appears to have captured the tone of the series.  I can’t wait to watch it tomorrow!

The final volume of the Kingdom Hearts 2 manga (May 23)

“Desperate to see Roxas again, Axel abandons everything–even Organization XIII and an old friend–to make his wish come true. What awaits him after he’s cut all ties…? Later, determined to return to the Destiny Islands with both Riku and Kairi, Sora–with Donald and Goofy at his side–arrives at the Organization XIII stronghold in search of the kidnapped Kairi. Will he be able to find her in time to make his dream of returning to the Destiny Islands with his friends a reality? Sora’s great adventure comes to a close!!”

Oh, that’s real nice, Yen Press.  I like how you make it sound like everything just MIGHT work out well for EVERYONE at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2, including Axel and Roxas.

(Gif found on GIPHY)

I absolutely adore the rest of the Kingdom Hearts 2 manga, and I’ve already seen a few scans of the fan translations for the final volume.  But I have been trying so very hard to stay away from them for the most part.  Shiro Amano deserves my money and I’d prefer to read an official translation anyway.

Sadly, this is the last volume that Shiro Amano has decided to create- for now.  I’m still hoping he changes his mind and adapts Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, the other big games in the series.  At least we’re getting the Birth by Sleep novels, but the books aren’t as much fun as the manga.

The Masterpiece (2017- no release date yet)

The Masterpiece is an adaptation of a true story: a book called The Disaster Artist, by Greg Sestero.  It’s all about the production of “the greatest bad movie ever made,” The Room.  It should be a lot of fun, especially when they’ve got Zac Efron playing Chris-R the gangster.  But I’m not sure what to make of the official synopsis:

“This is a true story about the making of THE ROOM – the cult classic described as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”. THE MASTERPIECE, directed by and starring James Franco, is a buddy comedy about two outsiders chasing a dream. When the world rejects them, they decide to make their own movie – and it’s a movie so wonderfully awful due to its unintentional hilarious moments, meandering plots and terrible acting.”

It makes it sound like Greg and the director/producer/writer/lead actor Tommy Wiseau both believed in The Room, but they didn’t.  Only Tommy did.  Greg knew it was going to be a disaster.  In fact, he didn’t think anyone would ever see it, and that was one of the reasons why he eventually agreed to play the character of Mark.

I’m just hoping that Hollywood doesn’t turn this very interesting story into a tired cliche about two goofy friends that do something goofy.

Speaking of things getting the Hollywood treatment…

Wonder (April 7)

Here’s another book that’s really good, but I personally haven’t finished.  So I don’t really have the right to feel nervous about the movie.  But Diary of a Wimpy Kid left a bad taste in my mouth by insisting on including a Big Meaningful Message About Popularity and Fitting In that the books didn’t have.  Wonder is a children/YA book about Auggie Pullman, a boy with an unusual face going to school for the first time.  Unfortunately, that’s the kind of plot that’s practically begging to get turned into an Inspirational, Cliched, Message Movie.

It doesn’t help the book’s probably going to be better by default, because Auggie has such a distinct voice and the movie can’t have the same level of narration.

But the book’s great, so here’s hoping that the movie will be great too.  I’ll be curious to see how, and if, the movie handles the switch in character perspectives throughout the story.

Anastasia on Broadway (March 23)

Even though it is historically inaccurate, I love Don Bluth’s Anastasia  and can’t wait to see it on Broadway!  If nothing else, I’d just love to hear “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” live on a stage!  I will do my best to go and see the show this year, but we’ll see if I have the time and money to do it.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Manga (March 14)

Yes, it’s finally happening, for those who enjoy the Zelda manga: Twilight Princess is getting one too!

I don’t enjoy the Zelda manga as much as the Kingdom Hearts manga, but Ocarina of TimeMajora’s Mask, and A Link to the Past were good.  So I’m looking forward to Twilight Princess.

What adaptations are you most looking forward to this year?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (2006 Masterpiece Theater)

(I’m posting this review before I post the review of the 1992 movie because I’m still trying to get my thoughts in order about that one.  Sorry, guys!)

Once again, we see Stoker’s Law of Inverse Adaptations in play.

My friend, Alie, warned me about this one ahead of time.  I figured I was in for the same old mistakes: Lucy acting like a flirt, Mina falling in love with Dracula, Jonathan being a jerk, Dracula being a sympathetic antihero, etc.  But that’s not quite what happened here.  All of the typical mistakes got exchanged for brand-new ones.

In this version, the plot is set in motion by Arthur Holmwood and an evil cult that wants to bring Dracula to London.  Arthur wants to marry Lucy, just like in the book.  Unlike the book, he learns after proposing to her that he inherited syphilis from his late father, and if he has sex with Lucy, she’ll get it too.

Since there’s no cure except prayer, Arthur decides to contact an evil cult, who give him the idea of bringing Count Dracula to London, because an immortal vampire might be able to cure him of his syphilis.  They contact the firm of Mr. Hawkins, who sends Jonathan out to meet the Count, and as you can imagine, things don’t go according to Arthur’s plans.

I can’t help but wonder if the screenwriter, Steward Harcourt, looked at Coppola’s Dracula and said, “Okay, instead of making Lucy a jerk, why not make her boyfriend the jerk instead?”  That’s basically what happened.  Lucy’s not as innocent as she acts in the book because she makes it clear that she wants to consummate her marriage to Arthur as soon as possible.  But she is a very kind-hearted character who comforts Mina while the latter cries and worries about the missing Jonathan.  It’s easy to see why these two are friends.

Part of me feels bad for criticizing Arthur because he’s clearly under a lot of stress, but boy did his character take a beating.  In the book, he is a man who loves his fiance so much that he leaps at the chance to give her a blood transfusion when she’s sick.  He’s close friends with Quincey (who is missing in action once again) and Dr. Seward, so much so that he feels embarrassed about asking Dr. Seward for help because they both wanted to marry Lucy.  In the movie, he refuses to tell anybody about his syphilis or his connection to evil cults, to the point that he holds poor Dr. Seward at gunpoint until Seward agrees to give his own blood for the transfusion.  Wow, Art.

The syphilis also affects his relationship with Lucy;  he constantly makes excuses for why he doesn’t want to be around her and snaps at her every time she suggests sex.  I know that sounds like it makes sense on paper, but the way he constantly tells her to do what he says, without explaining why, is verbally abusive.  Here I was, ready to root for this Arthur since he’s played by Dan Stevens, aka Matthew Crawley.  But he’s too hard to like until the very end when he goes through some character development.

(Gif taken from GIPHY)

Sorry, Matthew.  I still like you!

The involvement of the evil cult is the biggest change to the story, and it bleeds into other plot changes as well:

1) Jonathan does not survive his trip to Transylvania.  Fortunately, this is not an example of Murder the Hypotenuse, because Mina never stops loving him.

2) The evil cult also kills Jonathan’s boss, Mr. Hawkins, to cover their tracks.

3) Van Helsing is not Dr. Seward’s mentor.  He’s a man with an interest in pre-Christian religions whom the Evil Cult hires to find out if vampires still exist.  He discovers Dracula and goes from being the Count’s prisoner to a prisoner of the Evil Cult.  Neither of the groups can kill him because he has the protection of the Cross.  Dr. Seward eventually rescues him and that is their first meeting.

4) The mystery isn’t, “Who/what killed Lucy Westenra?” because she dies in the span of two nights.  It’s more like, “What was Arthur doing that caused Lucy’s death and what’s this evil cult doing?”

5) Arthur eventually repents after Lucy’s death and dies trying to protect Mina from the Count in the final fight.  Dr. Seward stakes Dracula in the back while Van Helsing uses the Cross.

6) Mina never drinks Dracula’s blood.  He almost forces her to do it, but gets distracted when he realizes that Lucy got staked.  So Mina kicks him and runs away.  THAT’S MY GIRL! 😀

7) WHEREFORE ART THOU, MR. QUINCEY P. MORRIS???  Mr. Renfield doesn’t appear either. 😦

So, with that in mind, it was interesting to pick up on all the bits that they did include from the book.  These include: Dr. Seward being Lucy’s suitor, not Mina’s father, that Lucy and Mina like to vacation in Whitby and that’s where they first encounter Dracula, Dracula has the ability to change from an old man to a young man, Hawkins has a sweet, fatherly relationship with Jonathan, Mina and Jonathan are deeply in love, Lucy and Mina like to sit in the Whitby cemetery and Lucy even tells Mina a variation of the story that Mr. Swales tells them about one of the graves in the book.

There’s also a stronger religious theme in this movie than in other versions.  Dracula cannot attack anyone wearing a Cross around their necks.  When he first goes to attack one of the women, he picks Lucy over Mina because Mina is praying the Rosary.  The evil cult is basically a group of devil worshippers and Dr. Seward says they have a “black altar” in their headquarters.  (And by the way, the inverted Cross is the Cross of St. Peter.  It’s not supposed to be an evil symbol.  If people, especially moviemakers, could please stop treating it like one, that would be beautiful.)  When Arthur asks Seward and Van Helsing how they can possibly defeat Dracula, Van Helsing replies that their best weapon is their faith.  I’m not a perfect Christian or anything, but I love my faith, so I actually appreciated the symbolism for the most part.

I feel like Marc Warren, who played Dracula, did his best with the material given to him.  The problem with him is that he’s so over-the-top creepy in the beginning.  He doesn’t give Jonathan much of a welcome; he just shows him to his room and tells him not to leave it.  In another scene, he sniffs Mina’s picture in front of Jonathan.  This might just be my own personal interpretation, but I felt that Dracula was always subtle around Jonathan, so that it took him a couple of days to suspect that something was wrong.  That’s not the case here, and I prefer the book version.  The gradual descent into the Worst Business Trip Ever while constantly questioning one’s sanity strikes me as a lot scarier.

Finally, surprise, surprise, I’m still not completely satisfied with this version of Mina.  She’s better in a lot of ways, but she refuses to help the heroes for a long time because she’s grieving over Jonathan and Lucy.  At least I can understand her motive this time around and she does get to participate in the final fight.  She gets captured during said fight, but at least she’s involved and not actively trying to thwart the other heroes.  And, to be honest, I almost cried at the end when she decided to honor Jonathan’s memory by traveling to places he would’ve liked to have visited throughout Europe, instead of grieving.  That’s beautiful.  It also suggests some positive character development for Mina.  Previously, she admitted to Lucy and Dracula that she liked to revisit old places where Jonathan went and even slept in his bed to feel close to him.  By the end of the movie, she’s moving on while still remembering him in a healthier way.

A lot of the changes are weird.  The scene where the heroes stake Lucy is a little goofy since it ends with Lucy stretching herself out and kind of…letting Arthur stake her, I think?  Did I see that right?  I wouldn’t call this movie a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel.  But it could have been so much worse, as you shall see…

Dracula (1979)

Ohhhh boy.

As far as I call tell, this is where the Dracula/Mina romance started to develop in film adaptations.  She plays the victim for the most part in the previous films.  In the 1979 Universal remake, she moves away from the victim role and becomes a character who sympathizes with Dracula and defends him from the men trying to save her.  Count Dracula is still the monster who murdered her best friend, but somehow she never finds out about that particular flaw in his character.

First, however, there are some other interesting changes to the source material.  Unlike the other adaptations, 1979 Dracula skips the first four chapters entirely.  Jonathan is still the Count’s solicitor, but they only communicated through letters.  Instead, the film begins with Dracula attacking the crew of the ship that brought him to England.

Once again, Dr. Seward is the leading lady’s father instead of her peer.  But this time, he’s Lucy’s father, not Mina’s.  Again, Mina and Lucy’s roles get switched around.  “Mina” is Dracula’s first victim who dies, and “Lucy” is dating Jonathan and becomes Dracula’s second victim.  I don’t really understand why the movie does this.  It’d be like Sherlock or Elementary casting Dr. Watson as the detective with amazing observation skills and Sherlock as his/her amazed sidekick.  What’s the point if the only aspects of the characters to change are the names?  Why not just keep them as they are?

That’s not a big deal in the long run; it’s just kind of weird.  Also, there are two other weird changes that I felt had a negative impact on the plot.

Change #1: According to Jonathan, Dracula was supposed to be traveling aboard the ship that wrecked in Whitby.  The Count presents himself as the sole survivor of the wreck.  Okay…but he also ripped the crews’ throats out while murdering them.  Why do that?  Doesn’t he think the humans will wonder why they were killed so brutally from something that obviously had nothing to do with a shipwreck, and he got away fine?  In the book, he appears to have sent them overboard after killing them.  The only man they find on board is the captain, because he’d tied himself to the wheel with a Rosary to protect himself.  So the people all assume, based on the dead captain’s log, that the first mate lost his mind, murdered the crew, and killed himself. It’d be hard to make that same assumption in the movie with all the messy evidence that Dracula left lying around. Luckily for him, only Jonathan really wonders about it.

Change #2: Renfield’s role got reduced.  Dracula turns him into a man who hungers for blood and lives, but then he never does anything with his new servant.  Apparently, he doesn’t need Renfield to get into Dr. Seward’s house like he did in the book.  So what was the point of using him?  Come to think of it, this happens a lot.  Either Renfield doesn’t appear or his role from the book becomes irrelevant because Dracula regularly socializes with the heroes.  Drac always seems to “need” him for something, but we never find out what that something is.  It happens again in the 1992 version, but that’s the least of the 1992 version’s problems.

Also, Mina is Van Helsing’s daughter for some reason.  He doesn’t get involved until after they tell him that she died.  I don’t really care one way or the other about this change.

On the bright side, the movie has nods to the book and the 1931 film that I appreciated.  Dracula gets to keep most of his powers from the book: shapeshifting into wolves, bats, or mist, climbing up down walls like a lizard, possibly controlling the weather, etc.  His showdown with Van Helsing from 1931 improves in this movie.  Langella’s vampire actively tries to attack him instead of just glaring and one attempt at hypnotism.  Van Helsing fights back with garlic and the Holy Eucharist.  It’s cooler than it sounds and it makes more sense for the Count to up and leave as opposed to how he did it in the 1931 confrontation.  Unfortunately, however, he dies by sunlight again.

Aside from the romance angle, Frank Langella is honestly one of the best Draculas I’ve watched.  His attack on Mina (now playing the part of Lucy) is genuinely scary, where he pulls out a window pane with his nails and stares at her through the window.  He does a great job of balancing sophistication with the monster hidden underneath.  While I don’t like the romance, there’s a scene where he discusses business with Jonathan and concludes by asking him to tell Lucy that she’s always welcome to stop by and visit.  Then  he adds, “You’re welcome, of course, but you are leaving, are you not?”  That sneaky taunt disguised as a nice invitation felt very in-character for Dracula.

Then there’s the romance.

(Gif taken from GIPHY)

…I’m not a fan, as you’ve figured out already.

At first, with Lucy, all seemed great.  She’s proudly feminist, which actually doesn’t fit her character in the book.  Stoker’s Mina conducted herself as a hardworking, self-sufficient woman, but she didn’t recognize the “New Woman” in herself.  However, I happily accepted the change because it seemed better than the crying damsel alternative who’d showed up previously in 1931.  This Lucy loves Jonathan and Mina- at first.  When Mina dies, she’s devastated and tells Jonathan that she doesn’t think she wants to be happy again.

Not even five minutes of screen time pass before her father tells her that the Count has invited her to dinner.  Does she accept the invitation, even though she just finished saying that she didn’t want to do anything fun after Mina’s death?  Of course she does!  Soon the Count has her smiling and laughing and making out with him.

The fact that he’s the one who murdered Mina never gets addressed.

Unlike other Dracula adaptations, this one includes a romance without the reincarnation plot.  It’s implied that Dracula loves Lucy because of her intelligence and independence.  That’s an element that reappears in the TV show.

Okay, but I have to ask: why should any woman have to date a serial killer to feel empowered?  What kind of message is that?  That’s awful.  It’s not accurate to the book either.  Book!Dracula partially targets Mina because she’s smart and she’s volunteered to help stop him.  Jonathan, in contrast, worries about leaving Mina out of the vampire killing plans because he never wants to leave his wife in the dark about anything.  He respects her.  Dracula does not.

In the end, Van Helsing and Jonathan destroy Dracula while Mina screams and tries to stop them.  Even worse, because she helps Dracula, he is able to impale Van Helsing and the good professor dies.  But at least the men burn Dracula with sunlight and Mina loses her fangs, so all is well…right?

Not exactly: the movie ends with Dracula’s cloak flying away like a bat, with the sound of wolves howling in the distance.  Mina watches from the ship and smiles.  The monster who murdered her best friend and her friend’s father might have escaped.  Hooray…?

I don’t get it and the 1992 version will continue to confuse me even more.  Stay tuned…

Guest Post: Of Fangs and Fandoms

Hello, dear readers!  Today, you’ll be hearing from one of my best friends about her own passion for Dracula and the many movies made about him.  (Somebody had to say something positive before I sink my sharp, pointed teeth into 1979 Dracula and Coppola’s Dracula next week.)

Welcome to my guest post! Read freely of your own will…and finish with some of the happiness you bring! I am Alison Conlin, and I bid you welcome, dear reader, to this post! Lauren has permitted me to write a guest post on her Adaptation Station blog in order to share my own personal story and view on what it is like to have a fandom and how it comes to play an important role in one’s own life! It could even make someone the lovable person they are today and by what their friends and family remember them the best!

This day, October 12, 2016, marks 15 years since I have become what I call a “Dracula Die-Hard”! As of this post I am 27 years old, and have been a huge fan since I was only 12 years old!  Although where my fandom began was not necessarily the correct way to begin a fandom.  The whole process becomes a learning experience and as time goes on, once you get your ducks lined up in a row, you are able to pass on the knowledge you have discovered for yourself and freely pass it along to those who spark an interest in your fandom! For instance, I am the reason why Lauren is writing these blogs and now includes discussions about Dracula into every day conversations with others! You’re very welcome!

I met Lauren at Freshman Orientation at Immaculata University in July 2007. At that time, I was new to the whole area and did not know anyone from the Man on the Moon! I met Lauren through our new friend, April, and we exchanged emails over the summer getting to know one another better! Prior to getting ready for the Halloween dance at IU, I offered to show the 1931 Dracula to Lauren, April, and our friend, Amanda, as an introduction to the world that had been mine for six years at the time! As Lauren had mentioned in an earlier post, she wasn’t too intrigued by the story as I was, but did enjoy watching the films with me! We watched a variety from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee, to Frank Langella to Leslie Nielsen with me educating Lauren on the concept of the films and Lauren’s curiosity growing! But then, in 2011, practically around this time, when I was celebrating my 10th Dracula Anniversary, Lauren read Bram Stoker’s novel and her fandom had officially taken flight!

In my opinion, everybody should have at least one fandom in his or her life! Fandoms usually range from a book series, TV shows, movies, music genres, Broadway shows and theater alike, sports teams, and even one’s own faith! It takes true dedication for it to become a full-blown fandom! Let’s face it, adult life is stressful and it’s not exactly the “Leave It To Beaver” lifestyle in which the mom bakes an apple pie for her husband and sons when they come home from work and school! Adult life consists of a juggling act of working long, stressful hours, trying to make a good income, paying bills, striving to save money, spending quality time with your family and friends equally and choosing the next President! Focusing on these things day in and day out without fail is a recipe for disaster and can cause burnout! Having a fandom allows your brain to take a little break from the daily struggle known as “The Real World” and permits your mind to think of the qualities that make this fandom your own!

So how did it all begin? Well…I’ll tell you…from a very unusual source!  Fifteen years ago, I only affiliated Dracula with Halloween and Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Little did I know that Dracula was to go above and beyond to become the greatest fandom of my life!

Back in 2001, Hostess Cupcakes had a commercial shot entirely in black and white that featured a vampire and his lovely victim, and, like all Hostess commercials, a mirage of the cupcake occurs and an unfortunate incident with the confused character inquiring about the cream filling! The very idea of a vampire going after a beautiful young woman left my mind pondering at what type of phenomenon like this exists. Those of you who know me well are probably not surprised that the “spark” was ignited on the influence of a cupcake commercial, but I swear every word of it! In fact, here is the commercial that started the madness!

A couple of days later, I was in the living room flipping through the channels and came across the horror spoof Young Frankenstein on AMC. I watched the film from middle to end, liking what I was watching!  So, I flipped through the TV Guide to see if Young Frankenstein was going to play again during the week (mind you, this is when VHS tapes still existed and DVDs were slowly making their debut!). Instead, I found another film that would change my life forever!

According to the TV Guide, on October 12, 2001, at exactly 2PM (yes I remember the time), AMC was showing a horror comedy called Love At First Bite, which stared the Tanned One himself, George Hamilton (who I did not know about at the time!)! The description in the small box read as “Count Dracula woos a New York supermodel”. Much like the Hostess commercial, this description stayed in my mind practically all week and I eagerly counted down the days and hours until the VCR at home would start recording! I got home from school around 3PM, quickly changed out of my school uniform and into comfy clothes and watched the last 40 minutes of the movie. Then, I rewound it downstairs and watched it again…and again…and again…and again…okay you get the picture…all weekend long! I was caught hook, line, and sinker with no chance of being released! Little did I know that this was the beginning of a beautiful fandom that people would know me by for years to come!

As time wore on, I started off slow with black and white films, such as Dracula with Bela Lugosi and Son of Dracula with Lon Chaney Jr., who is best known for his role in the film The Wolfman! I purchased a copy of Bram Stoker’s novel from the Troll Book Club we had at school and it’s an edition I treasure to this day! I have not found another duplicate of it at any used book sale, antique store-you name it, I never found it! So, it’s pretty special if I do say so myself! I also found myself writing a few short stories involving Dracula, two of which were assignments for English class! One of the two mentioned, looking back on it 15 years later, is not bad for a newbie to the Dracula world, but it is hilariously written with a bunch of what I like to call “Dracula Stereotypes”! No, I do not have him say “Blah-Blah-Blah!” as mentioned in Hotel Transylvania, but the stereotypes are just as ridiculous! Such as Dracula telling his young victim that he has “come to bite her in the throat”! Gee, I never would have guessed! I thought he was coming to tell her she won an all expenses vacation to Disney World!

A few months later, my fandom was really and truly coming to life! I had begun to watch some of the Hammer Horrors such as Horror of Dracula with the awesome Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing duo, and The Brides of Dracula with the gorgeously handsome David Peel! I had also begun to see the modern films such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula! When I become obsessed with anything, the idea literally never leaves my mind! It’s like the illusion of having my head in the clouds! I think about it all day even when I’m supposed to be concentrating on more important things like schoolwork or even nowadays, working with my clients at my job! I thought of the scenes in the film as I wandered through the hallway from class to class and when certain subjects, such as English, became very boring and monotone! I even envisioned Dracula at the end of a long hallway and I would visualize a re-enactment of Helen Chandler meeting Bela Lugosi in the garden during Dracula. My then thirteen-year-old mind knew no bounds when it came to Dracula! Many more films, fanfictions, and theories had followed and honestly the rest is history! Like the theory of inviting a vampire into your home to allow him permanent access inside, I invited Dracula into my mind and he has never left since that day I watched Love At First Bite!

These past fifteen years with a Dracula Fandom have truly been incredible! As you can see, this fandom has existed for the majority of my life and I have neither shame nor regrets! It has become the person my friends know me with today and I cannot be any happier or any more thankful to have something so spectacular to lean on, to rest my overworked mind upon, and a topic to discuss with anyone who would listen!

For fifteen years, I have been in awe of the inspiration of Dracula dating back to Vlad The Impaler, enamored by the original novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897, chilled by the performances of Max Schreck and Klaus Kinski in the Nosferatu films, enchanted by the roles of Bela Lugosi and Frank Langella in Dracula based off an original play, drawn in by the original Dream Team that was Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the Hammer Horror Dracula films (enemies on screen, best friends in real life!), had my funny bone tickled by both George Hamilton (Love At First Bite) and Leslie Nielsen (Dracula: Dead And Loving It), and received goosebumps on my arms by Gary Oldman, (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) Gerard Butler, (Dracula 2000) and Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing) when their lyrical voices filled my ears with their spectacular roles and take on Dracula!

Also, yes I’m going to say it, Lauren, get ready! A shout out to Jonathan Rhys Meyers for his role in NBC’s Dracula for not only being his gorgeous self but also showing us how a Dracula adaptation is NOT to be made! (However I will leave that to Lauren to tell the tale, for I am merely a guest on this blog!) (Lauren Note: Ohhhh yes, I will “tell the tale.”  I WILL TELL THE TALE.) Out of all the above mentioned Draculas, I might sound a little biased, but I am serious when I say that Bela Lugosi is my favorite of them all!

If you were to ask what it was about Dracula that drew me in the first time…one reason honestly is preteen hormones! After all, I was twelve and in 7th Grade when I got into Dracula! While many girls my age chased after and flirted with boys, I chased after Dracula and wanted to learn more and more about him as I can! Now, as a 27 year old woman who has held onto this Fandom for a decade and a half, let me tell you….this is a question that has plagued my mind for years! Usually I come up with a reason when I think long and hard and try to determine the origins of where such things started! I thought…and thought…and thought…and thought…and then it came to me…..it is an interest that I cannot explain! There is something about this Fandom that has held me close to it for the past 15 years and has not permitted me to let go! Something unknown, something spectacular about this vampire count that pulled me in and has attached itself to me! It truly is one of those things where you cannot explain why you love it but…deep in your mind…and especially your heart…you know it’s there and that it will become a part of your life…and that those who love you…not only love you for the way you are…but by what makes them the person they are…what Fandom they possess and freely share with others! I hope that of you receive such a joy and such a splendor through your Fandoms as I have for 15 years!!!

Final thoughts: Do not make the same mistake I did and watch a parody before watching the real deal! Otherwise, you will be completely lost! Shout out to Lauren for permitting me to guest blog on her Adaptation Station!  Thank you for reading! ❤

What Makes an Adaptation Good?

Now that I’ve started writing posts for this blog, I think this is a question worth discussing.  Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments.

The saying goes: “Don’t judge a book by its movie.”  Everybody pretty much agrees that the original source material is always better than the adaptation, especially if it’s a book transitioning to a movie.  So, if a movie would only follow the book word-for-word, it would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

You would think so, but I found that wasn’t the case when I watched Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 version of The Great Gatsby.  The cast and the cinematography were great, and it was very faithful to the book.  It even showed scenes of Nick writing down his thoughts, with the words shown floating over the scene, words which came straight out of the book.  But something about the whole thing felt off.  I enjoyed the book, but not the movie.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why.

Lindsay Ellis, aka “the Nostalgia Chick,” addresses the issue in her review of The Lorax, saying that “…changes in adaptations aren’t just inevitable, they are necessary.  Film is a different medium.  It incorporates other elements such as sound, time, a billion people working on it, and most importantly, a different person with a different vision at the helm.”

In his book, How to Adapt Anything Into a Screenplay, Richard Krevolin gives readers very similar advice from the start.  He also goes further and advises future screenwriters: “You really don’t owe anything to the original source material” (p. 9).  As long as you’ve captured the spirit of the work, that’s all that really matters. The job of the screenwriter, he explains, is to figure out the heart of what they want to say, what drew them to the original work in the first place, and convey it to their audience in their own unique way.

For the most part, I agree with them.  Although I didn’t like reading that an adaptation doesn’t owe anything to the original work, I’m inclined to think that Krevolin was simply trying to impress on nervous screenwriters that they can’t worry about making changes to the story.  What works for a book won’t necessarily work for a movie, TV show or video game, because they have different ways of telling compelling stories.

For example, given that movies, television shows, and video games are visual mediums, they don’t generally require narration the way that books do.  Sometimes it’s done for comedic effect, but it shouldn’t be used to describe exactly what the audience can already see on the screen.  I think that’s part of the reason why I didn’t like Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby.  We shouldn’t be looking at words from the book on screen or hear Nick narrating so much.  We should see the story playing out as Nick saw it and draw our own conclusions.

At the same time, I can’t fully agree that an adaptation owes nothing to the original work, because if it’s nothing like the original work, why adapt it at all?  NBC’s Dracula television series could have changed the names of the characters and easily passed it off as an original work.  They kept a grand total of two lines from the book, created an entirely different plot with a different message, and none of the characters behaved like they did in the book.  They just had the same names as the characters in the book and lived in London.  That’s it.  NBC…why?  Just…why???

There’s also the question of how much involvement the author of the original work should have.  Some get very involved, like Suzanne Collins, who got to co-write the first Hunger Games script.  Others don’t.  Rick Riordan, the author of the excellent Percy Jackson series, claimed that he wanted to stay away from the movies.  He compared it to selling a house: “Once you sell it, it isn’t yours anymore. You have to move out and let the new owners move in. If you insisted on a bunch of conditions before you sold it […] well, most people wouldn’t agree to buy a house with all those restrictions, would they?”  (He has since written a letter to American teachers everywhere begging them not to force their classes to watch the movies.)  Harper Lee allegedly visited the set for To Kill a Mockingbird, but left because she could see that it was already on its way to becoming a cinematic classic and she didn’t need to do anything.

Finally, it’s important to take personal biases into account.  Peter Jackson and his team rewrote Faramir’s character for The Two Towers so that he struggled heavily with the Ring of Power.  In the book, he rejected it and sent the hobbits on their way.  Since I saw the movies first, I accepted Jackson’s explanation for the change and left it at that.  It didn’t bother me the way it might have if I’d read the book first.

On the other hand, every time a screenwriter changes the personalities of Jonathan, Mina, and Dracula, I get…upset, to put it nicely.  Nobody messes with my Jonathan Harker and gets away with it!

So…if the qualities of a good adaptation are all very subjective, where does that leave us?

At the end of the day, every adaptation needs to be treated as a unique case, depending on the story being told, who’s telling it, the medium, its popularity, etc.

Each story brings its own set of challenges.  Fairy tales need expansion on the characters and story to fill the normal running time of a movie, whereas a series like Harry Potter needs to cut scenes to keep that running time.  The novelization of a movie or video game has the opportunity to elaborate on the thoughts in each character’s head.  In the case of video games, there also comes the challenge of how to interpret battles and other situations that occur based on the individual player’s actions.  I can’t wait to see how the TV series for “Life Is Strange” turns out.  In that game, almost everything that Max does or says depends on what the player wants her to say or do.  This is going to be the one adaptation where fans won’t know how it’s going to end because you get to pick how it ends in the game!

When the reverse happens and a story gets turned into a video game, it can’t just tell a good story and capture what made the original work so great.  It has to be fun to play.  That turned out to be a problem with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow.  The premise was fantastic: an adventure game based on the first movie- except Captain Jack’s the one telling the story.  That meant that the developers could add additional levels that wouldn’t make sense in the movie, i.e. getting stuck on an iceberg and fighting undead Viking pirates, because Jack likes to make things up.  It’s hilarious, but the game itself wasn’t as fun.  Jack, Will, and Elizabeth have two different attacks they can use, and that’s it.  You can also find treasure to purchase upgrades, but there aren’t many upgrades to get.  It gets pretty boring after a while and the script is the only thing that makes it worth playing.

Comic books are a whole other beast.  Popular superheroes like Superman and Spiderman have been around for a long time, with different story arcs, villains, girlfriends, reboots that give them a whole new backstory, alternate universes, etc.  A writer wouldn’t just have to figure how to tell the character’s story, he/she would have to pick what story to tell in the first place.

But there is one thing that all good adaptations need: either a single writer or a team who knows and appreciates the original source material.  Can a person really “capture the truth of the original work and convey that onscreen,” as Krevolin puts it, if he or she doesn’t like it or never bothered to read/watch/play it?  Can he or she find what makes that story unique and sets it apart from others?  Adaptations can definitely make changes to the original work that make it better than before.  But if there’s no love there, fans will notice.  It’s like writing a parody: the best parodies come from writers who enjoy what they’re laughing at- they’re just poking fun at the ridiculous parts, so fans and haters can laugh together.  Otherwise, they come off as mean-spirited.

There are also various things that I believe most adaptations shouldn’t do, but I want to cover them in a different set of posts.

Good adaptations will always need changes in order to work.  The number and the nature of those changes depends on the story and the medium.  Although love for the original source material won’t guarantee a successful translation to book, movie, show, or video game, it is the foundation that is necessary in order to get started.

 

Welcome to my second blog!

You’d think, having enough trouble remembering to update one blog, I wouldn’t want to start a second one.  But I’ve been thinking that I’d really like to discuss media outside of Disney, particularly adaptations of different stories.  I’m a librarian now and also believe passionately that just about every storytelling medium is valid as long as it tells a good story: books, comics, movies, television, video games, web series, etc.  But they are different mediums and it’s fascinating to see how what works for one won’t necessarily work for the other.  So I’d like to discuss and review different adaptations, with good examples and bad examples.

I’m not an entertainment industry expert and these posts are all going to be based on my opinions, but it’s not like that’s ever stopped anybody before on the Internet. 😉

So, hopefully I’ll be able to stick to my guns and update this blog frequently, and you’ll enjoy reading it.  If you disagree with me, definitely say so because I love a good discussion/debate over the things I geek out over!  I still plan to update my Disney blog too, because their status as my favorite entertainment company isn’t going away anytime soon.

And so it begins…