Stop Complaining When Books Get Re-Adapted, Sometimes They Should Be

By Kelly West 2013-11-21 08:10:13discussion comments
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Remakes are unoriginal, pretty much by definition. So itís not unreasonable for people to complain when it seems like Hollywood is churning out remake after remake. With that said, I think a line needs to be drawn between your standard remake of a popular movie, and a remake of a movie that was based on a book. A remake of an original movie seems like an obvious cash grab. Oh, sure we can argue that there are advantages to updating a story for a modern audience, and there are arguments to be made there, but that a discussion for another day. A re-adaptation of a popular book isnít quite the same thing as a remake of a popular movie, unless the new movie is actually using the first movie as its primary source material. But how often is that the case?

Is the attempt to adapt The Stand for the big screen intended to be a remake of the 1994 miniseries starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald and Parker Lewis Canít Lose star Corin Nemec? Or is it actually an effort to capture the excellence of Stephen Kingís book, which is still as beloved as it was decades ago? Letís give Hollywood the benefit of the doubt here and assume itís the latter. Looking at The Stand miniseries, we could argue that it was a fine movie, because as a miniseries, it was above average, especially for those of us who hadnít read the book first. But if you did read the book, you know that ó as is often the case ó the adaptation pales by comparison. Alterations and abridgments had to be made to condense the story, and it was made for a TV audience on a TV budget. Was it good? Sure, but a big screen version of The Stand could be amazing, assuming they can manage to keep a director attached. Arguing that the original was fine or even good doesnít change that, nor is it a valid argument against re-adapting it.

See also the 1990 miniseries It. I can make numerous arguments as to why It was a great miniseries, the cast being a major part of it. And Iím pretty sure Tim Curry ruined clowns for a generation of kids who watched it when it first aired more than two decades ago. In 1990, I hadnít yet begun to read Kingís novels. In fact, I didnít read It until I was in my 20s, and when I did, I discovered how much more story and character development there was in the novel, which didnít make it into the miniseries. I still love the miniseries, but I wouldnít say no to a new adaptation ó especially one that consisted of more than one film, to truly capture the full scope of the story.

I could make a case for Harry Potter and why we need a better, more organized adaptation of J.K. Rowlingís series, but that argumentís about five years premature, as I donít think those movies should be remade just yet. So instead, letís look at Flowers in the Attic, since that oneís actually coming, as Lifetime plans to air a TV movie starring Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn in January. Iím going to politely disagree with anyone who tries to claim the original movie was good, either as a film or an adaptation, but go ahead and rewatch the 1987 movie on Netflix in all its campy glory and decide for yourself. It has its redeeming qualities, Iím sure, but it doesnít really matter whether or not the film qualifies as good because when it comes down to it, itís not a good adaptation of the book on which itís based. Itís really just a watered-down shell of V.C. Andrewsí novel. Lifetimeís TV movie adaptation doesnít air until January, so I canít make a case about why the remake is better, but looking at the trailer, it already looks like a closer adaptation to the novel than the original film turned out to be. Will it be a great movie, or even a great made-for-TV movie? Who knows, but when factoring in the 1987 film, the effort to re-adapt the book isnít unjustified or even unwanted by the people who loved Andrewsí story and have always wanted to see it adapted properly.

What it comes down to is that, when weíre deciding as an audience what should and shouldnít be re-adapted, the "original" movie doesnít set the standard for what deserves a remake. The book does. Or it should, anyway. Just because someone adapted the story first doesnít mean someone else canít adapt it better. In the end, a proper feature adaptation of The Stand may never come to fruition. Regardless, I support the effort to make it happen, because thereís a potentially incredible movie (or series of movies) just waiting to be made there, and as movie fans ó and in this case, fans of Kingís books ó we should be supportive of that. There are some adaptations, like Shawshank Redemption or The Notebook that can never be topped, but anything that isnít pretty much a perfect adaptation is fair game. Set the standards high. Set them by the book.
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