Successful Adaptions vs Unsuccessful Ones

June 19, 2016

When you’re a fan of a certain media property- book, comic series, etc- you can be elated when the news comes about that it’s going to be presented in a different format. I’ve been excited lately, for example, with the thought that a full-length, big-budget movie of the Marvel comic Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, is going to make its way to the big screen this November. It’s a lesser known, and, if I might say so, stranger comic than some of the better known Marvel properties, Spiderman, the X-Men, etc, and I think that in the current climate, it’s pretty cool that so many of the lesser known heroes like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy have gotten some attention, and even resulted in movies that were genuinely fun to watch. I’m excited, too, with the news that a movie adaption is coming of the Stephen King Dark Tower series of books, with Edris Elba as Roland, the main protagonist, and Matthew Mcconaughey as his antagonist Walter. Talk of a movie or TV show based on that series, King’s most iconic, has been going on literally for decades, and now it seems like it’s actually going to happen.

The flip side of such excitement, though, is the dread that you feel as a serious fan at the thought that a book, a comic series, or whatever else, that you held in such high esteem, is going to be made into a movie, or a TV show, and the result is not going to do justice to the source material. A perfect example of this is the trio of Hobbit movies that made it into theaters a few years ago. I thought the Lord of the Rings trilogy was very strong, and indeed, those were books that I thought would never be able to be made successfully into movies, just because of their epic grandeur and scope. But Peter Jackson pulled it off, so I had every confidence he could do the same with “The Hobbit,” one of my favorite novels ever. He couldn’t. Whether it was pressure from the studio or Jackson himself, the movies were a trilogy when they should have been a pair of movies at most, they were bloated to the point that they were nearly unrecognizable, and characters were invented out of whole cloth and inserted into the films for reasons that still baffle me…here’s looking at you, Tauriel.

Which leads me to the Preacher TV series, currently three episodes in, on AMC. The fourth episode airs tonight. Preacher is based on a comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the writer-illustrator combo that also had a very good run on John Constantine in the ’90s. I loved the entire Preacher series; I had graphic novels that covered the whole story, which is finite, rather than stretching on into forever, as is the case with Batman, or Superman, or so many other series. The Preacher comics were hilarious, thought-provoking, masterfully written, and beautifully illustrated. There just wasn’t anything else on the market like them at the time. Along with Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, Preacher epitomized to me what comics could be, and should be. I sold my whole collection a couple of years ago, because it was so large that there simply wasn’t room for it any longer, but Preacher remains a favorite of mine, holding a special place in my heart. I was nervous, therefore, when I heard that it was being adopted for TV, because of the same reason that I was originally worried about the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I saw the trailer for the first one way back in 2001. It was the thought that the scope was going to be too big, and what could be done on the page couldn’t be duplicated on the screen, especially on a basic cable network like AMC. But I hoped for the best, and was at least encouraged by the fact that another one of my favorite comics, The Walking Dead, had been extremely successful on network television, the same network, no less.

But three episodes in, I’m underwhelmed by Preacher. Maybe it’s the fact that it was inexplicably developed for TV by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, talented guys, I suppose, in their way, but not anyone that would immediately spring to mind to handle such a project. The two of them are comedy guys, known for bro-ish sorts of movies like Superbad and Pineapple Express. Those aren’t bad films, but it seems kind of strange that those two guys should have gotten the intellectual property rights to Preacher. I guess they’re fans of the series, but Peter Jackson was a huge fan of Tolkien, and look how the Hobbit movies turned out. In any event, the show’s not great, or at least I’ve been underwhelmed with it so far. Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy have all been introduced, as well as some of the minor characters, but already it seems as though the series is going in a very different direction from the comics. In the first issue of the series Jesse and company have met up on the road, away from Annville, and are going on a sort of road trip to catch up with God and make him answer for miseries that he has inflicted on human kind. In the first few episodes, it doesn’t seem like the trio are going anywhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason is exactly what I feared, because the epic scope and the bigger set pieces that show up in the first couple of story arcs in the comics just can’t be depicted on film because the budget for the TV series won’t allow it. There’s nothing to say that Preacher cant get better, but it’s off to a bad start, and I feel like, because it’s a TV show, some of the stuff that it was easy enough to have on paper isn’t likely to make its way onto the small screen.

To sum up, it’s a crap shoot when something you love undergoes a metamorphosis. You can be excited about it and it can tun out just fine, like the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, or it can be a disaster, like the Hobbit movies. The Walking Dead turned out okay, but Preacher seems to be heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a pity. I suppose I’ll keep watching for the moment, in the hopes that it improves, but if that hasn’t happened by the end of this season, I may get off the train. There’s so much good TV these days, and I only have so much free time. As far as the Dr. Strange movie and the Dark Tower movie, I have my doubts, but I’m more than willing to give them a shot. Optimism doesn’t come easily to me, but I’m making the effort to be a glass-half-full type of person these days, so I’ll try and by appreciative of the projects that translated well from book or comic to the big or small screen, and try my best to forget misfires like Peter Jackson and his woefully disappointing Hobbit trilogy.

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