October 28, 2013
Bridging The Gap Between Media
I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
Whenever we think of any media that has been adapted into another form, it is very rare that both forms of the media are considered good. Instead of the colorful and fleshed-out worlds merged into one, we see a half-rendered, dark, gritty and shitty rendition of a pre-baked notion of what it was. We’ve seen this countless times with books — for instance the best selling novel World War Z.
For those who aren’t aware, World War Z is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the UN Postwar Commissions set ten years after the fictional Zombie War. The book provides an oral tradition of what occurs in the years following the fictional apocalypse. This gives it an opportunity to address the social and moral issues that come with it, such as religion, government and the role of the military, as well as the individual fears and regrets carried by those affected by it. The film adaptation on the other hand is nothing more than a second rate by the numbers action flick that has a plot with about as much consistency as a sloppy Joe with stale bacon bits sprinkled in. In fact, the entire plot is nothing more than loosely connected action sequences that literally served as means to constantly change the location by the poorest evidence given. Though considering all the production problems, I’m surprised it didn’t completely suck.
And then there are shining gems like Fight Club, where the film embraces the philosophical ideas made in the book and translates it almost exactly into film with only minor plot changes (instead of blowing up a financial centerpiece a national museum was the target, the narrator wakes up in a mental hospital instead of escaping). And while I’ve heard arguments that this was to the detriment of the narrative, it still maintains the same philosophical ideas of the book, only leaving it open to discussion and interpretation.
But books-to-film isn’t the only form of media gap we’ve seen. There are few examples of books to games, and perhaps this is where things become interesting. Aside from your basic shovelware (merchandise made to push sales, essentially any movie that has a video game made after it; RIPD the Game is a PERFECT example of shovelware), there are very few examples of a game shipping the original strengths of the media it derives from.
Take Deadpool for instance, the snarky spastic motor-mouthed asshole made famous in comic form received its highly anticipated game adaptation in July of 2013, and to many fans’ great pleasure, made the transfer unscathed despite being an average third person brawler. So, why is it that this average game is considered great by many fans and critics alike despite average gameplay? Maybe it’s because it’s the character we’re playing it for, Deadpool. The game gets away with being considered good because it maintains his signature witty doucheness while keeping a fast enough pace that you never notice just how samey the action feels, and reinforces it with said witty doucheness. The developers knew going into it that the action would feel samey so they in turn used the strengths of the character to catapult the game into greatness.
And this is where a lot of media forms fail; for one reason or another, the creators stop playing the strengths of the form and in turn create something second rate. And there are countless examples of this because we have hundreds of terrible examples extending film, video games, graphic novels and even music. Because an idea by itself cannot stand on its own if it’s being weighed down by unnecessary and quite detrimental riff raff. Is this a set in stone solution I’m proposing? No. All I’m saying is that we have great source material and it’s time we start using it to our strengths, not to our weaknesses.
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