Tag: adaptation


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

First, apologies for the extended break. This past month has been a month. The weather went to extremes, record lows to record highs, then a derecho almost stopped me this week, with massive power outages through the region. But, everything is up and running, so the research is done, finally.

Lost in Translation has discussed Marvel Comics’ recent successes with both theatrical and streamed releases. Prior to Disney setting up Disney+ and using the streaming service as an exclusive route for Marvel series, adaptations of various titles had to go to broadcast television. Granted, Disney owns the ABC network and its affiliate, ABC Family, now called Freeform, but broadcast television runs on different rules than Internet streaming. Ratings matter in the broadcast world. Low ratings, and a TV series will get axed by the network. Television also has a lower budget than theatrical releases. Superheroes, by their nature, are effect heavy. However, some powers can be done through practical effects, which can be less expensive than CGI.

One of the pre-Disney+ Marvel TV offerings was based on the comic, Cloak & Dagger. Created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan for the March 1982 issue of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, the duo made several guest appearances in the Spider-titles before getting their own limited series in 1983. The limited series led to a a regular bimonthly series in 1985. That series was then combined with Doctor Strange and re titled Strange Tales. The title then split back into bimonthlies nineteen issues later, with Cloak and Dagger moving into The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger, lasting another nineteen issues before cancellation. The characters, though, still had graphic novels and made appearances in other titles, including Runaways

In the comics, Cloak, Tyrone Johnson, and Dagger, Tandy Bowen, were teen-aged runaways. Tandy came from Shaker Heights, the daughter of a supermodel who was more concerned about her career than her kid. Tyrone ran from Boston after witnessing a cop killing Ty’s friend. The two wind up in New York City, meeting after Tyrone stops a thief from stealing Tandy’s purse. They get picked up by a criminal gang as part of a round up of runaways to be used as guinea pigs. Only Tandy and Tyrone survive, their latent mutant abilities triggered by the synthetic drug. With their new powers, they become Cloak and Dagger, and fight the War on Drugs on the streets, targeting drug dealers and those who would prey on the weak.

Tyrone’s power is to be a portal into the Darkforce, a semi-sentient force that drains the Living Light out of others. Cloak can command the Darkforce within him to reach out and pull targets within him, where the Darkforce can drain the victim. It takes an effort for Cloak to evict the target out of him; as part of his mutant abilities, he no longer needs to eat food. Instead, he relies on the Living Light of others. Tandy is the embodiment of the Living Light, capable of throwing light daggers that can shock and even purify the system of a target. Dagger can also use the Living Light to heal others. Being a source of the Living Light, she is one of the few who can safely travel within Cloak without harm.

The duo take up residence in the Holy Ghost Church, located in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, having been granted sanctuary by Father Francis Delgado. There is some tension between Cloak and Dagger, with Tyrone feeling like he is taking from Tandy by feeding off her Living Light. However, without a way to bleed off the Living Light, Dagger can get heady and detached. Dagger needs Cloak as much as he needs her.

In 2018, Freeform began airing Cloak & Dagger with Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as the duo, and Maceo Smedley III and Rachel Ryals as their younger selves. The beginning of the series uses some of the ideas of Tyrone and Tandy’s background, with Tandy being picked up from ballet class by her father and Tyrone following his older brother Billy (Marcus Clay). the young Tandy and Ty didn’t realize that their lives would entwine that night, but circumstances change. Tandy’s father Nathan (Andy Dylan) is driving while on the phone trying to get details about a problem on a Roxxon Oil rig. Tyrone steals an object that Billy’s friends were considering, not realizing that his brother had convinced his friends to skip it.

Nathan, unable to multitask, winds up swerving across lanes over a bridge, and into the path of a truck. He over corrects, sending his car into the Gulf. Billy tries to return the stolen goods only to be shot by Detective James Connors (JD Evermore), who is in uniform. Tyrone, seeing that Connors isn’t going to stop and one dead Black youth, runs away and jumps off the docks into the Gulf. Both and in the water when the Roxxon rig explodes. Tyrone winds up near the Bowens’ car and, through both his and Tandy’s nascent powers, rescuues the girt. They wind up on the beach where they are found by rescuers.

The two meet up again in their late teens. Tyrone’s parents, Otis (Miles Mussenden) and Adina (Gloria Reuben), have worked hard to get where they are and have Ty in a private school. Tandy’s home life has fallen apart after her father’s death, with her mother falling apart and Tandy turning to crime with her boyfriend, Liam Walsh (Carl Lundstedt). They don’t recognize each other, but their powers return.

As the first season unfolds, Tandy and Ty get embroiled in multiple conspiracies. The first conspiracy involves the New Orleans Police Department. The official word on Billy’s death was of drowning, that Connors wasn’t even on the force. A detective who transferred from Harlem, Brigid O’Reilly (Emma Lahana), notices that Connors seems off, and is willing to listen to Tyrone about Billy’s death.

Tandy, however, gets involved in the scandal that resulted in the death of her father. While she is slow to get going, when she meets her mother’s latest boyfriend, Greg (Gary Weeks), a lawyer looking into Nathan’s death. Greg is close to a breakthrough, leading to an assassin being sent to kill him and destroy his files. What the hitman didn’t know was that Tandy had copies. There was a survivor of the rig explosion, Ivan Ness (Tim Kang), who could help, except he is catatonic. Tandy and Tyrone combine their powers to go into Ivan’s memories, where he is stuck in a time loop.

Despite Tandy getting caught up in the loop, the pair figure out how to end the loop so that Ivan can breakout of his memory. The rig and the new pipeline to access a new source of energy were subject to budget cuts, all initiated by the project head against the advice of Roxxon’s experts. The result is a leak of the energy source, the Terrors who infect humans. With the pipeline failing, the Terrors are released on an unsuspecting population, leaving Cloak and Dagger to end the problem.

At the same time, the police, under orders from Connors, is out to arrest Tyrone. Connors catches up to the duo once the Terrors are dealt with. The corrupt cop thinks he has Tyrone where he wants him, but Ty has one new trick to use. Tyrone winds up pulling Connors within him.

At the end of the season, Tandy has reconciled with her mother. Tyrone has left home, not because of his parents but to keep them safe from police reprisals. He moves into the Holy Ghost Church, taking over residence from Tandy. The two are closer than at the beginning and understand that their powers work best when they are together.

There are some obvious changes from the source. The series is set in New Orleans, not New York. The War on Drugs is downplayed, and not a factor in Tandy and Tyrone gaining their powers. Like science fiction, superheroes reflect the era they’re from. Spider-Man and the X-Men are a product of worries of nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Cloak & Dagger fought the War on Drugs, often with more nuance than law enforcement and politicians. Today, though, the main issues in the US are the environment and law enforcement killing Black men. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and susbsequent oil spill occurred in 2010 and is still causing environmental issues, with the cause being, “traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Haliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry[,]” as per the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Corporate mismanagement plus political corruption, the issues of today all in one disaster.

Marvel’s go-to for corrupt or short-sighted corporations is Roxxon, and the depiction of corporate internal politics and cost-cutting for the sake of bonuses is on the nose. Recommendations by engineers get ignored over trying to get a larger bonus. In the real world, buildings collapse and oil rigs explode. In Cloak & Dagger, unspeakable horrors are released. The damage is done.

Tyrone and Tandy don’t have their costumes from the comic, but the first season is an extended origins story. Tyrone does use a cloak that his brother made, but when that gets tatttered, her switches to a hoodie. The cloak motif through the series is filled by hoodies and even lighting, with Tyrone weaing black more often as the series progresses. Tandy doesn’t have her leotard, but as her character arc develops, she wears white more often, to the point where she is wearing a white tank top for the fight to stop the Terrors.

Being an origins story, the series does take liberties, but the comics didn’t go into details about who Tyrone and Tandy were before running away. There’s room to explore who they were and how that affects who they become. They pair aren’t really Cloak and Dagger until they team up to deal with the Terrors, accepting their powers and each other as partners.

Cloak & Dagger isn’t a perfect adaptation. Details were changed to fit today’s concerns. However, the series goes into detail and shows Tyrone and Tandy becoming superheroes, something that the comics glossed over to get to the action. The series is a coming-of-age story with superheroes, a teen drama with superheroes, and works as such.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

This week, a bit of an experiment. Some time back, Lost in Translation reviewed the 2019 Amazon adaptation of the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel, Good Omens. It’s a book I’ve enjoyed and have read many times. Given that, I decided to try something new and read along wit the 2014 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the novel.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was first published in 1990 and was a comedy about Revelations and Armageddon. The cast includes angels, demons, the Antichrist, humans, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, though the focus is on several groups. The first group is the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, both of whom have been on Earth since its creation on October 21st, 4004BC. The next key group are the descendants of Agnes Nutter, the latest being Anathema Device. The third group is the Them, one of Tadfield’s two pre-teen gangs, consisting of Adam, the Antichrist, and his friends, Pepper, Brian, and Wensleydale. Then there’s the Witchfinder Army, consisting of Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell and new recruit, Witchfinder Private Newt Pulsifer, with Madame Tracy, Shadwell’s neighbour. Finally, there’s the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, War, Famine, and Pollution, with the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse, Big Ted, Greaser, Pigbog, and Scuzz. On the sidelines, a host of angels and demons who wait for the Final Battle.

The story covers the final days of the Earth as the forces of Heaven and Hell amass and Aziraphale and Crowley try to find the Antichrist, who they lost. The core idea is, what if the Antichrist was raised to be human incarnate? What if the Antichrist grew up without divine or infernal influence? The novel also takes a humourous look at serious topics, like the environment, nuclear power, the nature of power, and raising children. The means of highlighting these issues is to parody several sources, including The Exorcist, New Age beliefs, the Books of Genesis and Revelations, beliefs of the Seventeenth Century, among others.

In 2014, with the popularity of the novel and the authors, BBC Radio 4 produced the radio dramatisation of Good Omens. It aired from December 22-27, six episodes total, featuring a full cast. The series starred Mark Heap as Aziraphale, Peter Serafinowicz as Crowley, Jim Norton as Death, Adam Thomas Wright as Adam, Josie Lawrence as Agnes Nutter, Charlotte Richie as Anathema Device, Colin Morgan as Newton PulsiferClive Russell as Sgt. Shadwell, and Julia Deakin as Madame Tracy.

The experiment with the dramatisation was to try to follow along with the novel. The idea was to see what was dropped, what was re-written for the new medium, and what was changed. What wasn’t expected was the changing of when scenes occurred in the narrative. What works in text doesn’t always work in radio. Case in point, the use of footnotes, extensively used in Good Omens, giving extra details about a situation. It’s easy enough to add a footnote at the bottom of a page. For radio or television, the information needs to come out in a different way, such as dialogue.

As an adaptation, the dramatisation uses most of the novel. Unlike the Amazon mini-series, the dramatisation gets into what the Apocalyptic Horsepersons were doing before being summoned. War is a war correspondent known for being at the spark of a new conflict. Famine runs a chain of fast food restaurants with no nutritional value, which isn’t unusual, and is launching a new food substitute called FOOD™ that has zero calories. Pollution spends his time at formerly pristine nature sites. Death has never left, and appears at a diner playing a trivia game until he gets stumped on when Elvis Presley died. “I NEVER LAID A FINGER ON HIM.”

The Four Bikers of the Apocalypse remain in the dramatisation. Cut from the Amazon series due to time limits and cast size, the Four who aren’t in Revelations do show up, as adding extra voices and then killing them off in a rain of fish on the the M25 Sound effects on radio are less expensive than full visual special effects on screen. Likewise, Elvis is in the dramatisation, working as a short order cook, thus why Death couldn’t answer when he died. Gone are anything that is purely visual; while anything that can be done using dialogue or sound effects could be kept. That means the trees in Brazil undergoing a rapid growth and Hastur devouring an outbound telemarketing centre were dropped.

The dramatisation did start jumping around in the book in episodes three and four. It doesn’t hurt the story, though. The scenes aren’t critical; changing the order they appear doesn’t affect the overall plot. Moving the introduction of the Apocalyptic Horsepersons to just before they ride together means they’re fresh in audience’s minds. Other scenes are more informational, providing details without advancing the plot. Once everything is set in motion, the scenes follow what is written in the book, though some scenes are in parallel with others. The dramatisation then returns to the order in the novel for the climax as all the different groups come together in the US Air Force base outside Tadfield.

The experiment didn’t play out as expected, but a dramatisation isn’t an audio book. A repeat of the experiment will have to be tried with a proper audio book to see if one can work to prepare for a review. Radio dramas have their own requirements that may not map ideally to an audio book, but they both depend on the audio component.

As an adaptation, the dramatisation works. Some scenes are lost, but more of the novel is kept in the radio drama than in the Amazon series. Both do manage to capture the core of Good Omens, balancing the nature of the end of the world with the right amount of humour. It’s not an audio book, but the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation is worth a listen.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Marvel Comics’ has an eclectic team with the Avengers. Brought together because of the threat of Kang the Conqueror, six heroes pulled together to defeat the villain. Hulk was the first to leave, but not the last. Of the original team, Captain America was the last to remain as Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp all left for various reasons. Replacing them were the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye, all three of whom were once on the wrong side of the law. Siblings Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Hawkeye, however, began his career as a plain criminal.

Clint Barton grew up as a carny. He grew up hard of hearing thanks to abuse from his father. In the carnival, Clint was trained by the villainous Swordsman to be a criminal. Clint took to archery, using trick arrows. However, he did turn his life around and impressed Cap enough to be invited to become an Avenger. When Cap left the team, Hawkeye stepped up to become its leader.

In his time as a superhero, Clint has taken on many names besides Hawkeye, including Goliath and Ronin. He is the utility infielder of the Avengers, capable of taking on any role needed, including leadership. Hawkeye started up a West Coast branch of the Avengers, consisting of his then-wife Mockingbird, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Tigra, and Hank Pym as a reservist. The team broke up, being replaced by Force Works, but eventually, even that disbanded and Hawkeye returned to being an Avenger.

After the Civil War, the Avengers at one point disappeared and were presumed dead. A group of teenagers with similar abilities, at least superficially, stepped up to take on the role of the missing heroes. Among them was Kate Bishop. Like Clint, Kate had no powers but had dedicated her life to being the best archer she could. When the team broke into the remains of Avengers Mansion, Kate grabbed some gear for herself, including Hawkeye’s bow and Mockingbird’s escrima sticks. The Young Avengers also had to deal with Kang the Conqueror, and managed to defeat the threat much like the original team.

It turned out that the Avengers weren’t dead. Clint found out about Kate and, as Ronin, tested her, then gave her a card with a date, time, and location. The pair teamed up to infiltrate a black market auction and managed to rob the robbers who were robbing the auction where the heads of several major Marvel crime organizations were attending. This act gets Clint and Kate on the wrong side of the Russian mob, notable for their track suits and their vocabulary mostly limited to, “bro.” In a fight against the track suits, one throws a dog into traffic, which did not sit well at all with Clint. He defeated the mob and took the dog to the vet, where he had to fight off the Russians again.

The 2012 Hawkeye series tells the tale of what happens to Clint, Kate, the dog, the Russians, the organized crime gangs, and how Clint learns that he doesn’t have to prove to anyone, including himself, that he belongs on the Avengers. Kate uses her skills to infiltrate Madame Masque’s organization, earning the wrath of the Contessa and of the local police. With help, Clint and Kate defeat the mob that says “Bro”, but are left with being targeted by the collective ire of Marvel’s criminal underworld.

During the lead up to Christmas of 2021, Disney+ aired Hawkeye, a six-part series featuring Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. Jeremy Renner reprises his role as Clint, having first played the character in the 2011 film, Thor, though uncredited, then again in the 2012 Avengers. Hailee Steinfield, who starred in Bumblebee and voiced Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is Kate Bishop. The rest of the cast includes Linda Cardellini as Clint’s wife Laura, Vera Farmiga as Kate’s mother Eleanor, Tony Dalton as Eleanor’s fiancé Jack Duquesne, Alaqua Cox as Maya, Fra Free as Kazi, and Florence Pugh as Yelena.

The series begins in 2012 during the Chitauri invasion of New York City, a young Kate (played by Clara Stack), is in her parents’ home in Manhattan, not far from the fighting. Figures whiz by the windows, catching young Kate’s attention. Once she figures out what is happening, she runs downstairs, only to have a wall destroyed in front of her. As she stares at the battle, a Chitauri sees her and flies towards her. In the background, though, Hawkeye notices and leaps off the the building he’s on and fires an arrow to destroy the alien’s flying cycle. Kate notices who just saved her life.

In the years since, Kate pushed herself physically, winning archery and martial arts competitions. She wanted to be as good as her personal hero, Hawkeye. Kate gets volunteered by her mother to help at a charity. Not one to leave well enough alone and suspicious of her mother’s fiancé, she follows Jack down to the basement and discovers a black market auction. On offer, items removed from Avengers Mansion. A third party, the Tracksuit Mafia, aka the Russians who say “Bro,” attack. Meanwhile, Clint, is trying to have a good Christmas with his family, though Rogers: The Musical isn’t helping. He hears about the fighting, packs his kids into a cab, then rushes to find out what’s going on. At the core of the fight are three items, a watch and the sword and costume of Ronin, a hero known in criminal circles for killing gang members.

The Tracksuit Mafia manage to get the watch. Jack picks up Ronin’s sword, far cheaper than bidding on it, and Kate uses Ronin’s costume to hide her own identity. Clint sees the costume and goes after the new Ronin, only to be surprised that she’s a fan of his. He sends his kids on home ahead of him to deal with the new situation, with the goal of getting home before Christmas. He and Kate investigate, running into Maya and her Tracksuit Mafia, Yelena who has a beef against Clint over her sister Natasha, and a group of boffer LARPers.

The series takes its cues from the 2012 Hawkeye series. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has long gone in its own direction. Clint Barton is a former SHIELD agent, not a former carny. The Avengers have not died or gone into hiding. There are no Young Avengers. So some things do need to change. That said, the 2021 series still has elements that appeared in the comic. The Tracksuit Mafia, the Russians who say, “Bro,” are a main threat. Clint and Kate wind up sharing the “Hawkeye” moniker. The car chase in the third episode does feature four cars chasing Clint and Kate and a 1972 cherry red Challenger. However, it’s Kate firing the arrows, but she does still complain about Clint not labelling what each one is.

Both Clint and Kate have a character arc. His is to come to grips with his past, both being Ronin and the loss of Natasha Romanov. Kate learns that her family has secrets that need to be brought out to the light of day. Both learn how to work together, much to the Russian mob’s dismay.

The series also makes the best use of Christmas music since Die Hard. Traditional Christmas music and more modern classics like “Linus & Lucy” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr., Grinch” act at times to set the scene and other times to create a mood whiplash to drive home what happened.

While not a one-to-one adaptation of the 2012 comic series, the 2021 Hawkeye series keeps to the tone of the original, a mix of humour, action, and drama, with the main characters, Kate and Clint, recognizable. The credits use a similar art style to the covers of the 2012 comics. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but with the MCU going its own way, it comes close. As a series on its own merits, it is worth watching.

And if you watch the series, don’t turn off the credits at the end of the sixth and final episode. There is a mid-credits sequence worth watching for its audacity.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has covered BattleTech before, reviewing the animated series and seeing how the setting could be adapted. This time around, it’s a look at how the game’s mechanics can be adapted.

BattleTech, at its core, is a wargame featuring giant robots stomping across the battlefield. The BattleMech is the king of the battlefield, carrying a number of weapons capable of melting a light tank. The game’s draw is having these massive mecha battle each other across a map. To this end, the game comes with a number of pre-made BattleMechs, but there are rules for players to design their own.

The mechanics allow for a range of weapons, including three sizes of lasers, a particle projection cannon, two types of missiles – long and short range – which can come configured in different sizes of launchers. To deal with infantry, there is also machine guns and flamers. In the 31st century, war crimes happen. Each different weapon does a set amount of damage that whittles away the enemy ‘Mech’s armour. Once the armour is breached, the internal structure can be damaged, with components, like arm and leg actuators or weapons and ammo, can be destroyed. Destroying ammunition can potentially destroy the location it’s in. Destroy the head or centre torso of a ‘Mech and it is down for good.

Turns are broken down into phases. Whichever side wins initiative can decide who moves first. Each side then, by initiative, then moves a number of their ‘Mechs, trying to get into a good position. Once all the BattleMechs are done moving, the shooting phase starts. Shooting is considered to be simultaneous, so no ‘Mech takes the effects of weapons lost during the phase. After all the shooting has been done, if two ‘Mechs are close enough, they can try to punch or kick each other. Finally, all the effects of being hit can take effect, with piloting rolls to stay upright and heat management taken care of. If a ‘Mech runs too hot, it can shut down, and even lower amounts of heat can slow a ‘Mech down and make it harder to hit with weapons. The game continues until one side is eliminated, achieves a mission goal, or the players run out of time for the game.

There are tactics and strategies to be considered. Should a light ‘Mech be sent ahead to draw out enemy forces and risk destruction, or should the slower ‘Mechs walk up? Even choosing which BattleMechs to use can make a difference. Sure, there’s an UrbanMech variant, the SuburbanMech, that carries a PPC and is speedy for an Urbie, but it’s still slow and light compared to a Panther, which also carries a PPC but is faster.

With all the moving parts involved, automating it is a natural next step. There have been video games in the past, including the MechWarrior series, but they’ve been focused on putting the player into the cockpit of a BattleMech. Harebrained Schemes’ 2018 release, simply called BattleTech corrects that oversight. Headed up by Jordan Weisman, one of the original creators of the wargame, the video game allows a player to create a lance of ‘Mechs to then take into battle.

The video game has three different modes of game play. The first is the Campaign mode, where the player goes through a storyline involved the fall and restoration of House Amano in the Aurigan Coalition, a minor Periphery nation. The player starts with a mix of medium and light ‘Mechs and can take mercenary contracts while also doing missions for the head of House Amano to restore her rightful place. The second is Career, which is purely a mercenary campaign without the story related missions from the campiagn. The third is Skirmish, which allows a player to take on the AI or play against another player.

In all three modes, the core game play is lance versus lance BattleMech fights. Initiative is decided by Mech size and character piloting skills. In Campaign and Career modes, players can improve the piloting, gunenry, tactical, and guts skills of their unit. With Skirmish, players can choose from a roster of pilots with varying skills. Once the player’s lance has made contact with the enemy, whether AI or player, initiative determines who moves when. Faster ‘Mechs tend to move sooner than heavier, and the piloting skill can affect the score further.

Instead of separating move and shooting into separate phases, each pilot on his or her turn can move then shoot. Manoeuvring becomes key; a ‘Mech’s rear armour tends to be thinner than in front. Cover and movement help in not getting hit by enemy fire. Heat management is still important, and different types of worlds can affect how fast heat is dissipated.

The game comes with a wide range of BattleMechs with at least one variant per ‘Mech. It is also possible to modify ‘Mech, exchanging weapons to match a player’s preference. The only limit is the ‘Mech’s tonnage and, in Campaign and Career modes, available budget. A Locust with a PPC is, in theory, possible, but the trade-off may be having paper-thin armour. Not every published BattleMech is in the game. The designers started the storyline in 3025, well before the Clans invaded the Inner Sphere. ‘Mechs are being added with DLC that expands not just the choice of BattleMechs but adding to Campaign and Career modes.

The video game emulates the wargame well, even taking into account changes that the new format requires. The BattleMechs look like they do in the books and as miniatures. Urbies are appropriately slow, and assault ‘Mechs are an absolute monster to take on. The computer does the heavy lifting of tracking expendables and damage and calculating whether a shot hits. What could take a full evening to play with friends takes an hour or so. There is a challenge when playing against the AI, and there is a variety of battlefields to choose. In Campaign and Career modes, the option to change a unit’s colours appears as a desk with minis being painted.

The BattleTech video game achieves what it set out to do, emulate the tabletop wargame, taking care of all the fiddly parts while letting players enjoy stompy robot fun.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has looked at the worst film ever before, trying to work out how to remake Manos: The Hands of Fate. It’d be difficult, in part because the draw now, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that is a fan favourite. Manos, however, is the one film that got Joel, Mr. Mellow himself, angry. It’s not watchable without the efforts of the MST3K crew. Thanks to the MST3K episode, the movie has a cult following, There is now a prequel movie, a sequel movie, even a video game. And, in 2015, a novelization.

Normally, Lost In Translations treats novelizations as tie-ins, part of the franchise and marketing, instead of adaptations. However, there is an almost fifty year gap between the movie and the novel. Plus, the novel won the Scribe Award for Best Adapted Novel in 2016. Who am I to dispute the International Association of Tie-in Writers?

The original film follows the fate of a family, Michael, Margaret, Debbie, and Pepe, on a vacation as they fall into the hands of the Master, his minion Torgo, both serving the dark lord Manos. Things don’t go well for the family at all. And there’s a teen-aged couple trying to find a place to park to make out and a sheriff and his deputy whose sole job seems to be to get the teenagers to move along. All filmed on a 16mm hand-wound camera that could only record thirty-two seconds at a time for the low, low cost of $19 000 (about $163 000 today).

MST3K riffed the movie during the show’s fourth season in 1993, giving Manos a much wider audience, one that would appreciate it, though not in the way the movie makers expected. Interest was renewed, or possibly newed, and Manos tie-ins appeared, leading to Stephen D. Sullivan writing not one but two tie-in novels – Manos: The Hands of Fate, the comedy version, and Manos: The Talons of Fate, the serious horror version. Today’s review will look at the comedic version.

Sullivan’s goal was to keep to the pacing, the awkward edits, and the dialogue of the original. In fact, all the dialogue is straight from the movie. All of it. John Reynolds’ Torgo can be heard while reading the pages. The narrator is another of Manos’ minions, one who is looking in on the Master and his victims. The prose is tongue-in-cheek, and the narrator has a lot of work to fill in some of the gaps, like the nine minute long car ride that begins the film.

Sullivan also calls out the mores of the era, the requirement to be manly and take charge despite being clueless, the requirement to shrink away from danger if a woman. From the scene where Torgo tries to fondle Margaret and she hits him:

Because this is the 1960s, rather than hit Torgo again — *knock ‘im down and keep ‘im down, I say! — Margaret would prefer to be rescued by a man. And since there aren’t any real men around, her husband will do.

Manos: The Hands of Fate, by Stephen D. Sullivan

The narrator is shameless, telling the story and speaking directly to the fourth wall, making references to the film and its limitations. There’s no confusion on who the narrator is rooting for. The prose is light and easy to read, but isn’t fluff. And when things get into a lull, the narrator continues his spiel for Manos.

The novel did have to invent some details. There are only six named characters in the movie and that is including the dog. Sullivan had to provide names for the teen-aged couple, the sheriff and his deputies, the Master’s wives, and the hapless women who arrive at the lodge at the end. His solution was to base the characters’ names off their actors’. It’s a nice nod to see.

While it’s not a difficult bar to clear, the novel is better than the movie. Sullivan provides depth to the characters, even if the character is shallow. He builds sympathy for Torgo, gives a motive for Michael and his bad decisions, even provides some details about Manos. The advantages of the written word is to get into characters’ heads, even Pepe’s, providing an insight that the original movie couldn’t. It is also possible to read the novelization without having seen the movie, though some of the asides wouldn’t make sense.

Stephen D. Sullivan achieves the impossible with his novelization of Manos: The Hands of Fate. He makes the story accessable and readable, a far cry better than the original film.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Starting from a single film that wasn’t expected by 20th Century Fox to become a blockbuster, Star Wars has become a juggernaut of a franchise. After Disney bought out Lucasfilm, the juggernaut is only getting more powerful. With an ongoing pandemic, streaming has become a strong contender for the entertainment dollar, providing works both old and new to audiences when the audience wants to watch. With the sheer volume of films and animated series, Star Wars is already providing a good number of viewing hours on Disney+. Add in new series like The Mandalorian and the streaming service can generate demand.

One of the new series is Star Wars: Visions. First release September 2021, the series is a non-canonical series of independent stories, each created by a different anime studio. The studios were allowed to create a story in their own vision of the setting. The seven studios produced nine episodes, with two studios providing two eps each. The studios involved are Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, , Science SARU, and Geno Studio. There aren’t any clunkers in the series, but there are some stand-outs.

“The Duel”, by Kamikaze Douga, opened the series. The episode is, essentially, Star Wars as done by Akira Kurosawa. Yes, Kurosawa was one of George Lucas’ influences, but “The Duel” takes the elements of *Star *Wars* and combines it with Japan’s Sengoku era, using black and white animation with colour for emphasis. The concept is simple, a ronin warrior protects a village from bandits led by a Sith. The execution is anything but simple, and sets a high bar for the rest of the series.

The next episode, “Tatooine Rhapsody” by Studio Colorido, almost pales in comparison. However, the episode is more personal, and focuses on the magic of friendship and the power of music. Not every story in Star Wars needs the clashing of lightsabers. Music has played a role in the movies, whether as background or as part of a scene. “Tatooine Rhapsody” just adds more music to the setting.

Science SARU’s first episode, “T0-B1″, takes influence from *Astro Boy” and features a young robot boy who wants to become a Jedi Knight and what happens to him and his family when an Inquisitor arrives on the deserted planet T0-B1 calls home. The story shows the difference between wanting to become a Jedi and what it means to be one, with T0-B1 going through growth to discover the difference.

The series takes the elements of the setting as shown through the movies and prior series. Visions leans heavily on the Jedi, but the Jedi fill a role that samurai and ronin do in Japanese cinema. Having episodes featuring wandering Jedi, like “The Village Bride” and “The Elder” fit naturally into the setting. The episodes do play it loose on how a character becomes a Jedi, but the series is meant to allow anime studios to play in the Star Wars sandbox, with adherence to canon a secondary concern, if at all.

That said, the stories do provide new insight into the setting. Many of the episodes can be easily slipped into the canon without notice. Some episodes point out the dangers of the Dark Side, while others show how the Light Side of the Force works conceptually. None of the episodes could be moved to a new setting without massive rewrites; each one takes advantage of the setting to tell its story. Several, like “Tatooine Rhapsody”, “The Ninth Jedi”, “The Village Bride”, and “T0-B1”, could be easily expanded into a series of its own.

Overall, each episode explores Star Wars, playing with concepts and adapting them to both anime and to Japanese culture and history. The series is well worth a watch and provides a new perspective.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Cyberpunk 2077 has made an impact since its release in December 2020. The video game is based on a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Mike Pondsmith, who was involved in the video game. While the video game has had a few problems since release, it is popular. And when something is popular, it gets adapted.

A quick bit of history on Cyberpunk. The first edition of the RPG, Cyberpunk 2013, was released in 1988. 2013 had four supplements, including Hardwired, written by Walter Jon Williams, basing it on the novel he wrote. It was followed up two years later with the second edition, Cyberpunk 2020 expanded the setting, the character roles, and the mechanics; the game was rereleased in 2014. The third edition, Cyberpunk V3.0, released 2005, wasn’t as well accepted; changes to the setting left the fanbase cold and the artwork was controversial. Finally, in conjuction with the video game, Cyberpunk RED was fully released in November 2020, a month before 3077‘s release. The RPG is seeing a renaissance, complete with new miniatures including one of Pondsmith and his dog.

Going back to Cyberpunk, the game made Night City the default setting, where the city was a supplement for 2013. Night City was very much inspired by William Gibson’s Chiba City, with dashes of Hardwired and other cyberpunk works plus other sources such as Blade Runner. Night City became a living, breathing city, with gangs and gang wars, corporate headquarters and corporate wars, besieged citizens, besieged cops, and many ways to escape, some of which are legal. Life is cheap, cybernetics expensive, and going about daily business without a subscription to a paramedic service.

In the Cyberpunk setting, there are a few subscription emergency services. The services’ contracts lay out how a recovery team will retrieve the wounded subscriber, though there are added costs to that on top of the monthly subscription fee. Reviving a clone costs even more on top, plus the fees for making a memory backup. They’re the US health care system expanded as US gun violence also expanded. Trauma Team International is the largest of these subscription emergency services, but not the only one. REO Meatwagon, also mentioned in the core rules, is one competitor determined to carve a slice of the pie, even if it means shooting down a Trauma Team aerodyne.

The day-to-day job of a Trauma Team crew sounds like it would make for drama, whether in game or in an adaptation. One part paramedic, one part combat recon, all dystopia. Thus, in September 2020, Dark Horse Comics released the first issue of Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team, then released issues 1-4 as a trade paperback in March 2021. The series was written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Miguel Valderrama, colours by Jason Vordie, and lettering by Frank Cvetkovic.

The series follows Nadia, a young medtech who joined Trauma Team International out of a sense of duty. Even after two years of service, she still had some idealism. However, when a heavily cybered solo manages to kill everyone on her rescue squad except her and the client, she’s taken off duty for psych eval. Her first response after returning to duty is to retrieve a client in an apartment block in gang-controlled territory. The platinum membership client turns out to be the solo who killed her previous team wounded and pinned down by gangers, leading to Nadia having to make difficult choices.

Night City in the four issues is a neon-filled grime even in the nicer parts of the city. The apartment block looks like it should be condemned, except that would mean someone in the city government cared. The solo’s abilities may seem superhuman, but that’s what cybernetics can do in the game. Enhanced reflexes, enhanced strength, and a lack of empathy for humanity; medical science in 2077 has made amazing advances.

In terms of appearance, the comic takes queues from Blade Runner, with neon lights and rain, masses of people wandering through the streets, the forgotten dregs in a desperate fight, and corporate negligence. Nadia’s Trauma Team is kitted out for a war zone, which describes many parts of Night City too well. In game terms, Nadia is a medtech, the client is a solo, the rescue squads are composed of medtechs and solos, and Nadia’s psychologist is a corporate. The story definitely fits in the setting.

Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team fits right into Night City and the Cyberpunk franchise. Idealism is the first thing to die in a dystopia, something Nadia finds out the hard way. While playing a Trauma Team employee is out of the scope of the video game, the comic expands the setting for fans, showing what happens when a rescue squad encounters resistance.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

There’s been talk about the 1999 film, Galaxy Quest, getting a sequel. The movie was popular with fans of science fiction, particularly of Star Trek. The cast was strong, with Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Missi Pyle, Darryl Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, and Enrico Colatoni. The plot involved a group of aliens called Thermians who, after watching the fictional series Galaxy Quest came to Earth to get help from the crew, all without realizing that the TV series was fictional.

The Thermians convince Jason Naismith (Allen), who played Commander Taggert on the show, that the special effects they showed him were real. Taggert manages to cajole the rest of his castmates plus Guy Fleegman (Rockwell) who played an extra to hear out the Thermians. The first hurdle is that while the fictional characters know what to do, the actors who played them are clueless. Everything was a set with special effects added in post-production. As the movie contunues, the actors figure out who their characters are and what they meant to fans both earthbound and alien. The moment that Alexander Dane (Rickman), a classically trained actor who is not happy with how his career turned out, figures out how Dr. Lazarus has motives is particularly poignant.

The film made gentle fun of Star Trek, the series’ actors, and the fans. The Thermians built the Protector based on “archival footage”, down to items, like the chompers, that didn’t make any sense to include. On Earth, fans of the series help out as they can, with their encyclopedic knowledge of the old series, knowing the Protector better than the actors do.

The cast had great chemistry. The writing was strong with room for improvisation as needed. The movie had a heart to it that many blockbusters forget about including. The movie wasn’t so much a parody of Star Trek as a love letter to the series, the cast, and the fans. And that’s where an adaptation is going to have problems.

Since the movie was first released, there’s been attempts to either make a sequel or make a TV series. Currently, Simon Pegg is looking at adapting the movie as a TV series. The catch is, how would it work? Would it be the new series that was created in-universe with the same cast? Would the adaptation focus on the actors instead of their characters? Would the series be serial instead of episodic? What will be done about the hole left by the passing of Alan Rickman?

On the plus side, Simon Pegg has the capability to understand the draw of Galaxy Quest to audiences. With Shaun of the Dead, he had a love letter to horror and zombie movies while still being comedic. Likewise, Hot Fuzz was also a love letter, this time to 80s and 90s action movies like Point Break. Pegg also played Scotty in the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot movie, and has made the convention circuit to meet fans of his works. If anyone will be able to create a gentle parody, Pegg is the one. At the same time, there is trepidation.

Galaxy Quest was bottled lightning when it was released. Recreating it will take a deft touch under someone who can pull in the different parts of the movie and maintain the chemistry the cast had. It will be tough.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Ten years. When I started Lost in Translation, I didn’t expect the reviews to last long. I thought I’d run out of material. However, Hollywood insists on adapting everything. Everything. Some adaptations are done well; others, not so much.

The early years, I went after the easier works, the ones that had been around a while. Once I figured out this reviewing thing, I started to get into more complex works and into more complex reviews. There’s very little that is out and out terrible that there isn’t a glimmer of something good inside it. I’m also taking more time when a work needs it. Sometimes, there’s just no getting around dealing with a multi-season storyline and it takes time to watch and to read both original works and adaptations.

The pandemic of 2020-2021 added a new twist. My way of choosing works to review involved going to a music or video store and checking out the offerings. Lockdown prevented that. Online shopping is good when you need something specific but isn’t as good when it comes to browsing. Same goes with streaming services. It made finding works to review a bit more difficult, but I found ways.

Ten years. It doesn’t seem like such a long time, but I can see how I’ve improved since the first review. Time does fly, even 2020 in hindsight. Thank you, everyone, for following, for supporting, and for letting me figure out just how adaptations look. There are some changes coming for Lost in Translation later this year. Details will come out once they’re nailed down.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation is approaching a major anniversary mark, so it’s a good time to look back over the years. Today, let’s start at the beginning, with the first review posted, Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the early days of Lost in Translation, I went after the easier, low-hanging fruit, and ST:TNG was well in reach. I had watched both the original and the then new Trek when TNG first aired in 1987.

When TNG’s pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”, first aired, the original had been in syndication for eighteen years, gaining a fan base that was too young to watch the series when it first aired. In between the last original Trek episode and “Encounter at Farpoint”, there had been an animated series and four films, beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, all with the original cast. TNG, though, guaranteed a weekly hit of Star Trek, thanks to first-run syndication; ratings weren’t going to be an issue, just sales to TV stations.

The first two seasons were rough. TNG re-used some scripts for a proposed but unfulfilled Star Trek II TV series with the original crew of the Enterprise. The Star Trek II series ultimately became ST:TMP, and the mappings of characters can be seen between the movie and TNG. The obvious ones are Kirk and Decker to Riker, Xon, the Vulcan science officer who died in a transporter accident, to Data, Ilya to Troi, and Argyle and MacDougal to Scotty. The mappings aren’t perfect; there was an effort to make the new characters their own selves. With Troi, some of the Deltan culture, such as openness to sex, had to be toned down for television. Data’s quest for humanity mirrors Spock’s quest to balance and integrate his Vulcan and Human halves, but the paths each took are different.

It does take time for a TV series to get settled in, for character to develop to what fans will remember. TNG was no different. Season three was when the characters sorted themselves out. Still, the worst episode of TNG, the second season flashback episode “Shades of Gray”, is still better than TOS‘ worst, the third season’s “Spock’s Brain”. Meanwhile, the best of TNG pushed the envelope of Trek storytelling. “Darmok” explored the language gap in first contact while bypassing the universal translator.

In the time since the last TNG episode, the two-parter “All Good Things…”, in 1994, more Trek has been made. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which began during TNG‘s run and Star Trek:Voyager began the year after TNG‘s end. Star Trek: Enterprise began after Voyager‘s run ended. Today, there are three concurrent Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks. Picard is a direct sequel to TNG while Lower Decks follows the crew of another starship in the same era. At this point, TNG is the more familiar Trek series, thanks to having a longer run and and the subsequent series set in the same era.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a good example of a successful reboot, matching the original series in quality, both highs and lows, and becoming its own entity.

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