Works adapted for television produce a new set of concerns. With movies, one of the big limitations is time; commercial film releases run anywhere between ninety minutes to two hours, with rare releases reaching the three-hour mark. A television series, however, has far more running time available to it than a feature film. Even accounting for commercials, there’s still twenty-two to forty-five minutes of show each episode. Long-running series may run out of original material before ending and will need to create new content*. With novels, especially those in a series, it’s possible to keep using existing content in a TV show. HBO’s A Game of Thrones is an exemplar of this sort of planning. Adapting a movie as a TV series, though, means that the show’s writers will be adding material. Today’s review looks at that situation.
In 1999, George Lucas released the first of the prequel movies, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. In the gap between that film and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, released in 1983, numerous tie-in novels, comics, games, and toys were produced, creating the Star Wars Expanded Universe, or EU. The EU added more characters and settings to Star Wars. With the prequel movies filling out more of the history of the Rebellion, more EU products were created to fill in details not covered by the movies.
Such is the case with the CG-animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the series covered the Clone Wars at several levels, from the clones on the front to the politics of the Senate to the Jedi Council. The Clone Wars ran for six seasons, from 2008 until 2014, before ending. During its run, familiar characters mingled with new ones, showing the toll of the wars on all levels of Republic and Separatist society.
The Clone Wars started with a feature movie, with Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and a number of clone troopers defending Christophis against the Separatist droid army. Young Ahsoka Tano is introduced as Anakin’s padawan, an attempt by the Jedi Council to try to teach Skywalker the dangers of his inability to let go of those he holds dear. Once the battle is won, Anakin and Ahsoka are assigned the task to retrieve Jabba the Hutt’s son, who has been kidnapped, to get the gang boss’s favour. The search leads to Teth, where the Separatists are holding the Huttlet. Anakin leads a force of clone troopers against the droids’ base, leading to a showdown against the assassin, Asajj Ventress, a protege of Count Dooku. Senator Padmé Amadala of Naboo finds out about Anakin’s mission and tracks down Ziro the Hutt on Coruscant, but discovers that he is part of the conspiracy against Jabba and the Jedi. With the help of C3PO, Padmé escapes and Ziro is arrested. On Tatooine, Anakin deals with Count Dooku long enough for Ahsoka to return the Huttlet.
The first season continues in a similar vein, at least to begin with. “Ambush”, the first regular episode, features Yoda and several clones on a mission to meet with the king of Toydaria. The episode sets the tone, showing that the clones, even though they look alike, are individuals, and Yoda treats them as such. As the seasons progress, the stories become darker, with the Jedi forced into becoming what they are not and Darth Sidious’ manipulations starting to pay off. That’s not to say that the first season was all light-hearted. Clones and Jedi died on-screen, and one Jedi fell to the Dark Side before being killed by General Grievous. The first season also showed why the Republic was fighting; the episodes “Storm over Ryloth”, “Innocents of Ryloth”, and “Liberty on Ryloth” depict what the droid army did with the Twi’leks and the liberation of their homeworld.
Being placed between the second and third prequel places a few limitations on the series. First, several characters had script immunity due to appearances in Revenge of the Sith. That’s not to say that the couldn’t inflict non-permanent injuries and psychological issues on existing characters. Second, new characters had to be written out in a way that their absence in Sith made sense. In particular here, Ahsoka could not be Anakin’s padawan by the end of the series. Likewise, Venrtess could not remain Dooku’s apprentice.
As mentioned at the beginning, adapting movies for television may mean adding new material. The Clone Wars did just that, but in a way that added to the original. New characters, like the aforementioned Ahsoka and Ventress, clone troopers Waxer, Boil, and Fives, and bounty hunter Cad Bane had their own stories that intersected with the lives of the original cast. In addition, minor characters like General Grievous had their roles expanded. Grievous, first seen in Sith primarily escaping before being defeated by Obi-Wan, is shown to be far more dangerous and far more callous, killing several Jedi and targeting medical frigates.
The series delved into other parts of the Galaxy Far Far Away. Seasons three and four showcased the Nightsisters, a sect of the Witches of Dathomir, and Asajj Ventress. Mandalore, the home of some famed armour, also had several episodes focused on it and its internal politics. The Galaxy felt larger as a result, away from Tatooine and Coruscant. At the same time, classic equipment seen in the original Star Wars began appearing, from the Y-Wings to the evolution of the clone trooper armour to look more and more like that used by stormtroopers.
The Clone Wars also managed to make Revenge of the Sith a stronger movie. Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side is shown throughout the series, as Palpatine introduces doubt that worms through his mind. The deaths of the Jedi as a result of Order 66 hit harder. No longer are they nameless characters in a montage but Plo Koon, Kit Fisto, and Aayla Secura, Jedi who have appeared and were developed as full characters in their own right.
As an animated adaptation, The Clone Wars took characters that were larger than life in movies and brought them in a new form on television. The animation evolved over the run of the series, noticeable even in the first season, and evolved to handle more difficult challenges. There were times when certain elements, such as the clone troopers, the battle droids, and General Grievous, were indistinguishable from what appeared on screen in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The eye to detail and the desire to respect the films came through. While it is true that Lucasfilm was still the studio behind The Clone Wars, not all of the studio’s releases matched the quality and care shown in the animated series.** The Clone Wars is well worth studying as a successful adaptation.
* I’m ignoring filler episodes here. Filler is more commonly seen in anime based on manga, where the series has to wait for new content to be created.
** The Star Wars Holiday Special stands out as a prime example here.
CG Peanuts movie to use classic comics for thought bubbles.
The CGI animated Peanuts feature will pay homage to the original comic strip through the use of the classic comics in thought bubbles.
Dan Aykroyd excited as Ghostbusters reboot starts filming.
Aykroyd, who was the co-creator of the original movie and is the executive producer of the remake, is happy with how the new movie is turning out. While that may not be persuasive, the photos of the costume and the new Ecto are promising.
The Rock’s going to be busy.
Not only is he working on a remake of Big Trouble in Little China, as reported last month, he’s also looking at an adaptation of the classic arcade video game, Rampage. The video game allowed players to take the role of kaiju and destroy a city while fending off the puny defenders.
New Spider-Man film, new Spider-Man actor.
Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have announced the casting of Tom Holland in the title role. Holland will play Peter Parker in the new movie.
The Rocky franchise continues with Creed.
Rocky Balboa turns coach this November. Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers, from the first four Rocky films.
Classic Canadian animated series, The Raccoons, may be returning.
Kevin Gillis, the creator of the original cartoon, is working out how to bring back the the show, featuring raccoons Bert, Melissa, and Ralph. The Raccoons aired on the CBC with TV movies in the early 80s and a regular series starting in 1985. The series also aired on the Disney Channel.
Farscape movie has been confirmed.
Rockne S. O’Bannon has confirmed that a Farscape movie is in the works. The film doesn’t have a script yet, but one is being drafted by Justin Monjo, who wrote for the series.
Dynamite Entertainment to bring Atari classics to comics.
Dynamite will produce comics based on classic Atari video games, including Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. The same company will also be producing James Bond comics helmed by Warren Ellis.
Lost in Translation to take a hiatus.
There’s a shake up coming here at MuseHack. Steve will have the full details, but Lost in Translation will be on hiatus during this time. The reviews will return, as will the history of adaptations.
This summer is starting to shape up to be the Summer of Adaptations*. Several movies based on old TV shows and even board games are heading to theatres already, plus sequels and even adaptation of novels.
A quick preview
First, Battleship, based on Hasbro’s game of fleet destruction. One of the trailers even points the connection out in the first words used. Aliens arrive on Earth to turn two fleets into personal weapons of war. Either the scriptwriter got meta or desperate. Sadly, the trailer didn’t include the classic line, “You sank my battleship!” The movie could be a fun popcorn outing held back by the connection to the existing property.
Next, John Carter, which is already out. Disney’s adaptation of Edgar R. Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars was released at a bizarre time for what would normally be and should have been a summer release. A shake up at Disney may have doomed John Carter, with a new exec doing everything possible to tank an out-going exec’s project. The movie deserves better, though a full review and analysis is forthcoming.
The 21 Jump Street movie continues a disturbing trend of taking a popular-in-its-day TV series and turning it into a comedy. The original 21 Jump Street starred Johnny Depp as a cop going undercover at a high school. The movie adaptation has Tatum Channing and Jonah Hill going undercover, with the movie aiming for laughs. That worked oh so well for Starsky & Hutch and Land of the Lost.
Season two of A Song of Ice and Fire is due out in April. HBO signed for a second season after one episode. The first season showed the strength of the team adapting A Game of Thrones and the difficulties that traditional broadcasters face when competing with cable stations.
The Dark Shadows adaptation by Tim Burton is being filmed. The original series was a supernatural soap opera, featuring the trials and tribulations of vampire Barnabas Collins. Tim Burton’s version, though, will turn it into a comedy. Given Burton’s past work, most likely a dark comedy. I expect the movie to be successful at the box office, even if it isn’t faithful to the original.
Wrath of the Titans is the sequel to 2010’s remake of Clash of the Titans. Both movies can be thought of remakes of Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans, which was a showcase for the best stop-motion animation. The 2010 version** turned the stop-motion into CGI, then had 3-D technology retrofitted, and was a decent action movie. Wrath will follow the heroics of Perseus and is being filmed for a 3-D presentation. I expect the movie to have a decent success, though not record setting at the box office.
The Three Stooges is probably the oddest adaptation to hit the screens this year. The original Stooges made their name through a series of shorts before getting full-length films. The adaptation will have Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos as Larry, Moe, and Curly with the setting moved to the current year. This… yeah, hard to tell how the movie will do. It will have to walk a fine line; it has to keep fans of the Three Stooges happy with the portrayal while still bringing in a modern audience. It’s a movie to keep an eye on.***
Again, I’ll toss it out to you. What adaptations are you looking forward to seeing? What ones are making you cringe?
Next week, something will be here.
* Add reverberation as needed.
** A full analysis is planned.
*** Before it starts poking.
Stuff that came up today, mainly. Not really part of the main series, but relates. Not filler, either, otherwise I’d have held on to it.
First up, Hunger Games news. The screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, is already working on adapting Catching Fire, the second book in the series. He is working with Suzanne Collins, the author, on what needs to be kept and what can be dropped for time reasons. His goal is to make sure that the fans are satisfied with the final result. Once again, respecting the original work and the fans is showing up. Whether the movies are successful remains to be seen, though LiT will have a report.
Next, the trailer for Battleship is out. The movie looks decent enough, but might do better without being tied to the game. It could go the route of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li or it could be another G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Speaking of G.I. Joe, there’s a sequel coming. G.I. Joe: Retaliation will star Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson.
Apologies again for missing last week and for not having the announced column. This week is another intermittant side look as I gas up more columns.
Right, so, after *mumble* weeks of looking at various adaptations, reboots, and remakes and trying to determine what worked and what didn’t, it’s time to look at whether such beasts should be done. To further that, I offer my list of works that probably should not be redone.
Don’t get me wrong. M*A*S*H was a great TV series, introducing elements to the sitcom format that no one had thought of before. And, it was an adaptation of an adaptation. However, M*A*S*H came from the Vietnam War era and was very much anti-war. To do well, there’d have to be an unpopular war going on. While there are still troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, neither military mission can really be called unpopular, not to the degree the Vietnam War was. However, a spiritual successor was made – Canwest-Global/ABC’s Combat Hospital. However, Combat Hospital was very much a drama. M*A*S*H maintained an element of comedy, in part to be able to contrast the horror of war and the seriousness of the operating room. If any network is able to do a proper remake, though, I expect one of the cable channels, such as HBO or Showtime. Just expect to see a lot more of the doctors and nurses than you did on CBS.
Cheers has a different issue. It’s not so much that it’d be difficult to recreate the series; after all, it was set in a bar for most of its run with very little happening elsewhere. It’s the relationships between the characters that sets the bar high. Cheers was very much a character-driven series. Each person that came into the bar had different backgrounds and drives (or lack thereof). Recreating that may just get people to watch Cheers reruns instead. However, Cheers is a great example of how to do character-driven plots. The effort remaking the show may be better spent just creating a new series, even if it’s set in a bar.
Plan 9 From Outer Space
It seems like a good idea. Take a horrible movie, fix the script, add a decent budget, and poof! Great movie with a big audience. Except, no. Fans of Ed Wood watch his movies in part because he keeps trying, no matter how bad his movies are or how much they’re panned by critics. Plan 9, with all its problems, including the death of Bela Legosi, still has charms. Sometimes, people watch a bad movie for the fun of it. Remaking Plan 9 to be good would lose the movie’s charm.
The Princess Bride
A charming movie on its own, a lot of the charm came from the cast. A shot-for-shot remake would work out to be advertising for the original movie, much like the Psycho remake was. Changing the chemistry, though, would destroy the heart of the movie. The Princess Bride worked because of a combination of story, script, and casting that came together to be more than the sum of the parts. It would be difficult to to recreate that combination.
So, good readers, what works do you feel shouldn’t be remade and why?