OK everyone, Way With Worlds Book 2 review copies are ready! So if you want to review contact me and let me know about your interest, if you have a blog, where you can review (amazon is appreciated), etc.!
Right now it’s looking like it’ll be out the very end of March or early April.
And hello again gang, I want to let you know I’m looking for reviewers for my first book on Creativity, “The Power Of Creative Paths.” It comes out late January/early February, but I want to line up people who want to review it (don’t worry, it’s an eBook and it’s a reasonable size) and review it honestly. If you’re interested contact me right away!
Tie-ins are a difficult area to judge. At what point does a work stop being merchandising and start being a work of its own? I have reviewed some tie-in works, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic because of its impact on the Internet and the Richard Castle Nikki Heat novels because of the meta nature of the books. While I have reviewed movies based on toys – G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra and Battleship – I haven’t touched any of the animated works. The cartoons came about after the easing of US Federal Communications Commission regulations restricting toy- and game-based series in the 80s. While several cartoons from the era were memorable, including Transformers and Jem and the Holograms, most were just there for merchandising.
Last month, The LEGO Movie opened. A CGI animated action movie, The LEGO Movie was based on LEGO, the construction bricks created in 1949 and refined in 1958. Given that the company wasn’t directly behind the creation of the movie, I felt that The LEGO Movie was an adaptation.
Since the film is still in theatres, I’ll try to keep the summary as spoiler-free as possible. The plot has Emmett, a Minifig, find the Piece of Resistance that makes him the Special that can stop Lord Business from using his secret weapon to destroy all of the different worlds. Unfortunately, Emmett isn’t all that special, but WyldStyle, who was looking for the Piece of Resistance, is there to help him in the fight against Lord Business. Along the way, Emmett and Wyldstyle get help from Batman to get to Cloud Cuckooland to find the Master Builders in hiding.
The movie uses many a bad pun.
The characters are well aware that they are in a LEGO multiverse and most can build items out of the scenery. The CGI makes it hard to tell whether the settings were built physically out of LEGO bricks or if the animators were just that good. The ground, where it isn’t paved by flat-topped bricks, has the classic LEGO brick struts, including the company’s logo. With adaptations, the little details can make or break the work. The eye for detail in The LEGO Movie is amazing. Emmett’s hair has a molding seam. The 80s Spaceman’s helmet has a crack where the piece always got a crack. The Minifigs, for the most part, come from existing sets past and present. The construction scene as the big musical number starts has a Minifig calling for a 1×2 macaroni piece and getting it, just as people playing with LEGO bricks have since, well, 1958.
The LEGO Movie felt like the writers were playing with LEGO while working on the script. Building of items, like a motorcycle from parts in an alley, referenced the LEGO videogames, where players could do just that. The buildings, the vehicles, the animals, the sets, all could be built given enough bricks. Given that LEGO is a toy meant for creating your own designs, the movie showed possibilities and encouraged imagination.
As an adaptation, The LEGO Movie worked. Emmett lived in a LEGO world and acted knowing he was a LEGO minifig. All the bits came together and screamed “LEGO!” as the movie progressed while still allowing the story to unfold. The story itself could not be told without the LEGO bricks.
Next week, the nature of tie-in media and adaptations.
Over a year ago, I started Lost in Translation to examine the pros and cons of remakes and reboots, to see what worked and what didn’t. With Hollywood becoming more reliant on existing works as sources for blockbusters, knowing what makes for a successful adaptation is becoming critical in how well a project fares at the box office. Just having the rights to a title no longer means that a movie will be successful, if it ever did.
What we’ve seen over the past year is that respect for the original work, the original creators, and the original fans goes a long way towards financial success. Even where there are changes, acknowledging the original work and ensures the fans will come out while still attracting people new to the franchise. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is a great example. Many changes were made, from characters to tone, but it gained an audience made from fans of the original and complete newcomers.
Helping the new Galactics‘s success was writing quality. The series wasn’t just good science fiction, it was a good drama. Reviews of The Avengers also point to the strong writing of Joss Whedon. So, just having respect isn’t enough. Studios have to act on the respect. Casting, writing, even advertising needs to be there. The lack of advertising was the main reason John Carter was barely seen in theatres. Disney buried the movie, to the point the title didn’t even refer to the original series of books, John Carter of Mars.
However, during the course of writing this column, a thought occurred to me. “Is it possible to have a work that is a poor adaptation but is still a good or even successful movie on its own?” It’s easy to find bad adaptations that are also bad movies. Street Fighter – The Movie was both, not quite a cult classic. The Dungeons & Dragons movie didn’t even come close to being watchable. Finding a movie that was good in its own right but still a poor adaptation took work. Real Steel fit the bill. There was very little in common between the movie and “Steel”, the short story it was based on; but, the movie held together on its own merit. In this case, though, the relative obscurity of the original story helped; there wasn’t an expectation built in.
That’s not to say that respect and support will guarantee a success. A well done, well adapted, well supported movie can still fail. Serenity, the Firefly movie, falls into this category. The fans did their best to get people out, but the film wasn’t as successful as hoped. At the same time, the environment films are released into has changed greatly over the past decade. Movies have to succeed right out of the gate. Gone are the days where a movie would stay in theatres for several months or even a year. Most get six to eight weeks now, less if the opening weekend isn’t as successful as projected.*
What I’ve also learned over the past year is now spilling over into my own works. On top of making sure that the plot stands on its own, that the characters are interesting, and that I have an ending that is exciting and not overblown, I’m making sure that the format I’m using (prose, episodic webcomic, long-form script) fits the story and that the story can be adapted into other formats. It gets interesting when working out character details when the idea of seeing the story on TV or the concept of having an action figure enters my head. Yet, having something that’s easy to adapt will help ensure a proper transition.
Next time, into the black!
*Note that the film doesn’t need to fail outright. A movie could still make up its budget but still be consider underperforming if the actual revenue is less than the projected. Works that need word of mouth no longer stand a chance to be successful.