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That Which Cannot Be Adapted... Maybe 
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Burning Godzilla
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There are a lot of books that people say can't be made into movies (or TV shows, or what-have-you). Sometimes you get surprised. I was stunned when the SyFy channel made Childhood's End into a well-regarded three-parter, given that it had passed through various hands for decades without progress.

But are there any stories that you feel simply defy adaptation? This includes stories already brought to the screen that you feel just didn't work.

Such as my example: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". Adapted twice now, and both times a complete failure.

The problem is scale. "Walter Mitty" is a story of a man on the edge of middle-aged and elderly who lives such a bland, mundane life that he frequently escapes into imaginary scenes of excitement, often cued by his surroundings. (For example, after one rude encounter, he grouses that he'd get more sympathy if he had his arm in a sling. His next fantasy has him on trial for murder, with the chief argument from the defense being that his arm was in a sling at the time.) It's a very small, almost cozy story.

Both adaptations have Mitty significantly younger, which loses a lot of the point right there. Mitty works as an older man because, at that point, he can't just go out and live a life of excitement. For one, his wife (who seems to actually enjoy a meaningless, insipid existence - when Mitty remarks that he'd like a change, she questions his health) would never allow it.

In both the 1947 film with Danny Kaye and the 2013 version with Ben Stiller, this is lost. Both are much younger than the original story's version, at a point in their lives where, with effort, they can still break free. That sense of "living in your head because you're not living outside it" is blunted.

And then there's the major mistake: in both films, Mitty-in-name-only is drawn into actual adventures. In the Danny Kaye version, it's a jewel caper; in the Ben Stiller version, he travels to Greenland to locate a missing photographer. Having Mitty actually do something of excitement pisses upon the entire point of the story, which is (as I mentioned) that Mitty lives in his fantasies specifically because he can never live his fantasies out. The tagline for the Stiller version is even "Stop dreaming. Start living." If Mitty could do that, there'd be no story!

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Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:36 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Excellent analysis. Maybe the Thurber story could be decently adapted into a brief cartoon, with narration.

I thought the adaptation of Childhood's End was quite good.

Hmmm. Things that are difficult to adapt, if not impossible. Works that depend on a lot of wordplay and/or typographic tricks. (Although they managed to do a good version of A Clockwork Orange despite the difficult futuristic slang.) Traditional whodunits can be tricky, since the audience has to be alert at all times to pick up the subtle clues. (Although there have been some good examples of this genre.)

Like "Walter Mitty," anything which is very introspective is difficult. (Although the adaptation of "The Dead" by James Joyce is excellent, and follows the story extremely closely.)

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Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:55 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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I think the key is, 'adapted HOW?' Plenty of novels are non-adaptable as 2 hour films due to scope and scale - many great novels span decades in the lives of key characters. But they can be adapted as miniseries. In fact, now that Netflix and cable stations feature series in 10-episode binges, it will open up all kinds of opportunities for longer-form storytelling. I think a few years ago we discussed how something like 'Watchmen' would benefit from this treatment.

Also, in your example you point out mistakes the filmmakers made in adapting 'Mitty.' If someone corrected these mistakes, faithfully adapting the source, the result would be....what? I've never read Mitty - does his character have an arc? Where does he end up in his fantasy life?

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Charnelhouse


Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:10 am
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Charnelhouse wrote:
Also, in your example you point out mistakes the filmmakers made in adapting 'Mitty.' If someone corrected these mistakes, faithfully adapting the source, the result would be....what? I've never read Mitty - does his character have an arc? Where does he end up in his fantasy life?


My point is that there's no way to adapt "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" into a film in any sense of the word, because Mitty has no arc and his fantasies last, in real-world time, about two or three minutes. It's a glimpse into the life of a man whose life simply cannot change.

It'd make a nice Amazing Stories episode, but that's about it for adaptation value.

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"Marlowe's overreacting, Marlowe's taking it wrong, Marlowe's lighting kittens on fire again..." - Marlowe, on how the rest of the board sees him

"What we have here is one hellaciously well-built monument." - Bergerjacques, on the Lincoln Memorial

"Folks, we need a way to get Uwe Boll to inadvertantly touch Tony Jaa's elephant." - Beggar So's Hat speaks truth


Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:48 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Mr. Paradox wrote:
My point is that there's no way to adapt "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" into a film in any sense of the word, because Mitty has no arc and his fantasies last, in real-world time, about two or three minutes. It's a glimpse into the life of a man whose life simply cannot change.


I feel that if the filmmakers had really focused on Mitty's inner state and thoroughly brought us into it, the way Oliver Stone brought us into the minds of Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, you would have a far more successful movie than some of youse seem to consider possible. The whole point of Walter Mitty's story is that he doesn't NEED to change because all the action he needs is unspooling continuously in his head, shared with nobody, requiring input from nobody. If he would get out of his own head he might very well find himself capable of change. With that said, I always enjoyed the Danny Kaye version and pre-emptively skeeve the Ben Stiller version. It's too easy to overdose on that guy.

When I read Johnny got His Gun a few years ago, I would have said it was flat impossible to make it into a movie. How do you make a movie about the thoughts of a man who can't do ANYTHING but count his own bowel movements to estimate the passage of time? But the author made his own movie out of the novel, and amazingly, it worked. To me this indicates that just because my imagination is too limited to go down certain roads, someone else is likely to be able to cover for me.

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Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:41 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Cliffie wrote:
When I read Johnny got His Gun a few years ago, I would have said it was flat impossible to make it into a movie. How do you make a movie about the thoughts of a man who can't do ANYTHING but count his own bowel movements to estimate the passage of time? But the author made his own movie out of the novel, and amazingly, it worked. To me this indicates that just because my imagination is too limited to go down certain roads, someone else is likely to be able to cover for me.


It's the same with Cronenberg's Naked Lunch. Mr Paradox is defining this as LITERAL adaptation. Any piece can be adapted if the director follows Jodorowsky's advice and 'rapes the source material.'

In the case of 'Mitty' you wouldn't have to change it a lot - just take the last couple of fantasies and create an arc. But you'd still have to change something.

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Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:01 pm
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Charnelhouse wrote:
Cliffie wrote:
When I read Johnny got His Gun a few years ago, I would have said it was flat impossible to make it into a movie. How do you make a movie about the thoughts of a man who can't do ANYTHING but count his own bowel movements to estimate the passage of time? But the author made his own movie out of the novel, and amazingly, it worked. To me this indicates that just because my imagination is too limited to go down certain roads, someone else is likely to be able to cover for me.


It's the same with Cronenberg's Naked Lunch. Mr Paradox is defining this as LITERAL adaptation. Any piece can be adapted if the director follows Jodorowsky's advice and 'rapes the source material.'

In the case of 'Mitty' you wouldn't have to change it a lot - just take the last couple of fantasies and create an arc. But you'd still have to change something.


But the original story makes clear that Mitty's brain runs like this all day, every day. We just need to hear more about that part of his life to make it a feature-length film. And probably add more footage of how dreary his real life is. If you made a literal adaptation of everything you liked when you read it in print, most of the resulting movies would be unwatchable. Think how frikkin' long Gone With The Wind would have to be. How would they ever have made a movie, let alone a franchise, out of Children Of the Corn? Horrible example, I know; we would all be better off if those films had never been made.

And BTW, I never saw any reference to literally adapting "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" in the OP.

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Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:43 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Cliffie wrote:
And BTW, I never saw any reference to literally adapting "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" in the OP.


He clarified that in the fourth post.

I'm not advocating for literal adaptation of fiction. I think anything can be adapted if the writer and director are given free reign to change what they feel needs changing. The only time I get my dander up is if filmmakers take liberties with true events.

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Charnelhouse


Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:46 am
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As Stephen King points out in Danse Macabre -- and he is so right -- the medium itself fictionalizes. Even documentaries are subject to the filmmaker's interpretation. It may be true in the eyes of the filmmaker and pure horseapples to you. So what the gosh darn heck can you do?

With that said, I don't really dig seeing a version of Dracula that portrays Mina Harker as Dr. Van Helsing's daughter...

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Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:50 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Cliffie wrote:
With that said, I don't really dig seeing a version of Dracula that portrays Mina Harker as Dr. Van Helsing's daughter...


Darn it Cliffie, quit making me think.What version of Dracula has Mina be Dr. Van Helsing's daughter? Dracula 1972 AD?

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Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:08 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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[quote="Cliffie"]As Stephen King points out in Danse Macabre -- and he is so right -- the medium itself fictionalizes. Even documentaries are subject to the filmmaker's interpretation. It may be true in the eyes of the filmmaker and pure horseapples to you. So what the gosh darn heck can you do?[quote]

As Dr. Freex has said, once you get to the editing process, a position on the subject is assumed.

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Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:46 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Bergerjacques wrote:
Cliffie wrote:
With that said, I don't really dig seeing a version of Dracula that portrays Mina Harker as Dr. Van Helsing's daughter...


Darn it Cliffie, quit making me think.What version of Dracula has Mina be Dr. Van Helsing's daughter? Dracula 1972 AD?


Wasn't that the Frank Langella version of the 70s?

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Charnelhouse


Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:14 pm
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Charnelhouse wrote:
Bergerjacques wrote:
Cliffie wrote:
With that said, I don't really dig seeing a version of Dracula that portrays Mina Harker as Dr. Van Helsing's daughter...


Darn it Cliffie, quit making me think.What version of Dracula has Mina be Dr. Van Helsing's daughter? Dracula 1972 AD?


Wasn't that the Frank Langella version of the 70s?

It was indeed. That version also makes Mina be Lucy, and vice versa.

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