Discuss: Adaptations vs. Critics

Last weekend The Hunger Games opened in the US (and in many international markets) to the biggest weekend box office of the year so far. Usually I try to avoid discussing a films’ revenue or expenditures because I believe that neither of those elements actually indicate how good a film truly is. As the artistic merits of a film is objective it’s always been defaulted for journalists (especially those who aren’t critics) to rely on the masses reaction to a film by their vote at the box office, hence our obsession with such statistics. Which is why to this day we still talk about Gone With The Wind, Titanic and Avatar (ok maybe I was a bit harsh there with Gone With the Wind).

So, as I was saying, I saw The Hunger Games last week and I was less than please with the film when I posted my full review. Since my blog isn’t very well trafficked I didn’t dread any backlash (bring it on trolls), but some of my followers on twitter came at me for the review. One passionate follower of mine (@Liddles15) decided to respond with some very critical remarks. One of which came down to the idea that one must do his due diligence whenever reviewing a film.

Now since this was in reference to The Hunger Games it was pointing out the fact that I had (like I have with many adaptations) not read the source material. So, the question I have on my mind is whether or not this supposed “due diligence” is required for me to review the film?

I’ve always had the belief that a film is a film and a book is a book. A film can be great, a book horrendous, and the opposite also be a possibility. If that stands to reason then why does the strength of the source material matter in the resulting product? Sometimes the fact that a film is “based on” a book (or any other sort of source material) becomes so thinly veiled an idea that it barely deserves bothering to even mention the source and just enjoy the film (or hate on it) for what it is.

I guess to answer one of my own questions: the source does matter at times. It’s easy for a bad source to generate a horrendous final product, but at times difficult for a great source to produce a bad film (even though it’s been accomplished time and time again). So when I leave a film based on a beloved book and all I get in my ear is about how it took the book and made it so well and I find myself left with a deep seated feeling that glaring gaps were left out of the plot that I received then I don’t know how people can be upset with me whenever I ask questions they decide that content from the source that wasn’t properly translated into the film wasn’t there and they wrap up their thoughts with a nice tidy “it’s for the fans” comment. As if to say that they’re some form of an elite squad of geek that is only allowed to enjoy this commodity.

While I’m not against niche groups of fans and finding ways of being able to point out a true fan by seeing those people who just “get it” whenever it comes to certain genre-bending cinema, that doesn’t make me better than those who end up standing out in the rain looking at the warm fireplace that me and my film geek friends are curling around telling tales of how the first rule of …

One of my favourite examples to deal with great adaptations of the last few years has to be Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (yes I like books with lots of pictures). While Edgar Wright wrote the script before the series was actually complete he found a way to grab the tone of the books and convey the points and themes across so well that the changes and omissions didn’t even phase me, no matter how hardcore a fan I was.

When you’re given a source which is 300+ pages long (I don’t know how long The Hunger Games is) and have to condense that all into a two hour long film things are going to go missing. A more popular choice is to have characters amalgamate so as to try and keep getting points important to the story come across somewhat organically. The silent rebellion was quietly executed in the film in a way that was continually disrupted by the sloppy action and romance and the film truly never recovered from that for me, but who am I but just another guy with a keyboard handy.

But then again, stepping back from this instance, the question still remains.

Do critics need to have consumed a film’s source material in order to properly review the film?

  • Lindsay

    Do critics need to have consumed a film’s source material in order to properly review the film? 

    NO.

    I agree with you 100%, a book is a book and a film is a film. They are two separate mediums that present a story/art to people in a very different way. To say you need to read the source material of a film to properly review it doesn’t make any sense. I agree that there will obviously be a different experience with someone who does have prior knowledge going into a film vs someone that doesn’t, but different does not imply one is “right” and the other is “wrong”.

    On a related note, I actually read The Hunger Games and I still wasn’t thrilled with the film. I’m honestly not 100% sure why its being so well received by critics. I think it’s a good film but filled with problems and disappointments. 

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

     Hoozah!!! Now that I’m not alone let’s form an army and gang up on these twitter trolls aggravating me for not liking THE HUNGER GAMES.:P

  • Lydia

    Now lookie here boy (yes boy although you are what 4 months older than me). This film was clearly marketed for fans of the book and other potential young adult readers. You critically analyzed the movie after having far too high expectations of it as a non fan. Your review also said you couldn’t follow the storyline (not their fault you’re slow) and you just wanted them to “get to the point”. Adaptations are tricky depending on the genre. You’ll notice that some studios will market directly to the fans while others will try for a broader audience. This is very difficult to do with young adult and children’s books e.g Twilight, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Northern Lights a.k.a The Golden Compass. In these cases the film adaptations have been to appease the target market, the fans, which I think the Hunger Games successfully accomplished. So, if you’re going to critique a movie that has been an adaptation it would make sense to read the source material depending on the genre. If not you will review these movies based on how you (a 26yo male) liked them and not what they were trying to accomplish by bringing the book to screen. The Hunger Games (minus the camerawork during that last fight scene) is a good, dark, poignant movie. It most definitely didn’t deserve your 3.5/10 rating. However, that your opinion so w/e.

    P.S Who you calling a twitter troll? I prefer the term STAN u ass.

    sign
    @Liddles15:twitter

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

     :)

    I’ll allow the “boy” chatter for the moment. I prefer troll.

  • Damion Whyte

    Every Critic should have to consume and be  familiar with every piece of material to have ever had any influence on the movie they are reviewing, further more they should endeavor to relate to the themes of the movie, for example before reviewing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo i read all the books, watched the movies, got anally raped, became a hacker and lit Stieg Larsson on fire.  

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

    sounds like fun, which brand of lubricant did you use?