I love films, but at the same time I very rarely get excited about when something gets remade from TV shows or books into a couple hours – heck, did anyone see what they did to Avatar the Last Airbender? Although we don’t like to talk about it, it is extremely relevant to what we’re about to dive into, because it’s a truly horrifying example of what films can do to some of our treasured memories.
But let’s not talk about that specific example, because no one wants to remember that movie…“Ong”… what the hell is ‘ong’? It’s ‘Aang’!
There’s a lot of debate about books moving on to the big screen because of what actually gets put in, what happens to characters, and what changes are made to the plot to actually compact it to the time limit that film unfortunately has.
For many people, A Game of Thrones was one of the biggest let downs when it came onto HBO as it cut out a lot of characters and details. Personally, I just didn’t have the time to finish the books, which are thick and rich in detail, and so I ended up binging the seasons over a weekend to catch up to the hype.
Some more successful films include the Lord of the Rings series – purely because they were long films that tried to get as much detail as possible. Pleasing the audience is always a risk when it comes to transferring a narrative from one fictional vehicle to another. There’s so much in a book that you can’t give on screen – for example, what the character is thinking, or even what the actual features of the story look like. Directors are the ones who choose every detail of a film, so we’re looking at their perspective and their interpretation of a book, not what the audience thought. Everyone takes something different away from each written piece, be it a poem, a short story, or a novella, hence why we all have different interpretations of the same story – a popular ‘true’ narrative depicting this is history; there are many different versions for the same battle, or civilisation, or person. In a more simplistic example, I know for a fact that when I read the description of a character, it’s different to what my friends believed they looked like.
Another way to explain this is to look at a simpler vehicle for writing – poetry. Poetry is there for interpretation, which is honestly why I don’t like reading it out loud to someone, or have someone read it to me – it ruins my interpretation and fills me with the perspective and tone of someone else. It’s all about the emotive response of the reader, and the lesson to be learned. It’s far more abstract in poetry than actual books because of the simplicity yet vague language used; it allows the reader to do as they please with the narrative within it.
Now don’t get me wrong, having these other interpretations and remakes of the written word is far more entertaining for most. I know for a fact that Alec personally didn’t like A Game of Thrones as the book series and preferred the television series much more. These interpretations in fact have a more practical use, which is to help those who can’t read listen to the words on the page.
However, in my opinion, it still does so at the risk of losing the free will of the audience and the power of interpretation. That is why my answer, along with Alec’s, to this question, is that film definitely remakes narratives – it’s unavoidable, just as objectivity is impossible within historical narratives.
In fact, any remake of anything, film, poem, music even, remakes the original into something different.