10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 8. It Won’t Change a Thing

Jeremy Sumpter and Rachel Hurd-Wood in Peter Pan (Universal)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

The problem I think a lot of people have, and it’s a nasty trap that I’ve seen ensnare many, is that people seem to think that films are somehow definitive; as if that’s the final word on the work and that’s how it will be remembered for all eternity. While it’s true in a theoretical sense that film may be the most concrete and immutable art it by no means claims to be the coda, furthermore the verdict on the worth of a given piece of narrative.

Your favorite book or comic is being adapted into a film and you are pissed? Why bother? What for? I’ll explain why and this even works for remakes to an extent. It still doesn’t change an iota of the written piece that you love so dearly. If you disliked the mini-series based on Stephen King’s It the words in your copy won’t smear.

That’s an extremely hyperbolic example but surely you catch my drift. It’s all about perception and those can change as much as anything. So while it will be next to impossible for the film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye to match the book in terms of acclaim I won’t deny it’d be interesting to see.

Not only is it waste of your ire to rail against an adaptation of something you love, it also is to an extent pointless, that piece you hold so dear is still there.

I’ve seen The Little Prince butchered on film. It’s still one of my favorite books and I can always turn to it and know that the story will turn out in my head just the way I see it. Just the way I interpret Exupéry’s words.

And that’s another thing: every adaptation is just an interpretation of a director’s vision regardless of how involved a studio is. It is by no means definitive, lest you agree, it’s just a variation on a theme. I personally think P.J. Hogan perfected Peter Pan and Spike Jonze got Where The Wild Things Are, others may disagree.

We all have baggage; it’s best to check yours before entering the auditorium lest it weigh you down.



  1. David · March 26, 2012

    I agree with you on Hogan’s Peter Pan movie and Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are; especially the former. I thought it was a beautiful movie that captured Barrie’s story really fantastically well, with it neither feeling dated nor distractingly modern. It’s my favorite movie version of that story, next to Disney’s more adventure-oriented one.

    I still do get annoyed when a film adaptation ruins the story of a beloved book, though I’m grateful the book remains! I guess what’s worse is if the movie version butchers the story and is majorly financially successful. Like it’s rewarded for ruining the good story. Of course this feeling of mine is a little silly — as you say, the book’s still there. When The Eagle (2010) butchered the story, nuance, and pace of Rosemary Sutcliff’s wonderful novel The Eagle of the Ninth, I was sad, but I still could reread the book and be happy again. Still, there’s always the knowledge that a good movie adaptation will raise the book’s profile and bring more people to it. So a poor adaptation brings disappointment because of what might have been.

    • bernardovillela · March 27, 2012


      Thank you for reading and your very thoughtful post. Yes, annoyance is nearly unavoidable but that’s the point of the posts in a certain way, managing that emotion. Certainly when a film mishandles something (in our view) that is more visceral and intangible I find that a more credible complaint than one that’s merely factual such as an omission or changing of facts. You make some very good points and I’m sad to say I am unfamiliar with both the book and film you reference but would gladly be enlightened.

      Thanks again!


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