We’ve all heard it a million times: “Well, it’s not as good as the book!” or “That didn’t happen in the comics!” Should that detract from the movie experience? I’ll just be straightforward here and say, “Fuck nope.”
The thing about adapting books or comics to the big screen is they’re not even the same medium. What works in context of the written word won’t always play well on the big screen. Comics are easier to compare to film given the use of imagery, and since we’re doing AEvengers Week, this seems like a match made in heaven for discussion.
I could tell you when adapting material there has to be a baseline understanding of the property, but that’s just crap. These are fictional characters and fictional worlds. You can do whatever the fuck you want because they don’t actually exist. There’s no reason to start with Peter Parker again instead of Miles Morales. Batman can kill people. Superman could become a villain. If you’ve got a good writing/directing team behind the project, anything is possible. Fanboys will lose their minds, but they make up a minor percentage of the audience. What audiences everywhere seek is whether a film will give them worthy entertainment for a few hours.
Remember when I Am Legend with Will Smith was released in 2007? (I’m fully aware this isn’t a comic book, but just stick with me.) It’s a decent movie with some solid, singular moments. It falls flat for me on the side of a book reader since it misses the point of the book entirely. Forgive me for Caps Locking this next bit, but it’s eternally frustrating when several movie adaptations can’t understand that THE TWEAKING OF THE FINEST THEMATIC THREAD RENDERS THE ORIGINAL END RESULT MOOT. I recognize we shouldn’t throw babies out with bathwater. That’s how we get baby idea genocide. However, there are clear circumstances that require us to keep the spirit of the book, and the central ideas, without filling them with meaningless bloat.
Let me reiterate that this is coming from the fan perspective of the book mixed with my apathetic feelings towards every movie adaptation. What I’m really saying is we just need movies with guts, because when you’re telling a story in a new medium, prior source material in a different medium shouldn’t matter.
Undoubtedly the most drastic change in recent source material coming to the big screen is The Mandarin. In Iron Man 3, The Mandarin is an amalgamation of our fears of terrorist boogeymen in the Middle East. An untouchable monster lurking in the shadows who extends his arm far enough to hurt America’s interests. Of course it’s all a farce. This version of The Mandarin is actually Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), a drug addled actor hired by Tony Stark’s secret archenemy, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Killian’s ultimate goal is to gain control through fear with a homegrown terror threat while having control of the Vice President (who would become President once Killian publicly executes him). On top of that, Killian and his goons are biologically enhanced with heat based weaponry and regenerative properties.
The Mandarin in the comics is a Cold War stereotype leftover from the 1960’s who has ten magic rings. I think it’s safe to say Shane Black and company made the right decision in reworking the character from the ground up.
Is it true to the comics? Frick to the fuck to the nope. What we get instead is an original take on established material with a director’s touch who understands how to compromise his stylistic integrity with the producer heavy influenced universe of Marvel. What I’m saying is we should all be asking Shane Black to do more Marvel movies if they’re even half as good as Iron Man 3. But what I’m also saying is we should be willing to take chances with movies nowadays.
I’m a defender of the current crop of superhero movies. If they are to survive, we need risks to continue to be taken. Don’t stick to formulas and source material. Let creative minds take over and pave the way with a singular vision before compromise becomes the only premise.
Featured Image: Walt Disney; Marvel Studios