We’ve been slack on the Weekend Discussion since comments came back, but because of the news about The Road I want to get a topic out to people. There were a lot of comments on that article (which was great) and many from people who’ve read the book, recognized a lot of what was in the screening report as straight from the book, and defended what they envision as the cut of the film based on that. Also great.
The broad topic is: what are your primary criteria for novel adaptations? There’s a lot to be said for exactly transferring material from page to celluloid, but is that enough? Is the feel of a book contained just within the events it depicts? What about an ineffable quality — essentially the soul of a book — that can fall between the edits of a movie, even if scenes in the film correspond exactly to what’s on the page? While the cut of The Road that is being described sounds right in many ways, I can see the film missing the boat on the feel of the book entirely.
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is a good counter-point argument against some of what people have commented here with respect to The Road. Even having seen only the couple minutes shown at Comic Con, I feel like Snyder has nailed the look of the film. He appears to have taken what Moore and Gibbons put on the page, and transferred it to the screen. But many of you (and me) have been justifiably cautious in embracing the adaptation without seeing more. Sure, he’s got the look, but does he have the spirit? Will it sound and feel right?
And background on my own take, which has hopefully come across on the site before: My baseline preference is for an adaptation that takes liberties with the source. I can be convinced by great, literal approaches, obviously. No Country For Old Men is nearly word-for-word in many ways, and the filmic result can’t be argued. The example I ceaselessly cite as a preference is Naked Lunch, where David Cronenberg took great liberties with the material, but managed to capture the spirit of Burroughs in a way a literal adaptation might easily have missed. Jonze and Kaufman’s Adaptation appropriately works as a good example of taking extreme liberties as well.
That being the case, a final question: how do you envision reacting to The Road and Watchmen if, much like Adaptation, the films work on their own, but have a wholly different spirit from the source material? With these properties, is that even possible?
Have at it in the comment section below, or check out the message board thread on the topic.