I recently read an interview with Lauren Shuler Donner (the producer of all the X-Men movies, Wolverine, and about two dozen other films). It was all pretty standard stuff, but there was one particular passage that caught my eye regarding exisiting fan bases.
It’s enormously important to us. Because of my experience on X-Men I pay a lot of attention to them. In fact, when we were releasing things from the movie, from Constantine and X2, I always like to release them to the internet first, because they’re our fan base and they’re very, very important to us. We pay attention, believe me.
The problem becomes like on the first X-Men trying to second guess the fans. It comes down to you have to know what you believe in, know there are elements the fans are looking for, try to make sure those elements are incorporated and have the liberty to make a movie. They’re our most important audience.
Here’s a little secret: Hollywood DOES NOT care about pleasing fanatics. Of course, they say they do. I mean they want you to drag your friends and loved ones to midnight screenings so they’ll say that you’re “their #1 priority”… but you’re not.
And do you know why?
Because they don’t have to worry about you. If you care enough about something to eviscerate every internet rumor you can get your hands on, dress up like the characters, or buy three different versions of the same DVD just for the extra special features… chances are you’re gonna go see the movie no matter what it’s like. Because, let’s face it… you can’t NOT see it. You can’t NOT know. So why preach to the converted?
When a producer sets out to make a movie based on a comic, novel, or video game, their goal isn’t to make a faithful adaptation. Otherwise they wouldn’t butcher a treasured character’s back story to satisfy a cameo or change the ending of a best-seller in order to have an action-packed climax. Their goal is to make a film accessible to the LARGEST AUDIENCE possible.
And those are not “the fans”.
No, the people that Hollywood has to worry about are the folks in the middle. The ones who can’t tell the difference between Star Trek and Tek World. The ones who don’t know anything about a property beyond passing name recognition or a fancy poster. Those are the consumers Hollywood really cares about.
It’s this “bottom-line” philosophy that requires intricate stories to be re-tooled into an eight-sequence structure, complicated anti-heroes morphed into black and white cliches, and fascinating relationships chopped into cookie-cutter retreads. In essence, all the things that made the idea special and different in the first place are taken away so that EVERYONE can enjoy them.
(And they wonder why this doesn’t work?)
Now, I’m not suggesting that all films be perfect translations for true die hard fans because that’s been proven to be both unsuccessful and financially unsound. But in an ideal world, adaptations would fall on both sides. They would take the core concept and weave it seamlessly through an elegant frame. They would be original stories that require no prior knowledge of the source material. And they would both respect the fans and entertain the masses. It is a feat that has been accomplished numerous times by fantastic filmmakers.
But please, stop lying to the people who care about it the most. Fans can be your greatest supporter or your worst enemy… so please, show them the respect they deserve.
Or your potential franchise will be truncated into a one-shot previously viewed DVD at the bottom of the Blockbuster bargain bin.
You’ve been warned.
Hit me back. Until next time…