So today, I came across this lovely article which features 10 YA novels that have been sold to movie production companies and are supposedly going to become films. I love movies, so some of these all look promising to me, but at the same time I’m terrified that the movies are going to muck up the original works.
This is what happened with the (sorry to even mention it, I know it’s painful for fans to think about) Avatar: The Last Airbender film. I enjoy the television series, and so do some of my friends, so naturally we decided to go see ATLA in theaters together. Our mistake.
Being a fan of something is risky. By allowing ourselves an emotional involvement with a story or its characters, we in some way make ourselves vulnerable. If the characters and the writing is good, like in the tv series of Avatar: the Last Airbender, then the idea of expanding the story to a new media is threatening. What you already have is enough – it’s more than enough! But we get caught in the hidden optimism of the situation; we hope that the film is as good or better than the original.
In the case of ATLA, we left the theater $9 poorer, having spent 2 hours viewing a film that made us extremely frustrated. I’m not sure what exactly we were mad about. There’s certainly a level of understandable anger that comes from spending money and time on a sub-par movie, but this experience was more than that.
An adaptation gives new creators an opportunity to give their own take on a story and its characters. I don’t want to say that one person’s interpretation is more valid than another’s, but in the case of films, books, and television with a dedicated following, there is a general understanding of the characters that most people agree with. That’s one of the dangers of choosing to do an adaptation – an inherently critical and skeptical audience. The ATLA movie did not mesh with our mental expectations for the live-action storyworld and it was so disappointing. Even more than that – it just wasn’t a good film. In any way. I still get kinda irked when I think about that movie.
Which is why, when I found out that Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo) was being made into a film series, my initial reaction was dread. I expressed in my review for this book a while ago that the story reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender. That was a cool connection that made Bardugo’s storyworld more appealing to me. In some ways, Shadow and Bone was the extension of ATLA that the film never offered.
And I don’t know if I can take another failed depiction of that world.
The producer, however, also famously worked on the Harry Potter series – one which in my overall opinion did justice to its mythology and universe, so there is some hope! I’ll be keeping an eye on the development of Shadow and Bone, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m naturally optimistic that any adaptation will be a good film.
Here’s the book trailer for Shadow and Bone, which leaves much to be desired, but also leaves infinite room for imagination:
Anyone else out there had a bad experience with an adaptation?