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Adapt this!

There is something that really annoys me when a great book is adapted into a movie. I’m, often annoyed by additions, sometimes annoyed by subtractions, but I really get ticked when scenes are completely flipped. An addition I can handle if it’s within the spirit of the original work, a subtraction I can understand, but to completely flip a scene around to be the opposite of what it was in the book gets my goat.

To give you an example of what I mean, let us consider just one scene in the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and it’s movie counterpart, Blade Runner. I pick just one scene because there are only about four scenes that the book and the movie share, and this one bugs me every time.

When Deckard goes to the Tyrell Corporation (Rosen in the book) to try and give the old Voit-Kampf test to a Nexus 6 the change is almost a total reversal between book and movie. This is in chapter 4and 5 of the book, you probably know where it is in the movie. In the book, there is an owl, in the movie there is an owl. The owl is sort of a big deal in the book, while in the movie it’s just worthy of a single passed comment. The reason it’s a big deal is that owls are extinct in the book, and they claim it’s a real owl. Deckard almost craps his pants over the idea of there still being a single owl in the world and even goes so far to ask them what they’d take for it.

In the movie, he sort of asks if it’s artificial and Rachel says that it is and that’s the end of that. If anything Eldon is smug and a little fascinated by how much effort it took for Deckard to figure it out. Narratively speaking, the scene is merely used as a tool for the audience to understand what a tough job Deckard has before him.

When Deckard gives the test to Rachel, in both versions, she fails. In the movie, Eldon tells Rachel to leave the room and admits her status to Deckard. In the book, they claim she’s socially retarded, but human. They then claim that this invalidates the Voit-Kampf test and that the police will have to abandon it. Then the two Rosens try to bribe Deckard with what might be the last living owl on earth. They don’t actually admit she’s an android until he traps them and at that moment, they revel that the owl is artificial too. The point of that section of the book is far more complicated. Beyond all the story elements, it also went into Dick’s personal views of how monolithic corporations operated.

In the book, Eldon is a manipulative, devious little bastard, ready to screw over anyone and anything to avoid hurting his bottom line. While in the movie, Eldon is shown to be a helpful and cooperative, if somewhat smug, geek who is more interested in showing off how cool his new toy is.

The spirit of the scene is almost completely flipped into something entirely different. It’s almost made into an opposite of the original idea.

Another one that really annoyed me is the Mouth of Sauron scene in Return of the King. Again, the book and movie are almost completely flipped. In the book, Aragorn tenses his hand into a fist and the Mouth of Sauron craps himself in fear. He screams that he’s an emissary and there and ancient laws and Aragorn explains that the Mouth is completely safe and he wouldn’t waste his time with killing him. In the movie, Aragorn just lops the guy’s head off in mid sentence. Pissed me off to no end, since that’s my favorite scene in my favorite book in the trilogy and it turned me completely against the movie where as before I had merely been annoyed by it. I almost didn’t bother watching the extended cut at all because I previewed that scene and it pissed me off so much.

There are, of course, a lot of other examples of this phenomenon. However, it is not my intent to list off each and every occasion that it happened. I was just pointing out that it bugs me and giving some examples. I’ve found it bothers me more when specific scenes have their meaning switched around rather than when the whole movie has its ideas or meaning switched. While that one scene in Blade Runner always bothers me, there really isn’t anything in the rest of the movie’s narrative (what little there is) that bugs me. I can skip by the deletion of the wife, the fake police station, the sheep, the whole Mercerism thing, none of that bothers me. None of the other chops or changes to the story bug me, just that one scene.

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May 18, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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