Lost In Translation

17 12 2011

Have you ever felt betrayed? Lied to? Like someone was trying to pull a thick, itchy, gray carpet of wool and rotting sheep flesh over your eyes?

Figuratively I mean.

Allow me to elaborate. I watched a movie yesterday that enjoyed wide-spread popularity upon release and from what I can gather still maintains a certain place in the weekly movie nights of some. It was a film that featured a beautiful soundtrack, stunning visual effects and enough glorious combat and inspirational speeches to please any action fan. Oh, and a great heap of vicious lies.


Now don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It was fun to watch. I can tell you though, as a student of ancient literatures, particularly greek, there were perhaps more than a few inaccuracies. Now I could drone on about how their women seemed far too feminine and their military dress bordered on ridiculous but I won’t. Much. Seriously though, anyone who decides to arm their fighting force in speedos and capes has defeat coming to them and reserves no right to complain when things go wrong. 

“This jock strap doesn’t make me invincible? Are you joking?”


I’m pretty sure I’ve said that at one point in my life actually. But coming back to the facts, those 300 had two huge things going for them. The terrain was one, which was well acknowledged in the film. The other was their technological superiority. Spartans were caged in bronze, hate to say it. The weak materials the Persians crafted their weapons from weren’t up to the task of tearing through such thick metals. Oh and the Persians wore armor made of wicker. WICKER. Yeah, march into battle wearing a decorative basket or sun room chair on your head and complain that you are even more inept than the legion of the speedo.  Ancient humans were goofy.

Who looks at a sunroom chair and says, “I’m going to turn that into armor?” Well, how many Persians do you know?


But like I said, it was fun nonetheless. And to go along with it – the new release of Fright Night. Another film the Vixen and I unwound from work with during the week. Now anyone who hasn’t seen the original film, I urge you to go and watch it. It was great. It managed to be fun, well done visual effects (for its time) and I’m sure, pretty damn scary. (again, for its time)

The new rendition of the film? Totally different direction. In fact, if the characters didn’t have the same names as those in the original film, you could sell it as a totally different movie. Really, it’s not the same. Yet I enjoyed it. It was a good movie – fun times.

But why am I going on about movies if I’m so interested in books? The answer is simple. Every movie has a writer. Just because people are acting the story out doesn’t mean that the script appears from the sky, drifting down on a cloud in the arms of an angel whenever the powers at be decided, “Hey I think today is a good day to make a movie.”

Nope its a real person. With real pencils. Or pens or word processors or whatever else that particular word monkey decides he wants to use to carve his mark into the world’s tough, stubbled cheek.

Someone sat down with the original script and asked themselves how they could bring it into the 00’s. Then they hired a writer or possibly writers, dumped the raw materials onto a table and watched them kick, bite and scratch for whatever bits they can drag back to their corners. Thirty hours, twelve pots of coffee and a jug of bourbon moonshine later (This is Upstate New York, not that classy) the project directors let the apes emerge into the non flourescent light of day, the new Frankenstein golem of an ‘updated’ movie lumbering out behind them.

There is much ‘oooooo’ing’ and ‘awwwwwww’ing’ and everyone pats themselves on the back and says hooray we have an original here. Updates on occasion do work but sometimes I feel you should just leave it alone. It’s exactly the reason I haven’t yet watched the new True Grit. Nobody can out-John-Wayne, John Wayne. He’s a one and only sort of guy.

The other bit of wool I’m talking about is watching books transition (not always well) to film. Some books hit best seller and then get ‘adapted’ for the screen. 2001, Starship Troopers and why not – Harry Potter to name a few. Plus three-quarters of everything Stephen King writes.

Notice how inevitably, things get lost in the translation. Such as the major sex change in Starship Troopers. Yeah, in the book, Dizzy’s a guy. Had that not been changed in the film, I don’t think Rico would have been so quick to hop in the sack the night before Dizzy got killed. Just throwing that out there. Oh and, they omitted an entire race of aliens. And a ton of interesting gadgets, but hey, it spawned two terrible, unrelated sequels. You know what, nevermind. Next topic.

There is an overwhelming disconnect between book to film and the older versions of movies compared to newer, ‘updated’ counterparts. Do you have tolerance for this sort of thing? How far does a movie have to deviate from the original written work before it starts to irk you a bit? Does it even bother you?




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