My wife and I went to see Avatar the week that it came out, and we both enjoyed it tremendously. It was big and beautiful and exciting and fun. And if the plot was a little predictable, and if the characters were a little flat, there are worse things. I was excited just to see some big space opera happening on a movie screen again. Full of color and aliens and emotions besides scowls.
But as we were walking out of the theater, there was one thing which had caught and held my attention, and it was something specific which was missing from the ending credits.
Avatar, of course, wasn’t adapted from anything. It came out of James Cameron’s head.
(We can argue, of course, that it was adapted from Pocahontas, perhaps, and fair enough, but you get my point).
The reason this interested me is, nearly everything that hits the theaters is adapted from something.
“Based on the comic book series by Alan Moore”, “based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry”, “based on the series of words-put-in-rows by Stephanie Meyer”… And we can go further afield than that: “based on the newspaper strip by Jim Davis”, “based on the action figure G.I. Joe”, for haven’s sakes.
The only thing we haven’t yet seen adapted are breakfast cereal mascots. Get Michael Bay to produce a Cap’n Crunch movie. Give it a techno soundtrack and you’ve got a summer blockbuster.
We know that the vast majority of things Hollywood produces are adaptations, because people comment on it fairly regularly, both on the street and in interviews. “Hollywood just rehashes everything, they’ve run out of original ideas,” is neck-in-neck with the other common grumble, “MTV doesn’t play any damn music videos now.”
Adaptations are such a fact of life, something like Avatar – or, another sterling example, any of the perfect pieces of cinematic artwork created by Pixar – catches our attention for sheer fact that it isn’t based off anything at all.
So with that in mind, let’s examine adaptations a little further.