The Math Formula That Determines Whether You Love Or Hate Adaptations

Greetings, mail parasites. Sorry if I'm in a bad mood, it's just been a tough week here in the vague post-apocalypse. Food is scare, the cannibal mutants aren't, and I just remembered it's been 38 years since I last saw a Game of Thrones book. NO SPOILERS PAST BOOK 9, A SOCIETY OF PSYCHOPATHS, PLEASE.


Math of the Gods

-aguaman87

Dear Mr. Postman,

Here's hoping that this letter finds its way through the time vortex to find you well and reasonably un-zombie'd.

My question is about a letter that you answered recently regarding the potential live-action Akira remake. As fans of genre properties, should we not embrace the remakes (even if they are Americanized *shudder*) as they will introduce new fans to the properties?

Now, obviously we have been burned with terrible remakes but if a property is able to be Americanized while maintaining the spirit of the original, should we not embrace it? Hell, even if it doesn't, it could still allow us to introduce people to the original, better property (an example is the horrible Dragonball movie from a few years ago; I was actually able to introduce a friend to the original shows because she saw the movie and wanted to see more).

To summarize an overly long question: How willing should we be to let our favorite shows/movies/etc change in order to bring in new fans?

It's not really a matter of "should" as much as "can." How willing "can" we be to let our favorite shows/movies/etc change in order to bring in new fans? That depends on a ton of things.

First, it depends on the property itself. How passionate do we feel about it? The more we love it, the less likely we are to accept changes to these properties in their adaptations.

Secondly, how grave are the changes? Are they superficial? Are they major? Is the adaptation still true to the original, or has it lost the core of what made people fans of it in the first place? The bigger the changes, the more likely fans are to be upset. But it's the deviation from the franchise's core appeal that matter most.

Third, what is the result of the adaptation? Is it still good on its own? Is it entertaining for people who aren't fans, and aren't familiar with the source material? Can it be enjoyed on other levels? And could it possibly inspire someone to check out the original? The more hardcore a fan you are, the less likely you are to care about this category, but it does still factor in.

There's an actual formula here. Plug in your affection for the franchise, the amount of change to the original, and whether the adaptation has any merits on its own and the result is your feelings for said adaptation. It's not a matter of being willing to accept something — you either do or you don't. I'm glad your friend was inspired by Dragonball Evolution to check out the original anime or manga, and obviously you are too, but that doesn't mean I think Dragonball Evolution isn't a turgid, bloody diarrhea stain of a film. I mean, it's nice that that was a by-product, but if I could have had a better film and your friend would have gone her entire life without knowing the joys of Dragonball, I would take that deal in a heartbeat.

But I'm a pretty big Dragonball fan. I'm not much of a Constantine/Hellblazer fan, so I didn't care about what the Keanu Reeves movie got wrong or ignored. If that movie gets a few people to read the original comics, hey, great. I am "willing" to accept that Constantine isn't a great movie, but I think it's nice that it could bring people to the comic. Meanwhile I'm not "willing" to allow that Dragonball Evolution has any redeeming factors whatsoever.

Obviously, you can add a lot of other factors to my totally scientifically accurate formula, but I'd say it basically hold true. Now discuss/tear apart in the comments.


The Math Formula That Determines Whether You Love Or Hate Adaptations


Movie Trailing

Charlie M.:

This Fall we will be getting 3 new comic book shows,The Flash, Constantine,andGotham,along with the return ofArrow andAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D,that's not to mention the MCU Netflix shows we'll soon be seeing. My question is, how will all these new shows effect and be effected by their respective universes?

We know that all of the MCU programs will be tied in one way or another to the movies, but as evidenced by the first season of AoS, if there is a bigger plan in motion, it can leave a show floundering until it's able to fall in line with that plan. WB pretty much avoided this problem withArrow by more or less affirming that it was in it's own standalone universe, ala the Nolan Batman films. But with the introduction of the Flash, and metahumans into that universe, they've essentially opened up an entire world that could very well include several if not all of the major players in the upcoming Justice League film. What's more, whileArrow andThe Flashare now both part of the CW programming block,ConstantineandGotham will be airing on NBC and Fox respectfully.

So does Warner Bros now effectively have 4 separate universes in the works? We've already seen thatConstantine plans on including characters such as Doctor Fate, could Del Toro's rumored Justice League Dark project have anything to do with this? In my opinion, it would be cool if all the DC shows were part of the same universe, but separate from the films, so they aren't left out to dry in the gaps between the movies. Maybe they could do an Earth One/Earth Two thing, with the movies being the "Main" universe and the shows being the secondary universe, but that's probably wishful thinking.

The quick version of how these TV shows will impact their movie-verses: Not at all.

The new DC Movie-verse will take nothing from Arrow, The Flash, Constantine or Gotham. Besides the TV showrunners going on record that Arrow and The Flash are in their own little DC universe, the movies will not be beholden to TV series that average a little over a million viewers per episode. Assuming this movie schedule is true, they will cast their own Flash, and if they ever get to Green Arrow they will cast their own as well. On the plus side, that leaves the Arrow/Flash guys to do pretty much whatever the hell they want in their shows.

Gotham and Constantine, despite being on bigger TV networks (Fox and NBC respectively), will still only pull in ratings of a few millions, again, nothing worth Warner Bros. bothering to try and tie in to their movies. Also, Gotham is set in the past, so that would be difficult to connect to the movies anyways. As for Constantine, it can include all the cameos from the DC magic-verse it likes, but it won't have the viewers to have any sway over the movies at all. If somehow, against all odds, Guillermo del Toro did make a Justice League Dark movie — and I wouldn't hold your breath — WB would hire a movie star to play Constantine, not grab the guy from the TV show.

So yes, DC will have four separate universes going, although to Warner Bros, they'll think of it as one universe — the movie-verse — and a bunch of TV shows that make some money but not enough to really worry about. Look, the same thing is true about Marvel and Agents of SHIELD, and that's directly tied to the Marvel cinematic universe — the show can react to the movies, but it really can't inform the movies.

Sure, Agent Coulson can show up in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and hey, maybe Ming-Na Wen can stand beside him and look stern, but nothing that will emphatically affect the movie-verse os going to happen in Agents of SHIELD. Captain America will not die on a TV show. Bruce Banner will not be cured of the Hulk. Black Widow will not marry the nerdy scientist guy Fitz. Stuff from Agents of SHIELD may pop up in the movies, but nothing that could possibly confuse audiences and thus jeopardize the literally billion dollars the movie can potentially make.


The Math Formula That Determines Whether You Love Or Hate Adaptations


Just Druid

Lame-Free Zone:

Dear Mr. Postman,
Following up on a couple of comments you made in recent columns:
1) If "Akira" is too tied into Japanese culture to work effectively with an American adaptation, would American adaptations of Cowboy Be Bop or Lupin III work any better?
2) What makes Dr. Druid the lamest Avenger ever?

1) Yes. Lupin is not only tied to a specific period, its also not as intrinsically Japanese as Akira is. It's the story of a gentleman-thief; he may pal around with a samurai, but he's still basically the same character as George Cooney in the Ocean's 11 movies. He's a character that can be adapted to pretty much anytime, anywhere, which is why he's stuck around for over 40 years.

Unlike Akira, Cowboy Bebop is not a response to a certain time or culture; it's just a great story with great characters, and yeah, I think it could be turned into an American movie pretty easily. Well, in terms of translating it to our culture; I think hiring the right actors to have the same chemistry as the animated originals would be tough as hell. But yeah, essentially there's nothing about Cowboy Bebop that makes it incomprehensible to American viewers. This is what has allowed Cartoon Network to basically rerun it non-stop for the last decade, and continue to get good ratings with it.

2) Dr. Druid is a telepath and a magician. Yet when he joined the Avengers, he was instantly — instantly — mind-controlled by the evil Nebula (who was actually a space-pirate pretending to be Nebula, but don't worry about that) and destroyed the Avengers, both literally and figuratively. Let me reiterate this — he was a telepath who let himself be mind-controlled by a space-pirate. When he eventually got control of himself and tried to lead the Defenders, he was mind-controlled again, which was so embarrassing he had to fake his own death. When he got new, more druid-y powers, he lost his mind and had to be killed by the Son of Satan (who is a hero in the Marvel-verse, for the record). Dr. Druid sucked so much that when Black Widow went back in time to the day before he died, needing Dr. Druid's help for some reason, she didn't even bother to warn him about his imminent demise. Dr. Druid sucks ass.


My Deity Is An Alien

Bryce A.:

1) How do you think aliens coming to Earth would affect the alien genre of science fiction? Let's say an alien lands, and dies, and we study it. After a certain amount of knowledge, would a lot of stories instantly be dated and useless, like a road map from 1900?

2) What if we found out that there in fact was a God, but he created aliens and just let humans evolve? They got to go to heaven, but it wasn't for humans, just like its not for frogs or dragons or E.T.?

1) It would certainly affect the genre; science fiction likes to move forward from the present, so the arrival of aliens would necessitate adding them into their new world-view. It wouldn't mean the end of alien scifi — it would likely spawn a good amount of it, especially regarding our new intergalactic neighbors — and there's no reason for scifi to stop imagining there are more aliens out there. As for old stories getting dated, do you consider all the '50s stories about sentient computers the size of buildings to be dated? I guess they are, but that doesn't diminish the stories themselves. Technology changes, events happen, time moves on. Good writing is good writing, and no amount of facts can change that.

2) The creator of the universe hanging out with another alien race? That would be HILARIOUS. But I can't even imagine a situation where that happens in a way to convince the people of the Earth that their believes are no longer valid. I mean, without some kind of concrete proof that the aliens are on God's fast-track and humanity is some evolutionary bacteria writ large, none of the religious people here would believe someone hanging out with a bunch of aliens over the deity they've chosen to worship, and why would they?

What proof could actually be presented, other than God himself coming down, putting an arm around the alien and saying, "These are my homeboys, dog!"? Even then, who on Earth would accept that as proof? They'd think sure, the aliens may have a god, and he's claiming to be our God, but he's obviously not. Even if that God came to Earth and showed his omnipotence, people would say, "Well, that's clearly an all-powerful being, but despite his claims to the contrary he's not God, because why would he prefer those aliens over us?"

Faith by its nature does not concede to fact. I don't mean that to be shitty, I mean that faith is by definition belief without proof, and thus people who believe in God will continue to believe in God, no matter what.


The Math Formula That Determines Whether You Love Or Hate Adaptations


Can't Man?

Sixwhirled:

Hello Mr. Postman,

Since you are from the future can you tell us if "Ant Man" is going to suck? And if it does, does that portend the end of Marvel's cinematic winning streak? With Disney executives taking a more active role in Marvel's movie making enterprise, I can only imagine Brett Ratner and Michael Bay are not far behind.

Ant-Man will be fine. It'll have a few laughs, a few cool action scenes, and will generate a cameo or two and a few Easter Eggs in the main Marvel movies, but it won't be popular enough to generate a sequel. It'll be swept into the dustbin where Marvel keeps the Incredible Hulk movie — technically part of the canon, but nothing anyone really needs to see again or talk much about.


The Math Formula That Determines Whether You Love Or Hate Adaptations

Universal Solder

Bobby N.:

I clicked on your page the other day (reference) to read your predictions for Han in Star Wars. So the question is which of the two parallel universes do you have a window? And Disney, as the new owner of the Star Wars Universe(s), is going to make the call on what is canon and what is not. Have you read any of the books? Or do you only exist in the Lucas Star Wars-verse. The authors that have worked so hard to entertain us over the years while we waited for the mythical VII, VIII, and IX for the most part did a great job.

Is Disney just going to hack it all and say "Nope sorry, thanks for playing we are going our own way."?

Yeah, the Expanded Universe is gone. I mean, completely gone. Much like the old saying was "Unless it was in the Star Wars movies, it's not canon," the new decree is "until Disney says it is, it's not canon." Everything in the Expanded Universe has effectively been erased.

That's not to say that the New Star Wars Universe won't draw upon the old Expanded Universe in the future. For instance, I can imagine a scenario where Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire book makes his movie debut. But if he does, there's almost zero chance of Disney making a straight-up adaptation of Heir to the Empire. They will use the character and make a story to fit their own needs and whatever the hell they've established so far. And at that point, this new Thrawn will be canon, and the original Thrawn will be an amusing alternate "What If?" story.

Think of it almost like the Ultimate Star Wars universe, where the movie content remains the same, but everything else is technically new. Disney may borrow some ideas and characters to bring into the new canon, but they will not be beholden to anything that has been written about them, or that they're previously done. Or they may ignore every single bit of the Expanded Universe, regardless of its value, in order to completely do their own thing.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!