Peter Jackson, JJ Abrams, and The Sterility of Fanboy Criticism

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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142 Responses

  1. Random thought — does longevity of media play a role in this? The original Star Trek episodes are still on TV regularly, as are all of the movies, and many of them are available on demand. The Star Wars novels may go out of print, and libraries retire them from the shelves, but through the miracle of the Internet and bittorrent they will be available forever. In Shakespeare’s day, plays disappeared — they quit being produced, the limited numbers of written copies disappeared, memories faded. In a digital age, it all [1] lives forever, no matter how good or bad.

    [1] Except for things that might be critically important. NASA has shown an irritating tendency to simply let data that was cotemporaneous with Star Trek vanish, or come very close.Report

    • Avatar Kevin in reply to Michael Cain says:

      This was precisely my thought, as well. Similar to how written languages are more static than spoken, because we can look and see how things were done and what words meant 100 years ago. Spoken languages change when those that remember how it used to be die. I think the internet does similar things for art/culture.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Potentially. Art, film, novels, TV can be recorded and are fixed in time forever largely.

      Theatre and dance by nature are short-lived. There are recordings but not for everything and there is something flat or odd seeming about a play or dance performance that is tapped and recorded. Every now and then there will be a production that is so revolutionary that people don’t mount a play for several years. The famous example is a production of A Midsummer Nights Dream by Peter Brook from the early 1970s. The production was done all in white and the faerie magic was replaced with circus magic. The production went on a world tour and allegedly halted professional mountings of Midsummer for a few years. Beckett is also famous/infamous for requiring everything be done just as he says and you need to sign a contract agreeing to this in order to perform a Beckett play.

      Yet there are plenty of productions that I will never get to see because they existed in a moment and are no more like the original Ballet Ruse performances of Rite of Spring or the original Streetcar with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy or the 1945 Berliner Ensemble Production of Mother Courage and Her Children.

      Dance is interesting though. I don’t know much about dance but I have friends who dance devotees. Some are fans of the more traditional storybook ballets and they want everything to be the same. They don’t want to see a modern dress variant of Giselle, just like some people really dislike modern dress variants of Shakespeare. The traditionalists get upset at things like an all-male production of Swan Lake (a famous and controversial production, the choreographer went on to create Edward Scissorhands: The Ballet). And then there are the moderns who love any new variant or take.Report

    • I am tempted to speculate about what might have happened if Sherlock Holmes fans had had the distributional reach of the Web available to them. They managed to get Doyle to take back Holmes’ death even without it. How would they have responded to the stage and film versions of their beloved character? To the musical?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Sherlock Holmes fans were really the first modern fandom. They wrote and read fanfiction, quibbled about points of continuity and came up with improbable theories to explain discrepencies. They argued about whether stories belonged in the canon, and were the first to use the word in the sense fans use it now.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Cain says:

        And they made up elaborately silly theories (“Watson was a woman!” “One of the bumbling Scotland Yard detectives Holmes was always showing up was also Jack the Ripper!” ) for the fun of it. And I never heard of a Sherlockian objecting to other people’s silly ideas, like Nicholas Meyer’s saying that Moriarty wasn’t a criminal at all, just a math tutor Holmes never liked, so long as they were clever.

        Has anyone ever read the Shlock Holmes stories? They make him a bumbling moron and Dr. Watney an even stupider drunk, and Sherlockians loved them.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Which sort of gets back to what I was saying downthread. The reason nobody objects to Nicholas Meyer is that his books are good. As I said downthread, fanboys whining about the continuity and changes in the adaptation are just using the best language they have to explain why they think the adaptations are bad. They’re usually wrong about the why, but they’re usually right about the quality of the adaptation.Report

  2. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    The thing is, though, most of these things are viable as grist for the movie mill because of the fanbase, and the fanbase likes them because of what they are. So when you change things that people consider important, you have to expect that they’re going to see it as a very personal attack rather than artistic choices or simple storytelling economy.

    In other words, “hey NERD you shouldn’t CARE so much about this NERD stuff you NERDY NERD” isn’t a productive response to people who thought the Scouring Of The Shire was a really important part of the Lord Of The Rings and strongly disagreed with the idea that it shouldn’t be part of the movies.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      “there’s a reason Lucas Arts doesn’t approach the Ishiguros, Mantells and Chabons of the world to pen its next paperback Jedi Twins trilogy ”

      It’s actually really funny that you used Chabon as an example, because he’s talked about how there’s a lot of prejudice against people who write genre fiction like sci-fi, and he’s created a pseudonym/character (August Van Zorn) as a sort of satire of the idea.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Actually, the reason I used all three is that each of them *does* write genre, and all three defend genre writing in essays.

        I didn’t use someone like Jonathan Frazen because I’m pretty sure if Lucas Arts asked him, Frazen would very publicly refuse. But I’m pretty sure Chabon would love to write a Star Wars book, at least on his own terms.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        I’m not sure why you used them at all, then, because nothing would stop someone from writing for a younger audience. You’re right that the kind of people who go nuts over Chabon probably wouldn’t be interested in movie tie-in fiction, and that the kind of people who buy anything with “Star Wars” on it probably wouldn’t care who wrote it, but those are marketing arguments and you seem to be making an intellectual one.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        I’m not sure I agree.

        Chabon actually does write for all ages (see Summerland). And I suspect the number of Chabon fans (largely genre fans in general, because he’s Chabon) would absolutely buy a Star Wars book written by him. (Crap, I’d advance order it.) And I suspect that current Star Wars readers who have never heard of him wouldn’t research his name, say “Snob! Not reading him!” I think they’d just buy it and read it, like they do with any other new author Lucas Arts signs.

        I think the reason Chabon (or someone like him, famous or not) doesn’t write for Lucas Arts is because when you write for Lucas Arts you’re expected to write a book that’s exactly like all the other Lucas Arts books, in the same nondescript style.

        Shit, have Michael Chabon write a Star Wars hardcover and I guarantee you it opens on the NYT best seller list.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Jim, if I recall correctly, is like me a Walter Jon Williams fan. The one WJW book I’ve never read and have no intention of ever reading is his Star Wars novel, because as much as I like and admire his stuff, it’s still fishing Star Wars.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    I reiterate that the only value in watching the last three star wars movies (the first three books) was Natalie Portman, and maybe to see Yoda get all light saber-y.

    Otherwise, it’s full on crap.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Damon says:

      But the lines! English cinematic writing at it’s apex! “Sand is rough, you are smooth.” I’m surprised I don’t hear that line used in the bars more often.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      I dissent. The ultimate movie featured the very enjoyable battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan over the lava flow, which was a satisfying climax to the downward moral spiral that Anakin Skywalker had fallen into (however woodenly that spiral had been portrayed previously), and Mace Windu’s battle with the Emperor allowed Sam Jackson stop sitting down and looking all philosophical and start doing some butt-kicking which is what we’d been waiting three minutes for him to do (that and I really wanted to find that his lightsaber to be engraved with the words ‘Bad Ass Mother Fisher’ but I knew that wasn’t actually going to happen).

      And Ms. Portman, despite being easy on the eye, didn’t deliver a whole lot of emotion in any of these movies, either.Report

  4. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    The term I heard for this stuff was nerd rage and once a nerd is angry or enraged about something there is no succor that can please him or her. Usually him.

    I have never been a huge Tolkien fan, I find his writing to be wooden and Victorian and it manages to be both dull and ornate. The big problem with Jackson is not the changes but that he simply got too powerful and he needs a producer to reign him in. I tend to go through sensory overload while watching a Jackson movie. Then again, I am a fan of doing more with less. Anyone can spend millions of dollars to create a world. I am interested in seeing who can create a world with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars and having it be attractive and fully realized. Called this the theatre magic side of me. Unfortunately this does not translate to current cinema sensibilities especially for stuff like LoTr. However, it can and does work very well in theatre. To be fair it can also backfire, I have seen many Shakespeare productions that were marred by bad design or people trying to create a National Theatre production when they obviously only had 2000 dollars to spend on the sets and costumes and props total.

    In the 19th century, there used to be a kind of production called the well-made play. Eugene Scribe was a French playwright who excelled at the form. They followed a very specific formula and that was the point. They were usually thrillers with titles like A Glass of Water or A Scrib of Paper. They were always 3 or 5 Acts Long. Everything was done to a T and the audiences lapped them up. Eventually other theatre artists rebelled and this rebellion gave birth to Ibsen, Shaw, Strinberg, Chekhov, Method Acting, Naturalism, Psychological Realism, Symbolist drama, Wagner, etc.

    It seems to me that many fans do like their entertainments to be the well-made play and contain all the elements. There is a whole site called TV Tropes that is dedicated to covering the various tropes of fan entertainment both semi-critically and lovingly. One fan attack is the idea that everything is filled with tropes and nothing can escape being a trope.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Ah yes, fear the Razzmataz Lantern: http://www.the-gutters.com/comic/473-christian-meesey/

      /nerdrage on
      I loved Tolkein though I quixotically adored the Silmarillion more than any of his other books (and yes I know Silmarillion is technically a compilation of his writings assembled by his son).
      That said other than a little eye rolling I was okay with most of Jackson’s adaptations up until Hobbit where I feel he committed the unpardonable sin of demoting Smaug to a wyvern. Protip Jackson: Wyverns have wing arms and are powerful monsters but they AREN’T DRAGONS! You don’t make the most fearsome, wealthy (ask Forbes) and venerable dragon in all of Fantasy and Sci Fi into a Wyvern! Dragons have six limbs; two legs, two arms, and two wings. The Smaug of the film has only four; unacceptable!!! /nerdrage offReport

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I think it’s a mistake to invoke the word “nerd” here, at least in relationship to my OP.

      Using “nerd” kind of suggests that there shouldn’t be Star Wars or Star Trek or Batman, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to say. A writer (or any artist) should be encouraged to no just re-hash the same material over and over, but a writer (or any artist) should be allowed to mine any past works to tell their story. There really isn’t a difference between Abrams using Star Trek and Shakespeare using old folklore about ancient Britain.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I must admit that you got me curious about how Shakespeare’s audience would react to the changes and additions he made.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        They would probably throw rotten vegetables, dead cats and cobblestones.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I doubt there was much or any criticism of that sort.

        I really do think the “never change anything” is a product of our unique internet age. In previous times, I think it was expected that if you were going to recreate a work that you were going to change it. In fact, I think even as recently as when I was a young man that a writer/filmmaker/painter/musician was skewered for *not* making enough changes when they reworked/covered a piece.

        I remember that both the original Battlestar Galactaca and the Gil Gerard/Erin Gray Buck Rogers* movie & TV show was panned by the sci-fi nerds of the time (including me, btw) for being too much of a Star Wars rip-off.

        * beety-beety-beety — rad show, dude! — beety-beety-beety.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Still…Erin Gray.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly

        I was making a humerous observation about a pair of groundlings leaving the Globe and talking about how it wasn’t as good as the original 🙂Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Also the term nerd rage comes from nerds themselves so I think it works…Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Call me a shakespeare nerd here, but I’m not a big fan of changes to shakespeare’s plays.

        Othello where the Moor is Opellia? Pass. (even if it had Patrick Stewart in it)
        Othello set in WW2 with the Moor a Army officer? Meh
        Othello with Avery Brooks, in period costume, with essentially, no set? Hell yes.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @damon

        I like modern dress Shakespeare. I saw a great MacBeth with Patrick Stewart in essentially a 1930s military style. I don’t care about period dress.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Was it MacBeth or was it Hamlet? (with Doctor X and The Doctor)Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      And you’re not watching Game of Thrones.
      Tell me you’re blushing with embarrassment.Report

  5. Avatar Griff says:

    As far as grade level goes, according to some measures sixth grade is about as high as you want to go if you’re writing for a general audience. I only mention this because I happened to come across this fact earlier today in a different context: http://abovethelaw.com/2014/06/expose-your-weakness-now/Report

  6. Avatar morat20 says:

    I think we call all agree, however, that the movie adaptation of “The Dark Is Rising” was either a deliberate, cruel, assault on everyone’s childhood or perhaps the outright work of the Devil.

    I believe the casting was responsible for the 9th Doctor becoming the 10th, so silver lining as Tennant is, of course, the best Doctor. 🙂Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

      Donna was supposed to be the Doctor’s First Companion — until the BBC decided they needed to appeal to the sort of segment that likes blondes.

      Rose Tyler couldn’t act her way out of a bag — they scrapped a scene or two just because she couldn’t pull them off.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

      And Mr Davies butchered the Family of the Blood story.
      Looking forward to actually reading the novel, at some point.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    Malificent was really odd for me. I came out smacking my lips and saying “It was good but it was too Disney for me” and then I double-taked because WTF was I expecting? Malificent herself is entirely a Disney character both original and reinterpreted so why was I unhappy that she was Disney in the new movie? I think perhaps it’s because the trailers and the redone Once Upon a Dream were astonishingly dark and well done so I somehow convinced myself the film would be darker and edgier than it was. It wasn’t bad, to be sure, but it wasn’t what I wanted. That said I can honestly admit that what I had wanted was utterly irrational to hope for.

    Since I enjoyed Star Wars but wasn’t much of a Warsie* I didn’t have any nerd rage over the latter three movies. I was annoyed that they were so bad of course but my schadenfreude in watching my Warsie friends melt down over them counterbalanced that. Plus I love using “My love is a river of gushing love!” on my Warsie husband whenever he grumbles about my lack of romantic spirit. If it’s good enough for Lucas’s greatest love ever in a galaxy far far away how can it not be sufficient for my greatest love in a city Minneapolis Minneapolis in Minnesota?

    The Star Trek reboots were Awesome and pretty good respectively though I thought that the Wrath of Khan mirror inversions in the latter slipped over the line into near slapstick. That said I welcomed the reboot with open arms probably because I had resigned myself to the franchise vanishing to lay fallow for a generation after the horror of later Voyager and the (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the lost Arc level) face meltingly bad horror of Star Trek Enterprise**. So this new incarnation offered hope of something new and interesting even as the ground rumbled from the vibrations of Gene Roddenberry spinning in his grave.

    *How, in a world where you can build fully conscious AI, do computer targeted turrets not render light unarmored and unshielded fighter craft utterly obsolete?

    ** We shall speak of it no more. Pteuy!!!Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    My problem with Maleficent is the opposite. I see it as a demonstration that fans have way too much power over Hollywood. Maleficent is basically a filmed fanfic. Lots of fans like re-writing the story from the perspective of a favored character and Maleficent appears to be very popular character among Disney fans. In response, Disney produced a fanfic with Hollywood level production values for them. The best response would have been allowed Sleeping Beauty to speak for itself and let fanfics remain fanfics.

    Jackson’s LOTR and Hobbit films suffer from the same problems. He is going way to deep into Tolkien’s appendexes and notes in order to please fans rather than properly edit the books for a movie audience. This problem is really apparent in the Hobbit. Tolkien’s book was a delight and short children’s story. In order to please fans, Jackson borrowed extensively from the appendexes so that the Hobbit could be turned into a three movie fannish epic rather than one or two good movies.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Come now Lee ol’ buddy; you’re being romantic. Hobbit was stuffed and bloated with all that extraneous material for reasons concerned with lucre not fan pleasing. Now if Tolkien didn’t have such a ravenous fan base Jackson might have simply invented all of the additional material/plot lines (as he partially already did in Hobbit) to pad the sleek story into three movies worth of stuff but it was done primarily so that they could sell three movies, not so that they could placate the fans.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Radagast didn’t even show up!
      *sigh* Also Missing: Ren the Unclean.

      [In my continuing saga of Yes I know Everybody, I do in fact know a Tolkien expert.
      Look above, and you’ll know which one.]Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

      fanfic. Lots of fans like re-writing the story from the perspective of a favored character

      This raises an interesting question. Given the popularity of fanfic, which to my (radically limited) understanding often deviates graphically….er, extensively from the original, why would fanboy critics be so outraged at fanficfilm?Report

      • Because fan fiction is easier to ignore when it’s bad and production movies are zero sum (an Abrams Star Trek means nobody’s going to be doing a preferred Star Trek movie).Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        No one has to read fanfic. Fanfic is not canon.

        Fans “have” to see the movie even if they are going to hate it and complain.

        I do like that the terminology is religious in origin. It explains a lot.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Fans “have” to see the movie

        I respectfully disagree. My daughters and I unanimously agreed not to see the second Hobbit movie, so awful did we find the first one. My brother, who has been a Tolkien devotee for over 3 decades, declined even to see the first one.

        Fans have agency. No one’s forcing them to do anything.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley

        There is a reason I used scare quotes around have 🙂Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        @saul-degraw

        I get you now. You’re talking about those pathetic weak-willed monkeyfishers.Report

      • I finally reached the point with the Schumacher Batman movies that if there had been a fifth, I doubt I would have watched it. I didn’t even buy Batman & Robin despite the fact that I was one movie short of a complete set. It wasn’t about the money. It was about buying something I would never, ever actually take advantage of owning (except having it on the shelf). (I’m a guy that literally owns thousands of Batman comic books. Gawd, I hate that movie.)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley, consistency something something small mind.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to James Hanley says:

        No, you don’t literally have to see it, but the zero-sum argument is true. We are unlikely in our lifetime to get film treatment of The Hobbit that we would want, modern CGI-rich, but told — shall we say — quaintly.

        Which, fine, whatever. I despise grousing fan-persons and I miss Tom Bombadil not at all, and giving Arwen a sword was awesome. But I respect how it can be disappointing to see one’s fav turned into something horrible.

        This is about scarcity. If there was an abidance creative people who could each bring their unique vision to LoTR or Star Trek (or whatever), this conversation would be different. But these arguments are about products, owned and controlled. That makes a difference. We get the one thing they give us, and nothing else.

        Fanfic is different. Don’t like it, make your own.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        v,
        I think this comes down to a lack of ownership. Also, poor feedback from editors before GRRM writes his next book (okay, hobbyhorse, noted).

        I read serialized novels online, and there’s a quick feedback cycle, so if the readers hate something (or it just plain didn’t turn out well), the writer can fix it.Report

      • I actually liked the first Hobbit movie, and I even liked the pre-LOTR discussions among the wizards and the elves that popped in intermittently. I haven’t seen the second one yet, though.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        I liked the first one too. There were enough scenes that were good because of the development of and interactions between the characters that I forgave it the stupid, protracted fight scenes. The second, on the other hand, had none of the character work and even more pointless “action”.Report

  9. I think it depends somewhat on the circumstances. I cut Tolkien fans a lot of slack because the fans have been waiting years and years for these things to be put to film. When that happens, I don’t think “I’m going to take this classic and make it mine” is the appropriate response of a director. A remake ten or fifteen years from now? Totally different story.

    I am a big fan of the cartoon Brave and the Bold, which featured Batman teaming up with someone else. Now, the Batman on that show doesn’t track much at all with my Batman, or the Batman from the comic books. But that’s okay, because it came not too much after The Batman and Batman: The Animated Series. Which, in my view, invited a different take on the character. But I would have been pretty pissed if the first Batman TV show in decades had been a radical alteration. Same show, different reaction. Not entirely unreasonable in my view.

    There are other factors involved in how reasonable I consider the complaints to be. In some cases, such as Arrow, a reimagining of the character was almost certainly required to make the show happen. Which is different from bringing something to the screen that is likely to be largely dependent on the existing fan-base (like Atlas Shrugged, for example), where you don’t want to do things that are going to alienate the fan base.

    I am actually someone sympathetic to Star Wars concerns, if only because Star Wars is something that has a lot of weight and it’s questionable to leave it in the hands of someone that is going to make it their own. Mileage on this will vary. My view would be different if we were talking about a massive franchise like…

    I’ve little sympathy for Star Trek fans, where the more traditional iteration has been airing on TV in one capacity or another for a very long time. It’s had its run. Giving someone a chance to reimagine it makes sense. The criticisms make me think of The Onion’s take on it.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

      So it’s OK to make the Last Temptation of Christ, but only after someone else has made The Greatest Story Ever Told?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It’s okay to make whatever movie you want. But blowback is more understandable in some contexts than others.

        Also, Biblical stories are a slightly different matter in a number of respects. With works in the public domain (which the Bible is, even if Last Temptation is not), it’s a bit of a different matter. Take Noah, for instance. I get why some people are upset about it. And there hasn’t been a movie based on Noah’s Ark… but there’s nothing stopping anyone from doing it. There is an army of lawyers stopping someone from making the Star Trek movie that the complainers want to see (however unsympathetic to them I am to their argument more generally).Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Will,
        Star Whores got tackled by the lawyers AFTER it got made.
        (or maybe lucas just bought the entire run).Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

      While I enthusiastically applaud Tod’s essay, I think Will is right about Tolkien. But it would be entirely appropriate for Jackson to do a “what’s Thorin been doing all these years before he finally gets around to trying to reclaim the old homestead” film. Or one about Gandalf doing serious work instead of playing scout leader for a bunch of apparently sex-indifferent dwarves? Or go back in time and show us Bandobras Took going to war against the goblins.Report

    • Both my wife and I enjoy Arrow. She asks me sometimes “Did it happen like this in the comic books?” and I say “They’re doing their own thing with these characters, and that’s cool.” Like Huntress, who was mainly a Batman character; the deep relationship between Arrow and Deathstroke, the peripheral relationship with the Flash, lending a degree of humanity and even sympathy to Deadshot…

      And it’s all good. They don’t ever need to have Green Lantern show up for a partnership; they don’t ever need to do more than treat the corpus of comic book storylines and super-villains as anything more than source material.

      What they can’t do, if they want to keep me as audience member, is give up the ninja fighting, and what they can’t do if they want to keep my wife watching is re-cast Stephen Amell because my wife practically drools when he’s on the screen.

      They could, however, stand to sharpen up the overwrought dialogue that seems hastily-written by writers working up towards daytime serial dramas (and which uses medical, legal, and scientific technology in a way largely innocent of actual knowledge of the definitions of the words used), have less of the talking about of feelings when there are bad guys actively threatening to lay waste to Starling City, and maybe kill off Laurel Lance because she bores me worse than Sansa Stark in the books of A Song of Ice and Fire.Report

      • You realize what network this is on, right? I don’t know if they could actually get rid of the stuff you think they can get rid of 🙂

        They’ve actually done an interesting job of weaving comic book history in with doing their own thing. Huntress is certainly more of a Batman character, but they did fly around Bertinelli’s origin* to my satisfaction. (I have all 19 issues of the original post-Crisis series, and virtually every appearance from 1994 or so to 2002 or so.) The Suicide Squad is about right.

        They really screwed up Dinah Laurel Lance, though. Not just by my own fanboy standards. I think the (re-)introduction of Sarah was an implied admission of their error. I think they actually made a few mistakes on the first episode of the “let’s drop a reference for the fanboys” variety that they’ve been undoing ever since with Sarah and Roy Harper.

        Anyhow, the comic fan in me doesn’t like how they youngified Ollie. But I recognize that it was something that they had to do, so I would argue back with anyone who objected to it. I think Alan Scott – our Alan, not GL – was disinterested on the basis of Ollie’s age. Which is fine, but I don’t think the series would have gotten produced otherwise so it’s just a necessary sacrifice.

        The island subplot has just been brilliant. Like Harley Quinn, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it put in the comic books if it hasn’t been already.

        * – And, of course, the comic books no longer feature Helena Bertinelli. While I think the TV division has done a reasonably good job with the comic book triage (what to include, what to change) the comics seem to go out of their way to avoid capitalizing on anything. “Hey, look, Batman movies are hitting the theaters and are really popular. Let’s kill Bruce Wayne so that anybody picking up the comics after watching the movie will have no idea what’s going on! Brilliant!” While Bertinelli hadn’t made her appearance on the TV show when they scotched her in the comic books, I would give them a pass on that… except that it doesn’t take an Arrow TV show to know that Helena Bertinelli is a marketable product in a way that’s much, much harder to do with Earth-2 Helena Wayne. DC needs to a creative director who understands that developing properties and stories for TV and movies is now their primary job, and capitalizing on the success of TV and movies is how they need to pay their bills. Obviously, this is something I feel quite passionate about.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No, they had to make Ollie late 20’s-early 30’s. And of course they had to cast a guy who was super good-looking. It’s the CW, after all, and yes, I know that means a lot more talking-about-of-feelings than I would prefer. Alsotoo it’s cheaper to film people talking about their feelings than it is to film ninja fighting and FX of custom arrows doing cool things to bad guys, which is why we usually only get one or two good fights per episode. But I’ll wade through it and let my wife enjoy the eye candy.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko says:

        It absolutely would not have been enough to just make Green Arrow Younger. So many things about that show were dedicated by the CW’s formula. See, for example, how much that show cares about the character’s parents. Or how every character has a romantic relationship but those relationships don’t develop past a certain level of seriousness. Or the fact that the characters didn’t wear masks and have codenames for long after it would have otherwise made sense to do so.

        What’s nuts to me is that DC has plenty of young characters who talk about their feelings that they could have put into a TV show.

        In fact, they basically had that show in Young Justice. But they put those characters on Cartoon Network instead, where the target audience is too young for that sort of thing and the show got cancelled because it didn’t sell enough toys to eight year olds.Report

  10. But we can all agree that what they did to 21 Jump Street was a crime against humanity, right?Report

  11. On a more serious note, I tend to be in agreement with you. There are times when I don’t like my beloved things messed with, but I acknowledge that I have no real ownership over these things. Also, I think these re-imaginings and appropriations of previous works are a very good thing, generally. It leads to a lot of great and interesting art.

    My one beef is when something is re-imagined for no particularly good reason. Take Into Darkness. I thought it was a decent film. I enjoyed as much (and perhaps a bit more) than I really thought I would.

    However, the use of the Khan character seemed really unnecessary. It was kind of comical how they re-imagined him (without all the rich corinthian leather goodness). I didn’t get the sense that there was any reason whatsoever for that character to be Khan. It seemed like Abrams just wanted to use Khan (perhaps for some sort of marketing/promotional/ego thing) and just shoehorned the idea of Khan into an existing bad guy. That sort of thing (latching onto an existing cultural relic just to get some sort of traction) is less defensible than someone just trying something new with existing material.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      So then the problem maybe is making things that are nearly the same as the original. It’s like the Uncanny Valley. People will accept something that it completely original or rewatch their favorites, but they can’t handle something that deviates from their expectations a little. The industry can’t make much money rereleasing the same product on Blu-Ray, and they’re nervous about taking the risk of creating something brand new, so they’d rather create something that falls into that category that people hate: close-to-but-not-identical. Weird.

      Since this is a political crowd on this blog, I have to point out the parallel with politics. The fanboy wants purity, the party wants minimal variation, and the public claims they want originality. No one’s happy.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pinky says:

        This is a great comment.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Pinky says:

        @pinky

        I think you’re onto something there. The problem I had with Star Trek Into Darkness is that it felt like a generic sci-fi action movie that had flayed Wrath of Khan and was wearing its skin as a coat. Something that was more original while still being Star-Trekky would have been fine and I could have even got behind it as a generic sci-fi action movie, I do watch those occasionally. The problem is that it was trying to be Star Trek while having little interest in Star Treks themes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Pinky says:

        The best plan is to not bother telling people you’re adapting something.
        Dr. Who specializes in this.
        Never thought I’d see something from Star Control 4 on TV. Did you?Report

    • From what I’m told (and this is from a tie-in author telling me what Orci told him), Robert Orci originally wanted the villain to be someone other than Khan, but was overridden by Damon Lindelof who INSISTED that the main villain be Khan. Evidently at that point Abrams sided with Lindelof.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      This. Abrams is a good, perhaps even great, filmmaker who can produce a damn fine product. His Trek films, viewed as standalone stories were great fun. But that’s nearly impossible for a fan to do. Trek isn’t a vaguely drawn paradigm; it’s a fairly detailed, self-consistent extended storyline spanning centuries told over the course of five live action and one animated series, several movies, hundreds of books, plus comics and fan-fic. Abrams just said fuck all that.

      And he did so for no good reason. When I first heard that a new Trek movie was in the works exploring the original crew in and/or coming straight out of the Academy I was thrilled. Obviously there should be a good back-story around Kirk becoming the youngest starship captain in Starfleet. And that should have been during the Romulan War period. So the enormously talented and inventive J.J. Abrams couldn’t find a story in that anywhere? So instead he has to suck Vulcan down a black hole? Bah! If all that had ever existed of Star Trek was the original series, buried deep in the cultural memory, I’d give Abrams a solid thumbs-up. But that’s very much not the case, and what he did seems very… disrespectful… to all that came before him as well as the fans that have sustained the franchise over the decades.

      It’s not re-makes or re-imaginings per se. Some things genuinely profit from it. For instance, the original BSG was a great concept poorly executed, and despite some folks’ complaints about the ending, the new series was a vast improvement. (The original ending, Galactica ’80, was pretty fucking lame, too.) And you always gotta give latitude to movie versions of books.Report

      • Not for “no good reason,” I should say. Abrams preferred a blanker canvas upon which to paint. The thing about Star Trek lore is that there’s so damn much of it it could shackle one’s own creative vision. I love that Abrams found a way to say “All that cool stuff you remember and love? Sure it happened. But what if….” Because the “what if” is what fiction is all about.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Road Scholar says:

        @burt-likko , so you’re saying his version of Trek is the equivalent of alt-history fiction? Sort of like steam-punk is to straight Victorian period fiction? Maybe… I don’t really buy it.

        I think maybe you’re right about having reasons, though. Millions of them in fact. The difference between an original space epic to work his “artistic vision” and one bearing the Star Trek brand and all the box-office receipts that entails. Yeah, I can see that.Report

      • I was thinking more like a Harry Turtledove alt-history, because that Victorian steampunk stuff can get weird. Like, cloistered werewolves versus sexy vampires weird. Abrams’ Star Treks hew closer to the “history” of Roddenberry’s stories than that.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Road Scholar says:

        Ferengi sorta put the lie to self-consistent.
        How the hell do you have moneygrubbers when you have replicators?
        Note: One Author’s explanation: “Oh, yeah, we can actually replicate all that Ferengi money. We just haven’t told Them yet.”Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Road Scholar says:

        But Abrahms trek really feels like a historical series by Showtime more than anything else. Vague lip-service to the original, but mostly just an excuse to show pretty people with their shirts off.

        And don’t get me wrong: I’m totally fine with a shirtless Chris Pine. But when Showtime makes “The Tudors”, that’s not getting in the way of other people who want to make shows about Tudor monarchs. But as was pointed out above, when Abrams makes his Star Trek movie, that’s the only Star Trek movie we’re going to get.Report

  12. Avatar j r says:

    Fanboy critics likely want what all bad critics want: to usurp the artist, the work itself even, and make everything all about them. And like everything ridiculous today, I blame the internet. The internet has turned everyone into some version of the Simpsons comic book guy.

    Of course, when you watch the Simpsons, you get that comic book guy is not a cool character, not someone that you would want to be. In real life, we are in this moment when it is supposedly cool to be a nerd and at least tolerated to be a geek. That is a shame. And I say this as someone who was regularly called a nerd (in the 1980s Ogre chanting from the balcony way, not the contemporary cool plastic frames way) while growing up. You know what? I was a nerd and I deserved to be mocked for it. I was a know-it-all little sh*t. While I remain, to some degree, I remain that inveterate hand-raising, “well actually…” little sh*t, I am lots less insufferable thanks to the fact I realized at a certain point that nobody like a know-it-all.

    tl:dr – This is what happens when you try to stop all bullying. Now get off my lawn!Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

      The thing that gets me the most about fanboy criticism is the anti-intellectualism of it all. Fanboys were desperate to have their comics and science fiction taken seriously for a long time. When non-fans started to take them seriously and turned a critical eye on fannish tastes than fans got defensive. The reaction to analysis of Cameron’s avatar is a great example of this.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I object to your characterization of critiques of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films as “fanboy criticism”. Contrary to many people’s automatic assumptions and claims, most people were not deeply upset by the omission of Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-wights; those were areas where the omission genuinely aided the flow of the film.

    The objections to Jackson’s choices in adaptation are centred around his fundamental misunderstanding of not only many characters in the books (Faramir, Denethor, Gimli), and of the story’s overall tone, but of the heart and meaning of The Lord of the Rings. Jackson focuses on battles and special effects while obscuring or removing the heart of the story: that victory does not come from battle, but through grace and mercy. By having a needless and stupid split between Sam and Frodo in the last movie, he misses the essence of that relationship. By having Gollum do a binary switch from “good Sméagol personality” to “bad Gollum personality” and portraying (in Jackson’s own words) Frodo’s decision to trust Gollum as a delusion caused by the Ring; and by having Gollum pushed into the Cracks of Doom during a fight, Jackson destroys the understanding of Gollum as a tragic figure to whom it is right to show compassion, and misses the fundamental core of the books – that Frodo ultimately fails, and is saved because of his (and later Sam’s) prior decision to show mercy to Gollum.

    Plus, turning the Eye of Sauron into a watchtower just looks plain stupid, as does the landslide of skeletons at the Paths of the Dead (the latter is clearly Jackson’s origins as a horror-movie director coming out).

    That’s not even getting into the problems of making The Hobbit all about big battle sequences.

    I don’t object to pragmatic changes to an original work. I don’t object to original scenes that improve it. I do object to replacing good material with derivative, generic, purposeless material while missing the heart of the story that you are ostensibly trying to tell.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Yep. “this is different from the books, ergo it is bad” is bad criticism, but if that’s the only criticism we’re going to engage with, that’s quite a straw man we’re burning. Personally, I don’t mind Jackson’s adaptation choices in The Lord of the Rings, but with The Hobbit, the problem is that he departs from the source material in ways that are dumb, and would make for bad film-making whether it was in a movie based upon a book or an original work.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to KatherineMW says:

      It’s exactly like when Shakespeare turned Gesta Danorum into one long swordfight. Or when Leonard Bernstein turned Romeo and Juliet into bondage porn.

      You see, the problem isn’t that Jackson created something entirely his own; the problem is that the something is boring, juvenile, cliched, unwatchable melodrama, punctuated by boring, juvenile, cliched, barely watchable action scenes.Report

      • The OP isn’t a demand that you like Jackson’s work. I certainly disliked Smaug, and I thought the first movie had fight scenes that would never end.

        If your problem with the Hobbit is something other than “but I wanted it to b this other thing,” than know that the OP isn’t addressing you.

        I’m far to big a snob to think we should all applaud everything everyone ever makes.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        There is some fanboy aspect, though. There are a hundred stupid action movies made every year (and I think i’ve had to sit through preview of every fishing one.) That Jackson’s version of The Hobbit is one of them really does irritate me, while if someone ruined a Tom Clancy novel (if such a thing is possible), big whoop.Report

    • I think the Jackson movies did show that aspect of the relationship between Frodo and Smeagol. We do see Frodo, using to destroy the rain the very end. We see Gollum, crazed with lust for the ring, destroyed by his pursuit of it. That, we cannot help but think, was because Frodo stayed his blade, and Sam’s. Gandalf foreshadows this as early as the first movie, in the mines of Moira.

      I was disappointed with the Ents played up for comic relief as much as they were, and the consuming martyrdom of Denethor (more of a madman than a chief magistrate in the movie) got written back in to the Rohan storyline, but that was all okay; I could live with it.

      And I don’t think Tolkien would have minimize the importance of battles. Half of the Two Towers was devoted to the battle of Helm’s Deep. According to legend, Tolkien wrote this, or at least conceived of it, while he was fighting in the trenches of the Great War. Grace and mercy are important weapons, yes, but so are courage, fortitude, preparation, intelligence, strength, and teamwork.Report

  14. I’m a little offended you didn’t even bring up my original Into Darkness review, which I think actually touches upon what fans felt was “wrong” with Abrams and his take on Star Trek. https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/05/19/fan-wankery-takes-star-trek-into-darkness

    I think you fundamentally misjudge fandom’s reactions as being reactionary, rather than a dislike of being catered to in a half-assed, generic sort of way. The problem with Abrams is that he’s not telling a Star Trek film, he’s telling a generic cosmic destiny tale with a Star Trek gloss. Now that might be okay in itself, but that’s a different criticism than the one you’re leveling against the fans.

    Fundamentally, Abrams wasn’t the right person to take Star Trek’s helm because he’s not about exploring the human condition (tortured allegories or not) and that his viewpoint made it easier for the “bad fanfic”-ism of Orci and Lindelof to show up. Or rather the problem was that because it wasn’t in itself a Star Trek story, they attached “Trek”-y things to it (such as Khan) to make it feel more Trek-y. Since Cosmic Destiny (you know, bringing balance to the Force etc.) is the whole theme of Star Wars, I think Abrams will fit better into that franchise. But there was a mismatch between Abrams and Trek. If we get a new person at the franchise helm after this, I think Nolan might be an interesting choice, at least from what we’ve seen of Interstellar.

    It’s the same thing vis-a-vis Jackson and Tolkien. Erik’s also written on his “war fatigue” with modern Lord of the Rings media here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/01/30/why-its-time-for-the-peter-jackson-era-of-the-lord-of-the-rings-to-end/Report

    • Further, while you have a dismissive view of tie-in fiction, I think it’s telling that with Star Trek related tie-ins, Pocket Books DID make an effort to switch toward a stable of more sci-fi oriented writers to fill out its ranks of novelists, such as Christopher R. Bennett. Given how hugely the “novelverse” in Trek has changed the post-TV show status quo, and the degree to which fans have actively accepted that change, I don’t think fans are afraid or hate new things. The fact that The Next Generation based novels and its spinoffs like Titan regularly chart the New York Times bestseller list despite the fact that they’ve moved nearly 10 years beyond the last “established” movie, complete with a variety of deaths, promotions, new characters and the like, shows that people are fine with change and progress.

      Indeed the fan criticisms of the shows that didn’t do well was that they weren’t trying hard enough to explore new ground. There’s a reason Enterprise became better later on when they started playing around with mid-season story-arcs and tried to tell a story more about how the beginnings of the Federation rather than basically being the same episodic show that started with TNG, was badly distorted by Voyager and was picked up in the first two seasons of ENT.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      No offense was intended!

      As to the rest — I’m not sure if I can get you to zoom out enough to look at your response, but it appears that what you’re arguing is:

      A. You and other fans didn’t object to Abrams because they were reactionary, you all did so because wanted him to be entirely original.

      B. Star Trek has always been about X and Abrams is about Y, so he shouldn’t have been picked to do it. They should have picked someone who was X, the way Trek has always been and always should be.

      I don’t know if you can tell, but the second argument actually contradicts the first.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’ll put aside the snide condescension dripping from the end of your comment and just address your point:

        There’s no contradiction between saying that Abrams was the wrong person to take the franchise forward and saying that his style of storytelling doesn’t fit well into doing that. There’s a difference between the broad thematic elements of a franchise and the details and individual stories.

        It’s like saying Stephen King is probably not the best person to be writing a Jane Austen continuation, but that doesn’t mean that the people better suited for it are being particularly original with say Mr. Darcy’s Daughters.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Any snide condescension you sensed there wasn’t intended, and let me assure you that neither is it intended when I say that I still don’t think you’re understanding my point. And not just you, actually, but a lot of people here — which is probably on me for being the writer of the OP. So let me try again from a different tac with a work that no one here is especially attached to…

        The Odyssey is a story an epic poem, meant to be part history, part epic adventure, and part morality tale. When Joyce retold the story, hover, it became a stream-of-consciousness commentary of the relative insignificance of (a) modern man. When Daniel Wallace rewrote the Odyssey, it became a Southern gothic about Wallace grappling with the larger-than-life image of his father, and Wallace’s realization as an adult that his father was in fact a very flawed man. When the Coen brothers rewrote it, it was a musical farce and black comedy of manners.

        What I’m getting at is there *is* no “what a subject is supposed to be about” in art. There is only what each artist does, and which vision he or she sees in the same source material. And you can like it or appreciate it or have it move you, or not. But whether or not an artist’s vision is what you’re used to, that’s not how art works.

        Look, I understand that for you and others, Star Trek should be X. But it shouldn’t have to be X for someone else who wants to approach it through an artistic medium. And that’s especially true of works like The Hobbit and Star Trek, because the stories that Rodenbery and Tolkien would have told don’t need to be figured out. We don’t need to find an artist to tell the story of Kirk and Spock that would have been a prefect wagon-train-esque examination of the human condition, because a lot of people have already made that work realized. We don’t need someone to tell the story that has all the characters, plot lines, meanings, and symbolism of The Hobbit, because Tolkien has already been there, done that, and done so better than anyone else is ever going to.

        You can’t say that Stephen King isn’t the best person to retell a story using the characters in any Jane Austen novel without demanding that all stories that use those characters sound like they were written by Jane Austen. And if that’s we way we approach art, then James Joyce was never the right person to retell the Odyssey, John Gardner was never the right person to retell Beowulf, John Coltrane was never the right person to reinterpret Richard Rogers, and Van Gough was never the right person to retackle Gauguin’s subjects.

        This is the entire point of my OP.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly — +1

        (Except the fact that Joyce is intolerable, and thus the wrong dude to do everything always.)Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Eh, at some point a “trademark” means something… at some point, a body of artistic work in pop culture becomes part and parcel of pop culture. I mean, that’s what you aim for when you create pop culture art.

        You can’t say that Stephen King isn’t the best person to retell a story using the characters in any Jane Austen novel without demanding that all stories that use those characters sound like they were written by Jane Austen.

        At what point is retelling a story using the characters in any Jane Austen novel (a) “writing a story with a bunch of characters” v. (b) “writing a story using characters that Jane Austen used”.

        I don’t really have a problem with (a).

        (b) – to me – comes with an implicit promise to do something with the characters that Jane Austen created that people who like Jane Austen will find interesting.

        I mean, otherwise, why use the Jane Austen characters in the first place? Just make up your own.

        Perhaps you can deconstruct the characters that Jane Austen created. Perhaps you can change them in an interesting way that changes the end story in a way that’s artistically interesting.

        But Pride and Prejudice and Zombies wouldn’t have worked if there were just a character named “Mr. Darcy” in it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @veronica-dire

        Ulysses is awesome, and often hilarious.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @nob-akimoto

        I’ve spent a good deal of time, over the years, reading/watching the many, many iterations and retellings of the King Arthur legend. My favorite is probably still The Once and Future King, and mostly for the ants. But the BBC production of Merlin was fine TV viewing. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is amazing.

        The list of retellings is pretty stunning. And this doesn’t really get into the stolen bits that appear here and there throughout literature.

        I don’t think being ‘true’ to a story is all that productive; I much prefer to set it free and let it grow. As a story teller, I have a pretty vast collection of folk and fairy tales, often you can follow a tale as it travels through cultures and shifts as each story teller tailors it to his or her own use, right up to the point someone goes and writes it down.

        And If I were to teach creative writing, I’d probably do it all wrong: I’d tell my students to pick a story they really, really love — love the language, the characters, the genre, the plot, a book they can read over and over, and starting from page 1, start typing it; and keep on typing it until their inner voice starts taking over, and making the story move at their direction, not the original authors. This is, btw, very much how one learns to play music proficiently. You don’t learn by playing your own original work, you play other’s work, you learn specific riffs, and you master this huge vocabulary to steal from; see the video I posted below, by the author of How to Steal Like an Artist.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @mike-schilling — I’ll take your word for it, by which I mean I totally don’t believe you.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @patrick That’s a justifiable choice as a reader, sure. But it also carries with it a lot of missed opportunities with terrific books.

        For example, I would argue that Last Temptation would lose a lot of its subversive power if Kazantzakis has used some generic prophet; I think that same can be said for Hesse and Siddhartha. (Or, for that matter, Roger Zelazny with Lord of Light, which I’m reading right now.) Although I don’t really care for his later stuff, I think Gregory McGuire’s Wicked is a better and smarter book than any in the series its based off on. And Grendel, as I think you know, is one of my favorite books of all time.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @patrick (and everyone else!) do you The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?

        They are awesome. A modern adaption of Pride and Prejudice, done as a series of video diaries. I binged them over a week a while back; so it was easy to see how the technical aspects of the production improved over time (volume levels, lighting, etc.). I thought this a great adaption, and a form I hope we see used more for fanfic in the future.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        There was a retelling of the King Arthur legend from the 1980s where Arthur wakes up and finds that Merlin is in elementary school and that he has to run for office in order to enter politics. Needless to say Arthur found this very frustrating.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Fundamentally, I think your point would be something I’d agree with if Star Trek were a public domain franchise. If we had say, a JJ Abrams helmed action movie franchise with Kirk and Spock alongside a BBC adaptation starring James McAvoy as Young Picard on the Stargazer and a CBS series that runs as a space courtroom procedural. But that’s not the case. To the extent that Star Trek exists as a franchise, its mass distribution is restricted by those who own the rights.

        Now, a quirk with Star Trek is that the rights are split between two corporate entities, and as a result there’s some restrictions on how much you can wipe away the past. JJ Abrams and Bad Robot tried to get CBS to stop producing ALL materials related to the pre-Trek 2009 series, including tie-in fiction set in the 24th century and 23rd century TOS related merchandise. Ultimately the fact that CBS said “screw you” to that and kept producing tie-ins to the older series is what made Bad Robot abandon going further with the franchise.

        So that’s the thing, right? Trek as an entity is restricted to the setting the rights holder will produce. And insofar as that exists and the name exists, it should be true to the setting it created and what made it a cultural phenomenon in the first place. To do something like Abrams and basically use the film reboot as an auditioning reel for Star Wars is kind of pointless and the way they tried to “play” to fans was pretty insulting.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And I honestly think if Abrams had not monkeyed with the timeline and instead moved forward 100 years, had the same cast, but with different names, he wouldn’t have had the blowback he received.

        It’s that he was claiming it was the same setting, with the same characters, despite altering some of them beyond recognition and going backwards on the inclusiveness that’s part of the problem.Report

      • Possibly restating @patrick a bit and with respect for @tod-kelly, but

        there *is* no “what a subject is supposed to be about” in art.

        …there most certainly is. Audience expectations are, like, a thing. The question is what role they have to play – and what role satisfying or confounding or subverting them has to play – in the artwork and the art-experience social context surrounding the artwork in question. And that varies with the artwork and the social context. And as @patrick says, perhaps – but perhaps not so much – a term like “popular,” if we agree it applies to a certain artwork in a certain context, might give us a clue about what role minimally satisfying (making good on an implied contract, as it were) audience expectations may play in the (successful) experience of a certain artwork in a certain art-experience social context.

        It all depends, in other words. We can’t make absolute statements about what role “what a subject is supposed to be about” ought to play in the creation and presentation of an artwork. You just have to see how it plays out.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod,
        Since someone brought up Nolan — you could TOTALLY set Paprika in a Star Trek world, and have it be Awesome and New and Cool. It’s a story that fits well into the Star Trek world — and it pushes just the right sort of boundaries (also: i’d love the idea of an evil/psycho captain that needs to be removed. Broccoli part deux. )Report

    • Finally I would be MUCH MORE sympathetic to your reading of things if the screen writers didn’t say stupid shit like:

      Roberto Orci: “According to theory, there are going to be a much larger number of universes in which events are very closely related, because those are the most probable configurations of things. Inherent in quantum mechanics there is sort of reverse entropy, which is what you were trying to say, in which the universe does tend to want to order itself in a certain way. This is not something we are making up; this is something we researched, in terms of the physical theory. So yes, there is an element of the universe trying to hold itself together.”

      Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        And I think it’s also worth pointing out that A) Roberto Orci is a 9/11 Truther, and B) if you interpret Star Trek Into Darkness as a Truther allegory, the plot actually makes way more sense.

        Roberto Orci, BTW, is also slated to direct the third film of the series.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Oh wow. You’re right. That makes me feel that much grosser about the building collapse scene at the end.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Is there any director that can make a modern Star Trek that fits with the spirit of the original? The zeitgeist of the original Star Trek was that of hokey, post-war liberalism where world peace was possible if we only talked more with each other. This sort of liberalism was already begginning to fray and feel out of date by the time Star Trek appeared but it still existed.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Pick Nolan. Look at what he did with Paprika, and then say he can’t make silk purses out of pig’s ears.

        [Seriously: I think a Japanese director or two could definitely pull it off — not Sabu, though]Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Really? I mean part of the whole Star Trek history is that humanity ultimately fails its post-war liberal period and goes through some terrible, terrible things before it gets better. Eugenics Wars, a Third World War gone nuclear, etc.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq Of course someone could make a ST film that fits with the spirit of the original. Imagining a future where things get better, we have mega-sweet tech and people more often than not live up to their better angels isn’t that big a stretch. It is only out of reach considering our modern infatuation for dystopia, zombies, vampires and apocalypse. SF is a lot wider and weirder genre then what gets made into a movie or tv show.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        But that hokey 60s optimism is only a starting point. That’s something that can be built on and kept relevant.

        See, for example, the sixth movie, where we learned that talking more isn’t enough, and that world peace is messy and complicated. Or Deep Space Nine where you see what happens to a society built on peaceful ideals when they find themselves in a real war that they can’t just diplomacy or technobabble their way out of.

        Frankly, I don’t want to see a Star Trek show with social commentary from the 60s, and I’m not particularly pleased that there are fans who do. Stuff about black-whites fighting a war against white-blacks may have been cutting edge back then, but what was daringly progressive two generations ago is often backwards and racist today. There are a million different ways you can tell a story that invokes trek themes. Whether you’re just updating the better future (as next gen did) or deconstructing it (as deep space nine did) or even just laughing at it’s youthful earnestness with the hindsight (as the movies did). Abrams just ignored it.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Again, one need only look at the more successful series or movies or the novelverse to get a good sense of how you would do Trek “right”. In some ways it’s just as much about breaking new ground, even in storytelling while exploring the human condition.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What ST as a show and in the extended universe manged to do was explore new fantastic worlds. The whole Go Where No Man( person, humanoid) Has Gone Before stuff. You could make a dozen movies without an actual villain or plot to destroy the earth/federation/etc just by exploring space. Find mysteries, meet weird races, solve cosmic conundrums, explore new galaxies. Ditch evil villains, dump the fate of Federation hangs in the balance, leave earth behind and use some imagination.

        You can comment on humanity, which is nice if done well. But there is adventure out there, all they have to do is find the metric light year ( not a real measurement) of potential stories.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        greg,
        indeed. which is why I keep on suggesting Paprika. Keep it small, folks. You don’t need to have a worldending disaster to get us to watch. Just something pretty/awesome/fun. And maybe make us think a little.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Nolan might be a better choice.
      Have you watched Paprika by some chance?
      With source material like that…Report

  15. Avatar Patrick says:

    His signature TV series — Alias, Lost, and Fringe — all swirl around his idea that certain Great-with-a-capital-G people are ineffably connected to both one another and pivotal moments in history. Each of Abrams stories is designed to essentially tell that story.

    This is actually why Abrams gets so much blowback, because that’s not the actual story that is told in “the original” Star Trek (more on that in a second).

    Star Wars… well, Lucas had the entire Galaxy revolve around one backwater desert planet, so I guess you can say he fits okay in the Lucas storytelling vein.

    The fanboy criticism phenomenon is a spectrum, though, from the odd to the pointed. Conflating the worst forms of fanboy criticism (it’s not JUST LIKE the ORIGINAL) with the best (it takes character/storytelling aspects of the ORIGINAL and distorts or worse, inverts them, in a very bad way) mistakes what’s going on.

    I mean, look at the remake of Psycho. It was a shot-for-shot remake, and it was terrible, and fanboys of Psycho actually hated it because it was a shot-for-shot remake.

    I don’t have a problem with the Godzilla reboot, because it really *is* a Godzilla movie (albeit not a great one). Not because of (spoiler redacted), but because it follows in the thematic story tradition of Godzilla movies.

    I don’t have much of a problem with Jackson’s LotR imagining, because Jackson’s LotR imagining keeps the central elements of the original story intact: the good guys succeed (when it is impossible for them to do so under any real strategic analysis), they do so because of the mercy of Frodo in sparing Gollum leads to evil destroying itself, and man is inherently pretty flawed and it takes the meek (the hobbits) to be able to withstand the temptation of the ring.

    I don’t have a problem with Sam Raimi’s imagining of Spider-Man, because in spite of the fact that he downplayed how freakin’ brilliant Peter Parker actually is (by not having him make his own webshooters), he keeps all of the elements of Peter Parker that make him Peter Parker… his horrible guilt complex over his father, his own self-confidence problems.

    I *DO* have a problem with JJ’s re-imagining of Star Trek because it really didn’t keep any of the original character arcs intact, and the changes in the arcs don’t really make anything interesting out of the end product. The change in Kirk’s past doesn’t make Kirk more relateable or interesting, it just makes it stupidly improbable bordering on impossible for him to become an officer. The change in Spock’s character’s past doesn’t make Spock more interesting, we already knew all about how Spock loved his mother. The change in Scotty’s past isn’t explicated to the point where it makes any sense in comparison to the original story. Sulu and Chekov are ridiculous set pieces, when those are precisely the two characters that deserve actual real expanded treatments. Uhura is changed from a hugely competent communications officer who happens to look nice… into a hugely sexpotty communications officer who happens to be competent. No Yeoman Rand or Nurse Chapel.

    I mean, from a standpoint of inclusive futurism, the movie went *backwards*.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick says:

      I think one of the best criticisms of the 2009 reboot and Kirk’s characterization was this post:
      http://badassdigest.com/2013/04/28/james-t.-kirk-did-not-cheat-on-the-kobayashi-maru-testReport

      • The Kobayashi Maru? That was Kirk being Kirk, and it wasn’t cheating. It’s important to understand how Kirk approached the test – he thought it was fundamentally unfair. To Kirk the Kobayashi Maru itself was cheating. He believed the idea of an unwinnable scenario to be ludicrous; as he saw the world, any problem could be overcome eventually with smarts and hard work. The equivalent here was being given a math test with the problem “2+2=?” and being told that “4” was the wrong answer.

        The test was the problem, and Kirk solved that problem. It’s never explicitly stated what Kirk changed when he hacked the program (in a Star Trek novel it’s said that Kirk reprogrammed the Klingons to have a respectful fear of “The” Captain Kirk), but the gist of what we’re to understand is that Kirk didn’t hack the Kobayashi Maru to win, but rather to make it winnable. When Saavik accuses Kirk of cheating, he replies “I changed the conditions of the test!”

        That’s key. Cheating is creating an unfair advantage, which Kirk would argue was the entire basis of the test. By changing the conditions – by evening out the odds – Kirk actually made the whole thing more fair, the opposite of cheating.

        Tell that to Orci and Kurtzman, who have Kirk clearly cheat in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He sits in his captain’s chair, munching an apple like an asshole, while the enemy ships’ shields suddenly drop for no reason at all. His hack was not to even the playing field but rather to give himself an unfair advantage, to have the Klingons be unable to defend themselves. The reboot Kirk has the victory simply handed to him. It’s hard not to side with Spock in this version of events.

        Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Nob,
        *blink*. I… actually know someone who pulled that off in real life.
        (he subsequently got banned from freshmen psychology experiments).Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Patrick says:

      I think the sort of silly fan-reactions that Tod talks about in the OP are actually symptoms of more serious flaws in the movie. It’s not that the changes in continuity make serious fans dislike the movie. It’s that serious fans dislike the movie for reasons that they don’t always understand, and so they latch onto the most obvious changes.

      For example, a lot more people complained about Venom in Spider-Man 3 than I did about the Joker in Dark Knight, despite the fact that both interpretations were equally unorthodox. The difference is that SM3 was a bad movie for a million tiny reasons, and DK was a good movie for a million tiny reasons. “Venom Sucks” is just a really easy reason to articulate.

      Upthread, @patrick says:

      I don’t have a problem with Sam Raimi’s imagining of Spider-Man, because in spite of the fact that he downplayed how freakin’ brilliant Peter Parker actually is (by not having him make his own webshooters), he keeps all of the elements of Peter Parker that make him Peter Parker… his horrible guilt complex over his father, his own self-confidence problems.

      This is interesting to me, because I can’t stand that change. Because it’s a change that’s emblematic of subtler changes the character that I felt violated the nature of the Peter Parker I enjoy. I like Spider-Man because he’s a trickster character, the heir to Odessyus, Loki, and Anansi. Someone who defeated his enemies with quick wits and a clever tongue. OTOH, I don’t care as much about the angst.

      Of course, that’s thirty-year old me saying that. If you’d asked me in high school, I wouldn’t say “The movie sucked because Tobey McGuire’s character is too mopey and not enough of a smartass”. I’d say “The movie sucked because in the comic books his powers worked differently.” I just didn’t have the benefit of twelve years of growing up and a four year degree in Theater Arts to give me the skills to understand and articulate my feelings.

      See also, the hate for Midichlorians and Jar-Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. There were plenty of things about that movie that were much worse, but Midichlorians and Jar-Jar were obvious aspects of the movie that were emblematic of deeper faults.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Alan,
        yes, yes and yes. You’re getting the weirdly inarticulate, sometimes partially autistic folks together, and then you wonder why they’re hard to understand, and a bit cryptic.

        And, as you say, they lack the terms needed (though TVTropes does help!)Report

  16. Avatar Stillwater says:

    But fanboy critics don’t want artists pushing their boundaries, which is what art requires. Fanboy critics instead want the same thing repackaged over and over, even if that thing was poor and uninspired to begin with.

    I’ve been a fan of a lot of books that made it to film. Sophie’s Choice was the first movie made of a book I absolutely adored (well, “adored” seems inappropriate given the content of the book, but you know what I mean) which I thought was *better* than the truly great book. But all the folks I talked about that movie with thought it was turrible in comparison. And that’s the thing: the comparison. I’ve felt some exasperated grief for my views of THe Hunger Games along the same lines: it was a pretty good book, but a really good movie (in my view). The fanborls thought differently because of what was left out. On the other hand, I was a bit tweaked when Jackson didn’t include Tom Bombadil in TFotR. Not enough to get really tweaked, mind, tho there was some pretty grumpy whispering in the theater.

    So a lot depends on what you mean by “fanboy”, it seems to me, which was also sorta what Patrick was getting at in his comment.

    But what you say about fanboys controlling the gate really is a problem, especially since fanatics aren’t gonna make or break any movie. Patrick gave a pretty good rundown of what would be “fanboy approved”, I think. My guess is that most fanboys would hate a remake or rework of a loved book (or whatever) primarily because most of the shit the hollywood produces for a mass audience is actual shit. Can’t blame that on the fanboys, it seems to me.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Stillwater says:

      I’ve felt some exasperated grief for my views of THe Hunger Games along the same lines: it was a pretty good book, but a really good movie (in my view).

      I agree. The film adaptations of The Hunger Games have greatly improved on the books – partly by making the story flow better, and partly because Suzanne Collins’ prose is not particularly good. If the Mockingjay ones are as good as Catching Fire, I’ll be extremely pleased.Report

  17. Avatar Pinky says:

    I just ran across <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-et-ct-warner-bros-summer-20140610-story.html"this story from the LA Times about Warner Brothers’ weak summer. The problem: no remakes or franchises.

    Says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at entertainment data firm Rentrak: “People always talk about the lack of originality in Hollywood, but by and large people don’t show up for those original films,” he said. “Audiences now are so conditioned — they almost expect there is going to be a brand they know and love and understand before they plunk down their money.”

    The article mentions that the studio’s Jupiter Ascending was scheduled for mid-July release, but because it needed extra time for special effects work, it’s been bumped back to February. I don’t want to be cynical, but if a $150 million Wachowski sci-fi blockbuster is getting bumped to February, the special effects must be really bad – or something else is.Report

  18. Avatar Kim says:

    comment in mod. specifically, comment about other comment going into mod.
    I’m metaing the meta today.Report

  19. Avatar notme says:

    Tod:

    I read the Hobbit etc and enjoyed them. I went to the movies b/c I enjoyed the Tolkien’s brilliance and wanted to see a faithful reproduction. It is one thing to have a director make a book into a movie and a totally different proposition to make a movie out of a story involving the characters from a book while keeping their essence.. I think it can be a fine line but that is where the real artistry comes in.Report

  20. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    @veronica-dire

    Re: Joyce

    I dissent. Joyce is amazing. I am doing another attempt at Ulysses and succeeding this time. It is worthy of a wrestle.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I haven’t read all the Joyce choices, but Portrait of the Artist is pretty durn good. Ulysses is really great, but – as all the highbrow types like to say – it take a bit of work to get into. It comes from a different place than we’re used to. And Finnegan’s Wake was way beyond me. I even read Campbell’s explanation of it in order to be like, *really high brow*, permanently raised!, but that one is just too.much.work. (Tho I did find myself thinking in the Finnegan cadence, rhythm and wordsalad-nonsense for a while.)Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Joyce is slightly less amazing and significantly more creepy when you read his full body of work. There’s a reason acquiring access to his full body of work required significant armtwisting…Report

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