The Drunken Story Teller

The notion of adapting a work, conceptually, is something that has always intrigued me. So much of our culture consists of reworking of previous material which the internet in particular has thrown into overdrive. This new prominence of alteration, attempts at improvement and straight up copies brings the question of making an adaptation that is interesting. The remake of Star Wars: A New Hope years ago with ASCII or the other remake constituting stitched together of people recreating scenes in 15 second chunks are both interesting from a production standpoint but utterly unengaging as something to watch. So how do you make an adaptation that exists as it’s own enjoyable thing to watch?

There are, in my thinking, two principles that make adaptations work. The first is originality, a faithful adaptation is a bad adaptation, it either exists simply to bring the work into a different medium or to recapture the glory of the past work while putting a token stamp of creativity with different names in the credits. The second principle is surprise, even if your adaptation is faithful as possible having that one element of surprise, casting a previously male character as a female one can alter your interpretation of the whole work which, even if it seems small, can improve the whole product as a result.

For two examples we only have to look at two recent adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Sherlock is a bad adaptation, it has actors turning out good performances but the scripts are reminiscent of a drunk recalling a story, getting all the plot beats right but forgetting that A. They’ve told you this story before and B. You’re too sober to enjoy their crap. Whereas Elementary while suffering a little from over long series’s enjoys the privilege of being written by a drunk who while telling a story you’ve both heard before A. Knows this and plays with it B. Introduces elements alter the original story in unexpected ways.

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