your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What do filmmakers owe the fans of favorite universes?

J.J. Abrams is telling diehard Trekkies to avoid his new Star Trek reboot: “Don’t see the movie,” he has said. “You’ll just get angry. It is not Shatner playing Kirk, so I do apologize.” (I think he’s wrong about how serious fans will react, but I’ll get to that in my review, which I’ll post in a little while.)

Meanwhile, at Empire Online, Helen O’Hara explains why the studios should not listen to fans when it comes to beloved franchises. It’s because Fox did heed fan wishes, she says, and tossed Gambit and Deadpool into the mix of Wolverine that those same fans are unhappy with their treatment now: because those characters were shoehorned into a story in which they didn’t really belong.

So, my question today is: What do filmmakers owe the fans of favorite universes? Does it make more sense for filmmakers to do what is right, creatively, for a movie, even if it doesn’t satisfy the cravings of fans, or should filmmakers give the fans what they want, even if it doesn’t quite make sense within the context of the story they’re telling? Or is there a third option?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/flick/public_html/wptest/wp-content/themes/FlickFilosopher/loop-single.php on line 106
  • Personally, I think that fundamentalism is not a good thing, in every aspect of life.
    I’m a trekker but I can stand that someone else wears the ears of Spock, expecially if THAT someone is Zachary Quinto, even if his Spock is a little bit too emotional …

    But I think that if you make a movie about a series so beloved and with fan so devoted as Star Trek or about a comics like X-men, you have to be smart enough to put something understandable only to true fans, like Synger did for the Phoenix on the water at the end of X2.
    That was a little touch, but for diehard fans was something really special.

    You see, I think that fan and geek like us are people so used to be neglected that we need just a little bit more of consideration to be as happy as kids in front of a chocolate cake …. ^_^

  • Martin

    And let us not forget that Sam Raimi didn’t want to add Venom to Spidey 3 but the studio, under pressure from fans, insisted.

    I think that, from a filmmaker’s perspective, they owe the fanbase to make the best adaptation they can. As long as the changes made are done for a reason and not at odds with the integrity of the original.

    The problem, I think is when people listen too closely to the fanbase. Whilst it’s good for writers and directors to have some fan input, trying to appease every fan’s little whim taps away at the creative process. That and most fans don’t seem to understand basic narratives and if they were given free reign, it would read like bad fan fiction, too much action and a lot of Mary-Sues.

  • Accounting Ninja

    There are 2 types of fans, I think. Fans that want their canon un-defiled, their characters consistant and their stories making sense. They take it seriously, and bristle at the “it’s just a comic book/game/cartoon” apologists. Preserving the mythology is important, and they want reboots to bring something new to the table without destroying all the good that came before.

    ..Then there are the fans that just want to see their fave characters/plots from the original source, all spruced up fancy-like, and will be happy with a weak plot if they get to see their favorites. They appreciate the “cool factor”. Maybe a scene didn’t make sense, but damn if it wasn’t awesome!! This group’s a lot more forgiving, but a lot more prone to, as Martin said, Mary Sues (shudder) and pointless action.

    The problem is when these two groups clash.

    I tend to fall into the first group, but I can appreciate coolness if it’s done right. But, if something totally butchers a franchise I love, like Star Trek for example, I just can’t enjoy it. A couple egregious offenders for me include Transformers, DragonBall Evolution, FF Advent Children.

    Some really great movies have been made by people who stuck to group #1, like the Lord of the Rings movies and Batman Begins, though these aren’t without their detractors.

  • Question of the day: What do filmmakers owe the fans of favorite universes?

    Absolutely nothing.

    And vice versa.;-)

  • I dunno why people would complain about Deadpool being in the Wolverine flick. Especially when it lets the fans vent in their own way.


  • PJK

    I think the Onion News Network said it best.

  • Saladinho

    It wasn’t just that Gambit and Deadpool were shoehorned into a story they didn’t belong (no one belonged in that crappy movie!), it’s that fans didn’t even recognize the characters once they got there.

    It’s not enough to say, “See? We listened to the fans. Now look what happened!” No, what happened is, you made a piece of shit. If you really cared about including those characters in an X-Men movie, you should have made a film that needed them, instead of just patronizing everybody.

    It seems that most times studios want to cash in on a popular concept, and then remove it from what made it popular to begin with. In most cases, they disrespect the very people who made the damn things worth their attention in the first place.

  • Katie Dvorak

    Ultimately the filmmaker owes the fans a respectful rendering of their favorite universe. That doesn’t me it has to be 100% faithful but they need to at least show fans that they understand and respect the fanbase and when they make changes they did so to better serve the story.

    I won’t dignify the belief that Fox listened to the fans regarding Deadpool and Gambit because the complete randomness/pointlessness of their appearance was the least of Wolverine’s problems. The lack of plot and a decent script was a bigger issue.

  • Matt S.

    Filmmakers don’t owe fans anything but a good movie, whether it’s canonical or way off the map in terms of pre-existing continuity. At the same time, if fans see a totally unrecognizable adaptation of a favorite comic, book, TV show, earlier, film, etc., it’s fair to ask why the filmmakers wanted to adapt that material in the first place. If the adaptation has little or nothing to do with the original work, then it comes across as a cynical cash-in on a brand name, and the fans may feel a little cheated and exploited. For all that, the filmmakers might as well have just done something similar, but forgone any pretense of working from the source material. All I ever want is a decent flick that honors its source, not slavishly imitates it.

    By and large, I think most of the genre movies that draw the fans’ ire are just substandard films, and fans express their disappointment in the film in terms of its violation of their favorite characters. That’s not to say the fans are owed something more faithful, or that their criticisms are valid, but just about everyone has been in a situation where their indignation is so overwhelming that all they can do is sputter and flail around for words to express it.

  • Mischief Maker

    If someone did a reboot of “Casablanca” where Rick ends up with Ilsa in the end, would the resulting outrage be blamed on silly nerd rage?

    Making a remake or a franchise movie means you have a pre-packaged fanbase that will keep things profitable no matter what. The Trek fanbase is what kept Voyager afloat all those years despite being a terrible, terrible show, and is probably what prevented Enterprise from being canceled in its first season.

    Yes, filmmakers owe the franchise’s fans. The fanbase is a big fat money-stuffed security blanket. I can’t help but roll my eyes when Paramount publishes the official Star Trek technical manual, makes a boatload of money off it, then cries foul when the fans say the writing on the show doesn’t match up with their official book. Didn’t they have a couple author’s copies lying around the staff room?

    The problem with having an established fanbase is it seems to engender laziness and contempt for the audience on behalf of filmmakers. Look at the Star Wars prequels, which might as well have been written on a bar napkin. “Whadda the fans like? Boba Fett? Here’s a thousand of ’em! Now gimme the damn check.” And sure enough, despite being unbelievably horrible movies, the prequels made a healthy profit because of their pre-established fan base. Compare and contrast with the equivalent in all but fanbase “Wing Commander: the movie.”

    Some might say doing writing for an established franchise is a thankless job because you’re trapped within the rigid confines of the established story unless you do some radical remake of the whole thing. Poppycock!

    Just look at the new run of Dr Who. It takes the story and the narrative bent of the series in wild new directions, but at the same time stays consistent with the pre-established story of the series.

    Or look at Deep Space 9. While Berman and Bragga were in a constant “alien-of-the-week” loop for two entire series, DS9 took the established Trek franchise and threw in all kinds of monkeywrenches deconstructing Star Fleet and taking the show in new directions fans never would have expected. (“In the Pale Moonlight,” anyone?)

    So when JJ Abrams says nasty things about the fanbase stifling his artistic creativity, I call bullshit. There was nothing stopping them from doing a Trek movie with a completely new crew new ship, and an original angle. They didn’t do that. They wanted Kirk and Spock and Bones and the entire original crew to milk the Trek fanbase for all it’s worth. Yes they owe the established fanbase, because that’s who’s going to be making them money when the film comes out.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    If the adaptation has little or nothing to do with the original work, then it comes across as a cynical cash-in on a brand name, and the fans may feel a little cheated and exploited.

    In that case, isn’t it? Weren’t they? If you’re going to take advantage of the name-brand, you’d better be prepared to do justice to that name-brand. If you don’t want to work under that constraint (which isn’t much of one for creative people), then make your movie on its own terms. You don’t get to take advantage of an established property’s built-in audience AND completely ignore that property (and its audience).

    Compare and contrast with the equivalent in all but fanbase “Wing Commander: the movie.”

    Hey, there WAS a Wing Commander fanbase, and both of us had plenty to nerdgripe about, let me tell you.

  • Mathias

    Ask Christopher Nolan. he’ll have your answers. ;)

    Seriously, all you need to do is watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to see the proper way to reboot a familiar universe. There seems to be 3 important points:

    1) Never, ever, dismiss the material as “just” anything. Whether it’s comics or a 45 year old tc show. Take it very seriously.

    2) Never, ever, talk down to your audience. Introduce the familiar elements in service to the story, not in spite of it. Don’t just throw in random characters and familiar lines just for the sake of it.

    3) Any “re-inventions” you do within a well-known and well-loved universe, make sure you have a logical reason for it. That’s the reason why Nolan wasn’t attacked for any of his re-imaginings.

  • Mo

    I was going to say something, but Mathias said it much, much better. ^.^

    Basically, yeah, dogmatic loyalty to the universe is worthless if the movie sucks. Be loyal to the story you are telling, respect the universe, and make the best movie (or show) you possibly can. Almost all of the great reboots and movie versions of beloved things have done that, and done it well, be it Doctor Who or Lord of the Rings, or the latest Batman movies.

    It also doesn’t hurt to leave room for things to happen off-screen rather than contradicting them. For example taking Frodo to Osgiliath makes me yell at the screen every time I watch it. Leaving out Tom Bombadil and a myriad of other things in LotR is fine by me because even if there is never any hint of his existence, they still could have happened or existed there.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Peter Jackson’s liberties with the LOTR material were forgivable because of the sheer and awesome badassitude of the entire effort and spectacle – and, yes, due to his obvious love and respect for the source material. He overwhelmed objections with magnificence, bringing hordes of fans into the house who knew nothing of the novel and just watched the movie without making comparisons.

    A movie less well-made would show its faults more unforgivably, I think; and a relatively large proportion of the audience would be LOTR geeks complaining loudly.

    Word seems to be that the Star Trek movie is really good, more than good enough to live long and prosper on its own merits.

    Nobody has mentioned (or did I miss it?) that if a movie is good enough not to need the core audience, then canon be damned.

  • I dunno. As in all things, I think there can be a happy middle. Yes, all fans want their universe to be treated with respect, which is what Bryan Singer did in spite of the many small changes, which is why X-Men resonated with both fans and non-fans. Too much fan service can choke creativity, but ignoring what brought people to a universe isn’t wise, either. I believe creators can look at what fans want — such a certain characters — and maybe say something a long the lines of, “You want to see X? Hmm… well, we’ll look at hir, and if there’s a good story there, we’ll include hir. If not, there’s always next time.”

  • bitchen frizzy

    Oh, I didn’t intend to imply there’s no middle ground. I was using an opposite extreme to make my point.

    There can definitely be happy compromise.

    The invariably fatal mistake is ignoring the essential elements in the source material that made it dear to fandom in the first place, under some mistaken assumption that the timeless material isn’t necessary for the magic or that the screenwriter making the adaptation can actually do better than the original master.

  • Saladinho

    Mischief Maker, in particular, said it best. I’m not even a fan, but if an established franchise has made it as far as Star Trek, it’s safe to assume that it has everything you need to tell a great story.

Pin It on Pinterest