Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sequels, Prequels, Reboots, and Tie-Ins: Why Care Should Be Taken

This was just thrown together as inspiration struck, so I apologize if it's not as coherent as some of my other posts.

I watch AMC Movie Talk, a channel on Youtube (find it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/amctheatres). It's a fantastic little show, with the most up-to-date information and some of the most thoughtful opinions on movies and movie news. It's hosted by John Campea, arguably an expert in the field of movie news and reporting.

Often, Campea expresses his personal views on subjects related to fiction (he's certainly not shy), and even when I disagree with him, I can't fault his logic, and I find him entertaining.

However, he recently expressed a viewpoint that inspired me. That is, he says that people shouldn't care if a movie they love is remade, or if there's some sort of tie in. His logic is that the original is not harmed in any way by this new material--you can still go out and buy A New Hope, for instance, even if the prequel trilogy disappointed you. A New Hope was not harmed by the making of the prequel trilogy; other than Lucas's alterations to the material itself, nothing has changed. He's often said as much.

I agree with that statement in a literal sense, but I have to argue differently, in effect.

I believe that substandard product (or one that strays dramatically from the vision of the original) DOES in fact harm the original. No, the physical copy of the original is not harmed in any way--I can still go watch Raimi's Spider-Man 2, and enjoy it, even if 3 was an abomination in my opinion. However, whenever I watch the Raimi Spider-Man movies, a part of me now thinks of emo-Parker, the rushed character arc of Harry, and the pathetic Eddie Brock/Venom. Every time I watch A New Hope, a part of me wonders if Jar Jar is still alive somewhere. What is the life expectancy of a Gungan, anyway?

So, although I can still watch my favorite works, my enjoyment of them is diminished. The experience has been forever altered.

The same is true of other forms of fiction. I can never read The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan again without, every time Mat reads or writes, thinking about the moment in a later book in which he writes as though he is illiterate. Was brain damage involved in the change? I can never read the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist without thinking of how certain characters meet their end in pathetic, embarrassing ways. No matter how clever, resourceful, or powerful a character is or becomes, I remember them drawing their last breaths in helplessness and fear.

I wouldn't consider either of the previous two works I mention BAD, but even so, later work forever altered my perception of the original. Even should certain events be "undone" later by a retcon (as is often done in Sci-Fi and Fantasy), it's impossible not to think of them.

Why did I write this post? For two reasons.

One was simply to express my opinion. That's what blogs are for, after all, right?

But the other reason was to plead to writers of fiction: Put care into any secondary work that touches on the first. Put some thought into how this might change readers' enjoyment of the original. If you feel the need to expand on some aspect, and feel it could tell a good story, then by all means, feel free. I'm not saying that you have no right to the characters or the story. Please, just consider the consequences of what you're doing.

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