Adaptation, as nature intended…

On March 11, 2006 by Christy

I really enjoyed the fan created live action video (read “fan”, not amateur) of The Simpsons opening sequence: You Tube – The Simpsons. Last night I watched a live action version of the comic Asterix and Cleopatra, Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre, and cringed; and I’ve been avoiding watching the live action + CG movie version, Garfield, of the Garfield comics, though I’m quite happy to watch a 2D animated Garfield. Why do I enjoy some adaptations and not others?

I found the live action version of Asterix a poor cousin of the comic, indeed 2D characters. Though the film seemed well made and had an impressive cast and budget, it just felt wrong. Asterix is 2D. There has been a discussion in literary criticism for a few decades about story and discourse. That there is the story, what happened, and the discourse, how it is described. The debate, simply put, has been whether there is such a distinction and if so, where are their boundaries? The story of Asterix can be adapted into other media, other arts types, other mediums. The discourse of Asterix can, but in a limited sense. Asterix as a 2D character can be enjoyed, for me, in the print version and in the 2D animated versions. The same with Garfield. But when Asterix becomes live action and Garfield a 3D character, they are no-longer there. It is a farce, a joke, poor mimickery. But I enjoyed the live action version of The Simpsons. Why?

For me, the live action version of The Simpsons was a homage. It wasn’t trying to be The Simpsons, or trying to convert or indeed adapt The Simpsons. It is a sign of respect. The exact graphic matching of the sequences, timing, gestures, camera angles and so on were all there. We’ve all seen that opening sequence hundreds of times (ok, not everyone, but alot of people). So, when a person who has that sequence etched in their memory watches a version of it, there is an immediate comparison. The Simpsons live action video was almost perfect. That attention to detail shows respect for the original. I must admit, the scenes I enjoyed the most out of the Asterix live action film, were the ones that seemed to match the panels of the comic I have in my head.

Doing a 3D version of Garfield isn’t a sign of disrespect as such. Who wouldn’t want to meet Garfield, walk past him with a tray full of lasagne or ask him if he thinks I’m fat? And I guess, Garfield and Asterix are only 2D to me because that is how I first experienced them. What if I grew up with a 3D version and then saw a 2D adaptation? Would that be going against what nature intended?