Mailvox: Hollywood posers

BG has a legitimate gripe:

What is it with mass media moguls needing to revamp beloved stories, thinking that they’ll sell? The makers of Troy urinated all over Homer’s epics, Bruckhiemer felt the King Arthur story needed a rehash so Lady Guenevere could throw down for a few rounds, but neither is as horrifying as what the makers of the next Superman plan to do.

The script calls for: A gay Jimmy Olsen(cause everybody’s got to be gay these days, right?);”Player” Superman deciding not to save some people so he can hook up with Lois; Superman’s powers come from his suit (ala The Greatest American Hero television show) and many other less serious abominations. Why can’t Hollywood mentally defecate on the masses with some miserable offering of its own conception and leave our classic stories alone?

Why not? Because Hollywood has no genuinely creative minds. Even its most original products, such as Star Wars – totally revolutionary for its time – was primarily a synthesis of Flash Gordon space opera and the Kurasawa movie Hidden Fortress. There’s nothing wrong with creativity via synthesis, as it is the best that all but the most truly creative can do, but Hollywood can’t even manage X*Y=Z most of the time, settling instead for 1/2(X) + (cliches galore) = pure drek.

The two archetypical directors can be considered Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) and Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers). The former was scrupulously accurate in his attempts to hold to Tolkein’s book as much as reasonably possible, whereas the latter famously claimed never to have even read Heinlein’s classic. Jackson’s success might lead one to hope that directors will learn that the author’s vision must always trump their egotistic urge to stamp their own identity on the story; the massive ego required to become a director in Hollywood does not bode well for the wide acceptance of this lesson.

I find it telling, too, how Hollywood repeatedly returns to the old standbys – do we really need yet another Superman movie? – instead of drawing on the wealth of storytelling that has been created over the last 50 years. If I could select five books that I’d like to see on the big screen, they would be:

1. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper

2. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

3. Dragonsong, Ann McCaffrey

4. The Fencing Master, Arturo Perez-Reverte

5. Goblin Moon, Theresa Edgerton

I’ve never understood why Dick is so popular among the movie-making set, while Heinlein goes almost ignored. He has so many short, juvenile books that would be so easily translated into movies that it amazes me they aren’t a filmic franchise of sorts. I suspect it’s because Dick, like other sloppy novelists for whom I have even less regard, such as Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins and Philip Roth, is considered very clever by the intellectually dense.