Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Rose By Any Other?

I’ve been struck with one of those ideas which is either vaguely brilliant or alarmingly dreadful. The kind that both wants to be seen and also never come to light. At least I think so. Before I tell you what it is, please note that I do not intend to tackle any such project. I’m just as much on the fence about it as I suspect you will be.

Let me begin with a terse rant about the Hollywood remakes. Yes, they exist. And yes, they always have existed. Lately they seem to be dominant. Love them or hate them (generally I hate them) they are here to stay. Some have been good, most bad. But I’m not going to pontificate on those. Point being they do exist, for better or for worse. If you want to hear me rant more on this subject, you can find it here.

Sometimes, however, a good reason or outcome is included with the re-do of films. I’ll give you two examples. Oddly (or not so oddly), they both deal with horror movies. Not surprising, I suppose, taking into consideration that horror movies, especially, are getting remade. (Now that’s an entirely different subject of exploration: why are we bent on remaking horror?)

Clive Barker had been approached to remake Hellraiser. For those of you who do not know, the Hellraiser series, as it pertains to Barker, is more than initially appears. I’m not trying to convince you it’s good nor that you should like it. I’m just relating that a great deal of thought and inventive mythology went into its creation. (As well as the comics it spawned.) When approached, Barker declined. Told that the remake would be done with or without him, Barker responded (paraphrasing): “Okay then, I guess I could stand to revisit my work and see what I can come up with now…” I love that…an author “invited” to rework their own work.

Sam Raimi, before Spider-Man, had a big hit with the Evil Dead series. This series has its own inherent oddities of creation, but perhaps I’ll discuss those another time. When the prospect of an Evil Dead remake came up, Raimi gave his blessing! I love the reason why. He wants to be able to watch his story through the eyes of another director and creative team. Curious how else it might be done, he allowed it gracefully. Very cool. I have to say I had not been charmed to remaking Evil Dead. Until I read Raimi’s reaction.

Now I’d like to turn your attention to the comic book world. I’m the peripheral sort of comic book guy. I like them a lot and a know quite a bit about a great much of it. In other words, enough to get by. But one of the things that anyone can see is: character design evolves. It may be obvious that it would…but that doesn’t make it any less important. New artists draw the character differently. Or perhaps new elements are introduced. All in all, fresh styles and visions come about. There may be exact guidelines touching upon it, but it’s a new perception all the same.

It also applies to characters from other than the comics. It might seem that they are static at first thought, but even icons Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse have undergone changes throughout time and artists.

Another area that has benefited from re-imagining is video games. From "re-inventing" 2-D to 3-D to upgrades in character desgins and the like, there is no denying that the world of video gaming has had many guises under the same umbrella.

Let us not forget the stage. Re-staging is a common term and practice, one that is even desired.

The music industry is no stranger to the idea either. Songs are "covered" all the time. To both sweet and sour results. And it's not just the "mainstream" music. We are always delighted to hear a different orchestra's rendition and/or a noted conductor's take on classical pieces.

Wondering what my point is? What is this "big, crazy-enough-to-work but please don’t try it" idea? Remakes of Novels. An author who writes the same story of another author into his or her own style. All of the same story elements, characters (and names) would exist and the sequence would be the same…but written anew, with different language and words to tell the story. For instance, what if Stephen King “rewrote” Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Re-read Peter and Wendy written afresh by Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions).

I bet you can think of a great many “What Ifs?” along this vein. I’m trying not to…

(I’m sure someone will tell me that it’s already been done. If that is the case, then it’s mea culpa for not hearing about it. But it's just as well I not know.)


Danielle Mari said...

Intriguing post, Pete. I know of no rewrites either (we could count West Side Story as a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet-- and I'm talking about the scripts, not the staging... but that's more of a recontextualization.
I wonder if the reason for the lack of re-novels might lie in the fact that movies, comics, music-- they're all collaborative efforts. A novel (though it may be assisted to existence by editors, publishers, agents...) derives from the mind of one creative force. So rewriting it would be more like stealing, less like an extension of the collaboration?
I don't know-- poets sometimes riff on each other's themes... Neruda took Keats's cue and wrote his own "Ode to Autumn"- but to call it a rewrite seems a stretch. It's more like an extended literary conversation. I don't know, Pete! An intriguing notion!

Anonymous said...

A rewrite of a novel, regardless of the spin or the author is always going to be compared to the original. Remakes of movies (while often, if not always terrible)rely heavily on the fact that they can do things with film that could not be done before, are still compared to the originals no matter how big the explosion is. Those films seem to only be trying to capitalize on a vaguely familiar concept to make money on a new audience, rather than making a better film or a film with an original idea. I only see greed in the rewriting a book with your own spin.

What could possibly be the benefits of having novels rewritten? So that Stephen King can make the events of Wonderland be explained away by an alien? or an unexplainable evil? Or God? No thanks. It all seems very lazy to invest so much time in rehashing an old story (good or not) rather than creating a new one. If rewrites and updates of novels come to be commonplace you will end up seeing the literary world screech to a halt. Publishers and bookstores would end up facing the same problems that production companies and movie theaters are up against right now.

Creativity is in this stagnant state because nobody wants to take the time to actually think of something on their own.

Peter Von Brown said...

Well said.
Again, please understand that I am not advocating the practice at all. It had just been a passing thought. A "What If" or a "Huh." And you seem to have closed the lid on it. It's a shame you are 'anonymous' as I would like to know who put so much thought into it. :)