The Nature of Adaptation: Form v. Content

Hulu added the second season of Fargo to instant streaming recently, and my wife and I devoured it this past weekend. One episode in, and we were hooked. Fargo is an even blend of style, mystery, action, and dark Midwestern humor. It’s a show that uses style, editing, and composition to fully submerge its audience into the emotions of the sequence, rather than hanging its hat on a melodramatic narrative structure.

When we finished, I felt the need to immediately blurt out, “This is one of the best comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.” This sounded silly and confusing in that Fargo isn’t adapted from a comic book. It carries the name of a popular Coen Brothers movie and crafts crime stories in the style and tone of the film. There were no comic books to be found on the set of the film, and none of the iconic characters from the world of comics even graced the background.

But that’s what makes this adaptation interesting. While Marvel and DC continue to make films using their popular licensed characters, the second season of Fargo is more of a comic book adaptation than either of the “cinematic universes” that the aforementioned companies are dumping into movie theaters.

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Photos and the Gift of Memories

After every holiday meal, my grandmother used to round up everyone for the annual family photo. She’d open a new disposal camera that she had picked up from Walgreens the week before, stand everybody together, and use that grandmother voice to delegate orders until we all gave satisfactory smiles. Since we only finished eating only a few moments before, this always proved to be an arduous task. Our bellies were stuffed, and our bodies were sending signals that we needed to beach ourselves on a couch and fall asleep to the melodic malaise of a Lawrence Welk rerun.

I never understood this ritual, and the only meaning I ever took from it was how much I loathed taking photos. I’d see those holiday photos on display every time we visited my grandparents, and I’d think about how many spoonfuls of mashed potatoes were packed into that belly of mine. The gluttonous guilt was enough to make an absolute decree to never capture a memory on celluloid ever again.

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A Breakup Letter to DCEU


© 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Dear DC Extended Universe,

I saw Suicide Squad this past weekend, and I just want to say, I can’t do it anymore. The movie, like the sum of all of your parts, is lacking. You’re a Frankenstein’s monster stuffed with malformed chunks of ideas (some good, some bad) hastily stapled, sewn and taped together, and though your arms are open and eager to hug moviegoers, the stench of hollow storytelling is too pungent to embrace. It leaves me heartbroken. As a comic book geek, as a fan of DC and as a lover of cinema, I — we — can’t be seen together any longer.

We’re just too different. I’m a living, breathing person, and you’re, well, dead. I hadn’t realized it until now, but I think you were deceased before we had even been properly introduced. Your friend, Zack, must have diluted the smell with body spray while he distracted me with flashy movements. I thought it was erratic and bizarre at first. Even the second time around, I gave Zack the benefit of the doubt when he said your body was sagging and coming undone because you needed an extra 30 minutes to recuperate after a long day at the office. But this?

I drew the line when your buddy Jared came over and used my favorite Batman comic books for toilet paper. His friends, Will, Margot, Viola, Cara and even Jai, were okay, but that Trailer Park outfit you were dressed in when you all walked in was too unbecoming. Too much jewelry and not enough substance. It didn’t hide the lacerations in your flesh. When your innards slid through the stitching and crumpled to the floor within the first ten minutes, that’s when it dawned on me. I glanced at Jared, who had drawn a mouth over his mouth for some reason, and I knew we didn’t belong together. You weren’t simply in need of “more time” to recuperate. You needed something only an undertaker could provide — everlasting peace.

I’m not saying this is good-bye forever. As any self-respecting comic book fan knows, death isn’t a permanent state. I’ll also still be over for family gatherings, and I still plan on visiting your brother, DC Comics, every Wednesday for our usual hangout. But us? This weird relationship we’ve gotten ourselves into?

It’s too painful. I didn’t mind you rummaging into my wallet every couple of months for a few bucks, but each time we’ve hung out, the cuts have been slicing deeper and deeper. It’s only a matter of time before you kill me. Suicide Squad was too close to the heart, and I have to call it quits. I’m sorry. I really wish it could have worked out. For a while, I was even willing to let the whole “Martha” thing go. Not anymore.

Goodnight, sweet prince.


© Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Green Lanterns and the Disease of Rage


“Shall sins go unpunished? Crimes justified into toleration? Victims, forgotten? This mad universe would say… yes. I disrespectfully disagree. Rage brings balance to the cosmos. Without the Red Lanterns, creation would crumble under our feet. The universe needs us.” — Atrocitus, Lord of the Red Lanterns

1,076 humans infected with rage. 2,338 humans infected with rage. 4,143 humans infected with rage. A contagion spreads across Earth in the newest incarnation of Green Lanterns, emanating from a tower designed to disperse a beacon of anger. It’s all part of an elaborate plot to transform Earth into a new homeworld for the Red Lanterns, and there’s seemingly no way to stop it. Rage begets rage, and the only people standing in this contagion’s way are two inexperienced Green Lanterns. Overwhelmed, all they can seem to do is watch in horror as their friends, family and loved ones succumb to the malevolent disease of hatred.

The arc, “Rage Planet,” is an exciting introduction to these new Lanterns, but what’s more interesting is the timing of this story. It’s 2016. An election year. We’re in a period of great unrest, as members of both the Republican and Democratic parties find themselves in a bind. Two less-than-desirable candidates have a presidential nomination, and more so than in years past, many voters are weighing the prospect of third-party candidates. This has led to a rift in the parties, with whole groups of people willing to sacrifice their traditional allegiances to make a stand. Understandably, social media has been fiery, with idealists and traditionalists writing sharp-tongued posts defending their positions or attacking those who won’t follow in step.

Certain candidates, to that end, have tapped into different nerve centers among voters. Donald Trump has amassed an army of faithful who feel disenfranchised by the system and alienated by a world different from the one they grew up with. At the other end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders  has inspired a devoted following fed up with what they perceive as “business as usual” tactics by weak-willed representatives in Washington. The two are an interesting parallel, and in their own ways, have effectively empowered themselves through rage.

As we’ve seen amongst the “Bernie or Bust” crowd at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the rage isn’t so easily silenced. The same can be said of Donald Trump’s ilk. Though the two have diametrically opposed goals, it’s the emotion they inspire that’s important here. As the election looms, it’s only grown stronger.

My Facebook feed is ever a breeding ground for rage. Those in step with the party line rage against the disenfranchised. The disenfranchised rage against those in step with the party line. News blogs and media outlets fuel the anger with polarizing headlines, soundbites and live feeds. After a while, it all blends together, and all one can do is balk at the scope of it all.

Credit where credit is due, there are those who engage in calm, respectful discussions, and they deserve praise. They’re playing the role of the healer, looking at their peers infected with rage and realizing that these, too, are still human. Whatever side of the fence they lie on politically, they’re still our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.

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