February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
August 16, 2011
With the incredible number of movies being adapted from previously existing works, it was bound to happen. True believers are screaming in agony. Well some are at any rate. Stories being told in the films don’t match up with the already established story lines that have existed. Some deviations might be insignificant but are much more telling. In X-Men: First Class, how Professor Xavier becomes paralyzed (an errant bullet deflected by Magneto) does not line up with the comic book version (an alien that Charles Xavier defeats drops a boulder on him in the Himalayas).
In multiple movies, continuity falters. Some fans are appeased by the notion of a reboot, a story with the characters of the original but departing from the standard storyline. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was one such offering. But some fans just cannot stomach any alterations from the official or authoritative version, whether reboot or adaptation.
In some respects, the altered storylines should be expected. When a story can span several months in comic book issues or even across several titles, or the story takes shape over several long volumes of novels, a la Harry Potter, where it would be impossible to take the whole scope of the narrative into account, a film maker simply cannot include it all and create a coherent narrative the way a graphic novel or traditional novel can. Just ask M. Night Shyamalan with his adaptation of the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Goodness knows if the second installment will be made, let alone the third.
The question that is at the heart of all that vexation is “Who gets to tell the story?” Often it seems that movie execs care only about turning a popular series into a profit stream. Little care is shown for the storyline or the atmosphere of the original. Here, fanboys and fangirls have a claim. The adaptation is being used merely to take the excitement of one group and exploit it.
But several of these adaptations seek to tell the story as faithfully as possible. Here atmosphere and themes are much more important than some of the details. How things happen is less an issue than it happens. The atmosphere is cared for. X-Men: First Class maintains the themes of fear of the unknown, and the resulting split in mutant camps. Having the errant bullet come off of Magneto’s field strengthens the tension between Xavier and Magneto. Both Xavier and Magneto want to protect mutants, and sooner or later there will be intra-mutant strife. The film makers manage to hold to the atmosphere and importance of their split even while altering some details.
The same issue faces the church. There have always been numerous accounts of Jesus, some faithful tellings of his story, some not so faithful. Some of these wranglings even appear within the stories of the gospels. Some people sense Jesus’ identity. Some struggle at it. Some never get it at all. One of the most interesting aspects of these stories is that outsiders, not fanboys, are more likely to get it. Gentiles, lepers, the unclean, the blind, the poor, many unimportant voices get it. Religious leaders and insiders often do not. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus even has a pet name for the disciples, “You of little faith.” They rarely get it.
Clearly we do not need to accept every retelling. But many seemingly new narratives hit upon themes and notions that many minds just cannot even fathom. Voices from the developing world along with emergent voices that are trying to make sense of who Jesus is need the dominant voices to hear. The question of course remains, how much of the story is necessary? If certain details are minimized or altered, when must a line be drawn? A Gnostic Jesus? A transcendental Jesus (ala Deepak Chopra)? No. Those becomes problematic. But voices that long to stay within the fold can and should be listened to even if they differ from traditional and dominant voices. That way the risen and living Christ might continue to come and address us.