How did you not see that coming? Tales Already Told

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A while back I got into BBC’s Merlin and part of the fun was seeing the new take on the old tale.  So when characters I remember from the few stories I read showed up, I was excited and intrigued.  Sure, it took liberties, but that’s what I expected.  As long as some of the key points were struck like Mordred being Arthur’s downfall and teaming up with Morgana.  I mean, everyone knows Arthur dies in the legend and is sent to Avalon where he sleeps until he’s needed again.  Right?

Apparently not.  Much like those who didn’t realize the Titanic would sink or that King Kong would fall off the Empire State Building, I found many who hated the ending.  They didn’t realize that was the only way it could have ended.  It’s how it always ends.  But you had people screaming for another season, saying that Mordred would never do what he did, or that Arthur could never be killed.  Bad writing, actors wanted out of contracts, and a whole slew of ridiculous arguments about why it happened.  Only a handful eventually understood that it’s how it was always meant to be.

This makes me wonder about the tales that are always getting told.  We know these so well and get curious about retellings.  Although Hollywood seems to be abusing that curiosity to the point where I think a restraining order is necessary.  Anyway, we’re happy to see a new twist that is also respectful to the source material.  Just keep the core the same and hit the proper notes to keep it connected.  I can think of an August movie that got slammed for spitting on the source material.  So fans of the original are going to be hard to please just as new people might not like it when you stick to pieces of the original.  It’s rather head-spinning confusing from the artist’s perspective.

Now as an author, I can respect those who try to touch on a classic and give it their own twist without losing the essence.  It’s not easy to do and most fail than succeed.  For example, I read a book long ago called The Looking Glass Wars, which was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland.  This one story has been pounced on all the time, but I really enjoyed this version that gave a magic and sci-fi feel to it.  Things were totally different and yet had some familiarity.  I’d recommend it, especially since it goes into an area that means you won’t get the same ending as the original and you’re okay with that.

I’m not sure what I should ask here.  I know people are passionate about their hatred of remakes/reboots/retellings.  That’s a door that I’d rather not open again.  So, what do you think when you hear someone get surprised by the ending of something that stems from a long-existing source?  Like those people who got upset when you mentioned that the Titanic sank even though you saw it happen in the commercial.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to How did you not see that coming? Tales Already Told

  1. People have a right to their opinions. I much prefer something new as opposed to a remake. I enjoy classic stuff that’s hitting the screen for the first time. I doubt a remake of The Lord of the Rings will have anything new to offer. I also thought they missed the boat by not getting Mel Gibson to be Tom Bombadil. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment. They added a ton to The Hobbit for commercial reasons. I still liked it.

    On the other hand, Jurassic World was very much a retread of the old material. I wanted more out of it. Everyone will see these things differently.

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    • Remakes are an odd thing, but they do tend to lock in an ending. The times it really confuses me is when it’s not a remake of a movie, but the retelling of a historical event or mythology. You can have the opinion that sinking the Titanic was a terrible plot twist. Many people have. It’s just that it really doesn’t make sense since it actually happened. I guess my issue is when people go into these types of things, claim to be huge fans, and never look into the source material. That was always one of my favorite things to do when I got into something.

      I did notice Jurassic World mirrored Jurassic Park. The third one was like that too, so I was only looking for cool dinosaurs. As for The Hobbit . . . I just couldn’t keep going after Legolas was tossed in.

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      • My thoughts too. History is history, while it lends it’self to some speculations, go too far and it becomes historical fiction. Go way too far and it becomes speculative fiction. This is how pharaohs become aliens. It might be more entertaining, but it is no longer history.

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      • Great examples and evolution explanation. Gets scary when people take the later stages and think it’s real history. Though I have to admit it is funny hearing somebody seriously explain how the Pharaohs were aliens.

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  2. Bookwraiths says:

    Re-envisioning classics like King Arthur are a tough sell with me. Mainly, this is because I know the material fairly well, and if the new version varies too far off the previous path I recognize it, so the new elements better be damn good. If it is, I’m cool with it, but if it falls flat, I think I’m less forgiving of the failure.

    Movie remakes? Honestly, I really can’t recall a movie remake that I enjoyed very much. Some have been okay, but if I loved an older movie, it really is impossible to make me love it more the second time around. If I hated the original, then what the hell difference does it make. Can’t be any worse, right?

    As for adaption of books to movies, those usually work better for me, because, I suppose, I don’t go into the theater expecting the movie to be just like the novel. They just never are. Obviously, I’ve thought some worked better than others. Lord of the Ring is probably my favorite book-to-movie series, but even it had a few moments where I cringed noticeably. Both of these are in The Two Towers. One is where Aragorn rides into Helms Deep right before the orc horde; the other is when the elves march into Helms Deep. Don’t know why, but those changes to the source material irk me immensely — even now.

    The worst book-to-movie adaption is a hard one, but the one still fresh in my mind is The Hobbit. The first movie was entertaining. The second was tolerable — in parts, at least. And the third was just not very good at all. I’m being kind with that assessment. If you want a harsh one, I’ll let me sons give their opinion of the movies, because they list them as some of the worst they’ve ever been forced to watch.

    TV remakes? Most fall flat, but then there are ones that exceed the original. My personal favorite is Battlestar Galactica. I grew up in the late 70s pretending to be a Colonial Warrior on the playground, then fell in love with the Bush-Era remake. Miracles do happen, I guess.

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    • It’s a big risk to do a re-envisioning, so it is curious how often it happens. I think there’s an assumption that a new generation needs a ‘new version’ of the old stuff or something. At least those making these are banking on younger people not knowing the source material enough to get angry at changes. As far as movie remakes, I’m at a loss of any I enjoyed that I knew were a remake at first. For example, I liked ‘The Italian Job’ and didn’t realize it was a remake until later. I kind of like them both.

      The elves and Helms Deep is a sticking point for me too. I think a reason it doesn’t sit well for the book fans is because it was unnecessary. It removed the part of the story where the elves were leaving Middle Earth and only Legolas was getting involved. The whole thing felt like Peter Jackson wanted a lot of flash and cool stunts for the big battle. Oddly prophetic when you get to The Hobbit. I’ve yet to see the third of that one because the second annoyed me too much. I couldn’t do it with all the unnecessary changes and how it seemed to go against the LOTR events. Mostly Legolas being there. What was it with Jackson and the friggin’ elves?

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  3. I haven’t seen Merlin, but I find this topic very interesting, because you say here that some people hated the ending because they felt that what happened didn’t ring true with what they knew of the characters. Maybe the TV show was always meant to end one way, but if people are this up in arms over it — not because they dislike what happened, but because it didn’t make sense to them based on the rest of the show — it’s not a problem with people not knowing the source material or accepting the inevitable ending. It’s a problem with the show itself, that they didn’t build up properly to the big finale, that they didn’t lay the necessary groundwork to make the ending reasonable and acceptable to fans. In a movie like Titanic, no one acts all shocked and offended when the boat sinks and Jack dies. The movie built up to that ending perfectly, and even if the ending’s tragic, no one’s saying “well, that would never happen.”

    So I guess what I’m really saying is, my opinion in remakes and re-imaginings is that I don’t really care whether they stay true to the source material or not. The only thing that matters to me is if it’s done well. If the director wants to remake Alice in Wonderland as a cyber-punk murder mystery where Alice is a cyborg who ends up destroying the world, fine. As long as it’s a good movie, and it makes sense that things turn out the way they do, go for it!

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    • In terms of Merlin, it ended exactly as the characters would have done it. After seeing it all, there really wasn’t any other way without doing a corny ‘good guys live happily ever after’ thing. It was built up perfectly and all the pieces in place. The issue that can come up is that readers/viewers get their own opinion on what a character will do or play favorites to the point where any negative event toward their favs is met with ‘makes no sense’. As for the Titanic, I have met people that consider the sinking of the boat an unnecessary plot twist and claim there was no build up. Also the argument that there was plenty of room on the door for Jack. Honestly, plenty of people claim the ending of ‘Titanic’ makes no sense in terms of his death. Yet I do think we’re seeing what I said before with individual viewers see things in different ways.

      Done well is definitely necessary. Though I always wonder what the point is if you don’t use the source material to some extent. Kind of like how the ‘Karate Kid’ remake had no connection to the original beyond the title. Such things may function better without an attempt to snag nostalgia or a pre-existing, possibly picky fan base. Speaking of Alice, there is one that comes close to that description. The Looking Glass Wars was a great re-imagining of it. Maybe books have it easier than movies and TV shows.

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  4. I enjoy re-tellings or extended tellings of old tales. I read The Looking Glass Wars when it first came out and really enjoyed it. Wicked is also fantastic. But I much prefer the story to take an alternate look rather than completely “rewrite history,” so to speak, if that makes any sense. And of course, I’d further prefer new stories.

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    • I stumbled onto that book when I had a Barnes & Noble giftcard. Honestly, the cover drew me in even though I wasn’t sure of it. Think they did a comic based on Hatter too. Either way, I’m glad I gave it a shot. I get what you’re saying about the same story from a different character’s perspective. It builds on the old instead of feeling like it’s trying to replace it.

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  5. When I hear someone express surprise at an ending that we all know should end that way I wonder where they have been. The surprise factor is a bit naive in that they were going to revisit something thinking someone would re-write the logical ending? I heard a lot about the remake of the War of the Worlds. Yes, the aliens die. Yes, it is the common cold virus. Yes, that’s the way the original story went. Yes, it still ends that way so why should it be different?

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    • Maybe they were paying attention to something else? I think with some things it’s simply an ignorance in regards to the source material. I guess that’s an excuse for a little bit, but the Internet allows us to look up everything these days. As a friend says, ignorance is kind of a choice these days.

      I forgot about War of the Worlds. For some reason I’m not surprised people were confused on that one. Then again, I still remember a few people in the theater complaining about King Kong and the Empire State Building when Peter Jackson did his movie. One person actually yelled that it was a cliche and been done . . . Uh . . . King Kong invented that cliche.

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  6. I’m not necessarily against re-writes, under the write circumstances. Re-tellings of traditional stories can bring a fresh perspective, and things like fairy tales, where events can be somewhat hap-hazard, may benefit from a more logical grounding.

    What’s very irksome to me is when an author takes it upon himself to re-write the original work of another author who is known to history and may have living descendants. It smacks of arrogance to claim that you can take someone’s unique, personal creation and “fix it,” as if the author didn’t know their own story or what they were trying to say.

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    • I wonder if the stories that originated as mythology and oral traditions have more flexibility when it comes to perspective. As you said, events can be rather haphazard and that can lead to various versions.

      That second instance would definitely be irksome. I know public domain comes into play after a certain amount of time, but there really should be some level of respect. Trying to think of recent examples for both sides, but coming up blank.

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      • Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, is a brilliant re-telling of Cinderella. And, while I’m not an Austen fan, it seems kind of rude to write a book like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which mocks her body of work. To say nothing of John Scalzi re-writing Little Fuzzy, which dates only to 1962 and is amazingly relevant in its original form.

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      • Wow. Never realized the Ella/Cinderella connection until now. I’ve heard of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, but never looked into it. I’ve wondered if that was a spoof that made it further than people intended. Such an odd thing to make and doesn’t sound very appealing.

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  7. Pingback: Wednesday Reblog | K. Leigh Michaels

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