Warning: This could get controversial, I'm basically in "Rant Mode".
I thought about the "Conan" news this week, Arnold Swarzenegger reprising the role. Ignoring the sequel "Conan the Destroyer", ignoring the Jason Momoa remake. I liked the newest movie version of Conan, I've encountered people in extended circles of social-media friends who worked on it, both script-wise and effect-wise. I heard that these fans behind the scenes had planned to stick as close to the source material as possible, but had some "suggestions" from studios and producers. They didn't quite get the movie they wanted, but it was probably closer to what they expected.
This reminded me of the "John Carter" debacle earlier in the year. When I heard that the movie was finally in production, after decades of circling the drain in development hell, I was interested. I was one of the peoplewho went to see the movie in 3D in a virtually empty theatre. I enjoyed it because I didn't know a lot about the milieu, thought the six legged dog thing was fun, and thought it depicted a great setting for an RPG. I know a few people who are die-hard fans of Barsoom, so I checked with them to see how close the movie stuck to the source material. These fans claimed that it did well, perhaps the Princess of Mars was dressed a bit too much but otherwise it was pretty close to their imagined space for the setting. Apparently the film bombed at the box office, and one of the most common theories for this was a botched promotional effort from Disney. They just didn't know how to handle it, so they made a few half-arsed attempts...It's little wonder that this movie didn't do well, if I didn't know it was coming, and hadn't been anticipating it, I probably would have missed it as well.
The X-Men movies have done great at the box office, despite everyone I know complaining about some aspect of them. My wife hates the fact that Gambit didn't really appear until the Wolverine prequel, my brother-in-law generally hates everything that has been twisted about the X-Men mythos for the movies, heaps of people complained about the casting choice of Hugh Jackman for Wolverine...like the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider and other comic movies based on Marvel properties, the more the producers get involved, the more the fanboys rage against them. Marvel did the right thing, starting to make movies for themselves, starting with Iron Man and moving through to The Avengers. Most fan boys have been awfully happy with the Avengers, but even this movie has it's complainers. I'll get back to Marvel later.
I know some girls who love the Twilight Books, but they writhe with impassioned hatred against the movies which simply haven't done the books justice. I even read a few days ago, that the studio behind the Twilight movies is considering a reboot, or perhaps some movies sequels that aren't based on the books or some other way to milk the franchise. I similarly know people who felt that key elements of the Harry Potter books were left out of the movies...others who really wish that Tom Bombadil had been left in The Fellowship of the Ring. "I am Legend" probably came closer to the original stories than many other tales, but the ending just left it as a let-down.
Game movies haven't fared much better; I didn't like the Mutant Chronicles movie that was released a few years ago, but it's certainly better than the piles of drivel we've had to put up with under the name of a "Dungeons and Dragons" movie.
But for all the bile and vitriol aimed toward the big studios, people seem to forget; It's all a business.
Movie executives and producers just want to make money. Plundering "geek culture" is currently seen as a good way to make money, but the executives want to make money from more than just the die-hard fans who've loved these intellectual properties for years/decades. They want to make these properties more familiar to the general public, they want their mark on it. In the process, the quirky stuff that we love about the original source material often gets left behind, blown out of proportion or otherwise turned into something we hate. Producers change things in a way that they think will make more money...the source material is just one of the first steps on their path to turn a dollar (regardless of whether they actually appreciate the original or not). I know of script writers who had their projects bought and green-lit, only to see edits of their work through a series of writers...perhaps only ending up with the name of the script as a reminder of the pages they first submitted. It's human nature, everyone wants their little piece of the action, and they see all the other people's accumulated efforts as a monstrous machine against them.
I considered joining the screams again, with people saying "it'll never work" or "awesome, that's what I want to see". But really, there's not much point.
Hollywood will continue to rape our loved intellectual properties, and die had fanboys (and girls) will continue to hate them or it. The general public will wonder what the fuss is about, or simply be confused by the output from the big movie studios (often turning that misunderstanding toward the original "geek culture", unwilling to believe that they've been spoon-fed something that has been dramatically corrupted from the original).
But for every intellectual property that finally makes it into a parody of its former self on the big screen, there are a dozen similar properties that simply don't get anywhere. Two comics I used to love, "Shi" and "Kabuki" were scheduled to get movies into production the late 90s...but they've never gotten out of development stages. A new version of "Red Sonja" has been touted as the "next project" of Robert Rodriguez so many times that it's become a joke. Look at the issues that DC has faced with numerous attempts to get a Justice League movie happening...and every couple of years we hear some new story about how "Game X" is going to hit the mainstream because James Cameron, Ridley Scott, or some other big name director likes the property and wants to turn it into a movie.
It's only rarely that a company run by fans has the motivation and the money to do something about it, that's where I bring my rant back to Marvel, who actually seem to have done the right thing with their movies leading up to (and including) The Avengers. They're making some of the most profitable comic-book movies of all time, and actually getting the public interested in comics to some degree by avoiding the middle men of third-party studio production houses and producer yes-man. Some die hard fans might still have quibbles with certain parts of the mythology, but you're never going to please all of the people all of the time.
As a community, we need to just live with the fact that movie studios don't exist to pay homage to our games, our comics and our novels. They exist to make money. If our games, comics and novels happen to be one of the flavours of the months, then why shouldn't we just sit back and enjoy the ride. It's not like we can make much change to the minds of those people who have the money and make the decisions. If we really don't like it, we should get up off our collective arses and start making our own entertainment.
Hell, isn't that what we do when we roleplay.
Just don't get me started on the "Evil Dead" remake.
4 weeks ago