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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Non-Comic: Why Cooper and not Stasheff?

Okay, I saw the trailer for The Seeker: Dark is Rising as well. And it looks indeed dreadful. And I say that as someone who is NOT a fan of the original books.

But it got me thinking.

They stripped all the Arthurian and pagan elements out of DiR, which is pretty stupid as that's the core of the books, to make it some Christian allegory.

What puzzles me is that there are good fantasy books out there with light to heavy Christian overtones that they could have used to make a perfectly serviceable movie.

Narnia isn't the be-all and end-all of religious fantasy, you know.

I just don't get it. Why pick an author whose work you have to gut to suit your ideals? Why Susan Cooper and not say Christopher Stasheff?

I mean, okay, the Warlock of Grammarye might be a bit too high concept for a movie (but come on! High tech agent crashes on world founded by crazy space-fairing SCA types. Robot horses! Pro-totalitarian time travelers out to sabotage the seeds of democracy! Really poor knowledge of genetics! It'd make an awesome movie! It's practically a comic book already!). But what about a Wizard in Rhyme? That'd work pretty well, and it's more overtly religious.

If you don't know the plot, basically this college student, Matt, who's a bit directionless ends up finding this mysterious parchment and ends up spending all his time translating it instead of doing his thesis project. He ends up falling into a fantasy world based largely on medieval Europe where God and Satan are very real and VERY active and folks can cast magic via poetic verse.

It'd probably work pretty well as a niche-fantasy movie. It's somewhat Christian, but not extreme about it. God and Satan quite obviously exist and act on the medieval world, but never on Earth. It doesn't get preachy either. It doesn't really have to since good and evil behavior have very vivid and instantaneous consequences in that world. (Since the story essentially uses religion as "rules of the fantasy world", skeptics and non-Christians may also be able to enjoy the story as well, without feeling like they're being preached at or talked down to.) He's of course got a love interest in the Princess of the Kingdom and ends up joining in the quest to see her crowned. There're swords and knights and all that stuff. The main characters are appealing and there are enough visual effects with fantasy creatures and magic and the like to let the creative teams play with special effects.

As an added bonus, the lead is actually Hispanic. (Both parents are Spanish speaking immigrants from...I forget where actually.) So there can be a nice touch of diversity there too, should they choose to embrace it.

I won't say it's an absolutely legendarily awesome story/series. (Warlock is much better, in my opinion. Less repetitive too) but it's decent, serviceable and could make for a good uplifting mass-market Christian-fantasy movie.

It's not like Stasheff's any more obscure than Cooper and his stories wouldn't require nearly as much gutting to make suit their needs. And it's not like Stasheff's the only good Christian-themed fantasy writer out there either. There's LOTS of material available. Look here or here Or maybe here. Or here. Wikipedia's even got a stub of a page up here.

There's a fair bit of good stuff out there that would be perfect for what these folks want! Why gut something that isn't?


  • At September 08, 2007 5:37 AM, Blogger GiantKillerMantis said…

    This is a question that comes up with nearly every hollywood adaptation. The producers want the cachet of whatever property they're adapting, but they always think they need to change it for a wider audience.

    Like the G.I. Joe movie they're talking about now: b/c of the international markets, they're trying to avoid being too American. ???

    Maybe they just want the name recognition for marketing purposes.

  • At September 08, 2007 5:44 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    That'd make sense for G.I.Joe, but not so much with Dark is Rising, I think.

    DiR is hardly Harry Potter after all, for all its quality. I'd honestly guess at least as many people would recognize Christopher Stasheff's name as would recognize Susan Cooper's.

    They probably just wanted something with a young boy wizard type, I suppose. Still...

  • At September 08, 2007 11:52 AM, Blogger zhinxy said…

    Hmmm... were they stripping the pagan elements to make it a Christian allegory, or did they just see them as dross to be discarded?

    I think they just wanted to tell the tale of a young boy wizard, in as flashy a way as possible. For the greenbacks.

  • At September 08, 2007 2:49 PM, Blogger Willow said…

    I'm glad I'm not watching tv. That way I don't have to see Fake Will Stanton with his Fake Ass Twin in their Fake Ass Ring of Fake Fire without the Lady and with Fake Ass Love Interest Maggie Being A Fake Ass All Consumping Plot Point for the Faker Walker.


    See how calm I am?

    Also I agree that Walden Media should marry Christopher Stasheff's books already and leave other stuff alone.

  • At September 08, 2007 10:24 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Also I agree that Walden Media should marry Christopher Stasheff's books already and leave other stuff alone.

    You know I love ya and sympathize Will, but I could kinda do without the dismissive scorn it sounds like you're directing toward an author I've admitted liking a lot.

    Let's just say there were certain times in my adolescence where Stasheff was to me what Cooper is to you, and let it at that. :-)

    Besides, given the crappiness of that trailer in general, do you think I WANT them touching these books? I'm just saying, they'd make more sense given what their target aim seems to be. :-)

  • At September 08, 2007 10:29 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Zhinxy: I remember seeing some public statement where they outright say that they're playing up Christian elements. But my memory can be shaky, so I might be mistaken.

  • At September 08, 2007 11:47 PM, Blogger Dorian said…

    The brutal truth?

    Most fiction that feels the need to make it's religious affiliation an arguement as to "why you should read this" isn't any good. At all.

    People who WANT to be preached to are very, very rare, and they usually only want to be preached at by someone who they already agree with. That doesn't make for very compelling ficiton.

  • At September 09, 2007 12:22 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Dorian: I get what you're saying, but there's lots of "Christian fantasy" that's still got mass-market appeal.

    I'm thinking of things like "Lord of the Rings" or "Chronicles of Narnia" here, not "Left Behind".

    Not to mention that Stasheff and his ilk tend to write fairly light-hearted fantasy that makes Tolkein look downright preachy.

    Those would be a lot easier to make into the sort of movie they want than Susan Cooper's work.

  • At September 09, 2007 9:01 AM, Blogger zhinxy said…

    Zhinxy: I remember seeing some public statement where they outright say that they're playing up Christian elements. But my memory can be shaky, so I might be mistaken.

    Hmmm... I could give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were just talking about dramatizing that wonderful conversation Will has with the pastor in the church...

    But, wait, these people have given me no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt!

    As a devout Christian, a commited Zennist, and a Just-screwing-around Chaos Magician, I condemn this twisting of themes!

    Dorian: Speak for yourself, I'll be preached to by anything, as long as it's got cool special effects!

    Furthermore, fiction that makes it's utter, raving animosity to religious themes a "reason why you should read this" can be totally worth reading. Three Words: His Dark Materials

    Back to Stasheff: I want a Wizard in Rhyme movie now. I totally want it. And it would be just perfect for their needs, I agree.

    The only thing that bothers me about his works? I'm working my butt off researching a thesis on Medieval Heresy. Why doesn't stuff like that happen to ME?


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