I zombie-walked through Wal-Mart Friday afternoon, pushing a baby carriage and looking for a deal on formula. No, I’m not proud of it. I know Wal-Mart is the evil empire. But when you have a little one and your wife is going back to school, you’ve got to save a few bucks. That’s right, I sold my soul for low, low everyday prices.
Little Chloe started crying, prompting my wife to give me a worried look. "Don’t worry," I told her. "This is Wal-Mart. If you can’t bring a crying baby here, where can you bring one? In fact, the other customers look at you funny if you DON’T have a crying baby."
But I digress.
Among all the cheap crap I don’t need, I spotted a movie on the DVD rack. Not just any movie, but a movie that haunts my dreams. A movie that answers the question, "How can I piss off a fan?"
X-Men: The Last Stand.
If you’ve read my posts you might know by now that I’m a comic book nerd. And while I haven’t read the X-Men in almost 10 years, the mutants still hold a special place in my heart. They are the heroes of my childhood.
If I divorce myself from the comic book, the third installment of the X-Men films wasn’t bad. It’s a summer, popcorn movie that delivers decent action sequences, cheesy one-liners, and cool special effects. Though bloated as sequels tend to be, the film brims with conflict, and even makes a social statement or two between super-powered beat downs. So as a casual viewer, I dug it.
But as a fan, X-Men: The Last Stand left me feeling… pissed on.
It’s not that director Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men movies were perfect recreations of the mutant myths. He and screenwriter David Hayter played fast and loose with a few of the characters and with the comic’s chronology. But while they deviated, they always gave the impression that they respected the story and the story’s fans. I didn’t get the same feeling about director Brett Ratner and the other creators of Last Stand.
(A quick spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it).
I could’ve forgiven the filmmakers for murdering this character if it was done in dramatic fashion. But instead, they reduced him to little more than a minor plot-point, a Star Trek red shirt if you will.
Wait. Don’t roll your eyes at me.
What you don’t understand is that Cyclops is a major character in the Marvel Comics world, one that has been around for more than 40 years. Imagine one of your favorite mystery sidekicks being knocked-off like that with barely a word mentioned about his death.
Now, I understand and respect artists who take chances. If you always second-guess yourself wondering what others will think, you won’t create anything worth a crap. When dealing with long beloved characters, however, you should tread lightly. This holds true even when the characters are of your own creation.
What if Dave Robicheaux and his best bud Clete Purcel physically expressed their love for one another in a drunken night of passion?
What if Jack Reacher, having an epiphany, decided to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence?
What if Harry Potter got strung out on meth and ended up living in a ramshackle trailer with some muggle prostitute?
What if… You get the picture.
Which brings me to the part of the post where I ask questions.
I’ve been given the advice that you can’t write for an audience, you must first write for yourself–write what pleases you. But does this hold true for authors who’ve created popular series characters? Do these writers give up some of their ownership of the characters to the fans who have supported them for years?