Accidental Inconsistencies Raise Questions about Adaptations?

Thomas Leitch poses the question: When films self-consciously raise questions about their own status as adaptation, what general implications do they offer adaptation studies?

I would like to alter the question and ask: When films accidentally raise questions about their own status as adaptation, what general implications do they offer adaptation studies?

This question came to me after watching the entertainingly obnoxious shot-by-shot analysis of the chase scene from The Dark Knight.  I found the video analysis to be captivating because I simply never noticed all of the inconsistencies that were pointed out, and I truly consider myself to be one of those annoying people who expose little mistakes in films. It made me wonder who was responsible for catching all of these errors before the film was released, and why did the whole filmmaker crew not think it was important enough to focus on catching all of these mistakes?  However, on the other hand, I also thought the shot-by-shot analysis was obnoxious because it reminded me of some literary critics that cross the line and analyze every little detail of each sentence in each paragraph on each page of a novel.  Why is it so important to critique the fact that Harvey Dent falls to the left when he should have fallen to the right?  Does that really change the overall experience of the film?

Thinking about all of these questions cause frustration because I do believe that these inconsistencies were accidental, but they raise questions about the type of film adaptation created from comic book ideas.  Since the ‘comic book’ film is based loosely on multiple comic strips, little inconsistencies that occur in the chase scene are not interrupting the faithfulness or authenticity of the film.  In terms of film adaptation criticism, why is this important?  If anything, this analysis raises questions against filmmaking in general – it does not work against adaptations.

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3 Responses to Accidental Inconsistencies Raise Questions about Adaptations?

  1. Marie Mosot says:

    There’s a meme floating around of a paragraph written in gibberish: all the words are misspelled except for the first and last letters of each word. “THIS” would spelled like “THIS”, but somehow, we can still read and make sense of the paragraph because our minds recognize the words in whatever order their letters are.

    I think the same is happening with the chase sequence: it’s complete gibberish, but our minds make sense of each shot in successive sequence because we’ve been trained to fill in the blanks. I think the analysis is obnoxious insofar as learning grammar is obnoxious to the average student: most of it is intuitive, things we pick up in lived experience, but it’s necessary that we consciously learn the ways in which we create meaning through structure. Because that’s all what language – written, verbal, visual – is in the final analysis: convention repeated to the level of system.

    We take editing techniques and conventions for granted in the same way we take the basic sentence structure for granted. There’s no hard and fast rule dictating subject-verb-adjective – that’s why we have Yoda-speak (which is an older form of grammar, retained in many other languages). Similarly, there’s no hard and fast rule of maintaining the 180-degree axis of action – that’s why we can make sense of Nolan’s chase sequence: we’ve absorbed the convention of contiguous shots as related and meaningful. That doesn’t mean these conventions aren’t necessary. Knowing the rule is the first step to breaking it. Understanding film grammar is just a small step in understanding how we create, make sense of, and ultimately re-envision film.

  2. I’ve always thought that the BIG action sequences in movies (let’s say movies of the last ten or so years, to be fair) are generally a mess. There’s too much going on, it’s all done in close ups that are too dark to make out much detail, you sort of just zone out and come to when something like a crash (or near crash) happens or the action stops. Unlike, say, The French Connection, which has a nearly flawless chase scene that makes sense from start to finish (and, in my opinion, for what little that’s worth, is a heck of a lot more suspenseful as a result). Which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the chase/action sequences, in their own messy way. I mean, the point gets across. They just perhaps sacrifice art and precision in favor of BIG and LOUD and WOOSH. You know?

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