Pretty Little Liars – A Pretty Little Television Adaptation

 

Pretty Little Liars has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in the US. The show’s third season has just finished and is going from strength to strength with ABC picking it up for another two seasons. There’s also a spin-off show, Ravenswood, in the works.

Based on the captivating book series by Sara Shepard, the show follows four girls who are tormented by the disappearance of their best friend Alison. Aria (Lucy Hale), Emily (Shay Mitchell), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) are all stereotypical teenagers with different interests. The girls are fundamentally different yet pulled together by Alison, the glue of the group. They share secrets like all best friends do, but Alison seems to have dirt on everyone in town so when she disappears and is never seen again there are many suspects who could have been involved.

Alison’s disappearance causes the girls to drift apart and they believe their secrets are buried with her… until a mysterious person starts sending them intimidating messages revealing things only Alison knew, signing off the messages with “-A.” Initially the girls think Alison is still alive but when her body is found buried under the gazebo of her old house, the girls regroup to find the perpetrator.

The original book series has proved to be extremely popular, with twelve novels published as well as a companion novel. Two more books are planned for release by the end of this year.

Due to the loyal fan base of the novels, there has been a lot of controversy about the production of the television adaptation. Whilst certain elements remain the same, such as the characters names and the general plotline, some viewers have complained about more major differences. For example, some truly sinister characters in the book series have been transformed into love interests and well-received characters are still featured in the television series despite being killed off or leaving in the novels.

Whilst it’s fair that dedicated fans get frustrated about the differences in the adaptation, it’s clear to see why the production of the show doesn’t follow the same narrative as the original series. Most of the novels only span a timeline of a few days, which wouldn’t transfer easily onto a weekly television show of 20 or so episodes a series. New plotlines need to be introduced, or drawn out, to have enough material. The pilot episode, for example, was based entirely on the first book. If the show continued at this pace, there wouldn’t be enough material to make one series.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The issue with television adaptation is that suspense needs to be built in every episode, which usually only focuses on a few plot points. In the case of Pretty Little Liars, with four main characters, it is essential to address a number of different plotlines in each episode. Due to the amount of content that needs to be addressed, fans often become frustrated when questions remain unanswered and sub-plots are forgotten about.

Marlene King, the executive producer for the show, constantly comes under fire on social networking websites for the show’s direction. Fans either criticise her for digressing away from the books or for leaving too many unanswered questions. But that’s surely what good television is all about – Intrigue, suspense, shocks and debate.

Fidelity to the source text is important to some extent, but with television adaptations, you never know how long the show is going to run for. To remain popular, producers will respond to what audiences want.

It can be frustrating as a viewer when questions remain unanswered and characters disappear for a number of episodes and it can be annoying when promos are edited to suggest viewers will receive answers when they don’t – but is fidelity in adaptation as important when it comes to television?

With Pretty Little Liars’ incredible fan base, and the go-ahead for at least two more seasons, it’s likely that producers will be able to plan ahead for what needs to be revealed and when. They have many hours of content they need to fill with plots so it is clear they will need to bring in new ideas rather than remaining entirely faithful to the books.

After all, if the show followed the exact plot of the book series surely we’d all be passive viewers, never excited about character developments and never intrigued about what would be happening in the next episode. It’s far more exciting to be an active viewer, continually being shocked by characters and wondering what will be revealed next. Pretty Little Liars is, in my opinion, a great example of how adaptation should be done for a continuing series.

What is your opinion on adaptation for television? Is fidelity less important for a continuing series?

 

Preview: Gavin and Stacey’s US Remake – Us and Them

Cast of 'Us and Them' [Image: Independent]

Cast of ‘Us and Them’ [Image: Independent]

The pilot of the American Gavin and Stacey adaptation, Us and Them, has officially been picked up by Fox TV.

I previously wrote about the remake, originally under the working title of Friends and Family, over on Yuppee Magazine but the trailer for the pilot has finally arrived:

Some things are clear from the trailer, there are new jokes but the general plot remains the same – a pair of young lovers start a relationship whilst dealing with their eccentric families. Gavin (Jason Ritter) is now a city slicker from New York and Stacey (Alexis Bledel) is from small town Pennsylvania.

Whilst adaptations are always exciting to watch, part of the beauty of Gavin and Stacey was the simplicity of its scripting. Catchphrases from the show weaseled their way into common phrasing and whilst the representations of characters were stereotypical, they were always relateable.

I think the main contribution to the success of the remake in America will be how viewers warm to the characters. In the original version of the show all of the characters were likeable and hilarious so hopefully with Ruth Jones and James Corden on board as executive producers this will be the case with the remake.

I’m excited to see the show when it airs but as a huge fan of the original I can’t help but be dubious about how it will translate on American television and whether it will do the show justice. I know that this has been the general feeling amongst UK viewers (and even American fans who have watched the original series) but others have expressed their excitement on social media at seeing the show being reinvigorated, stating it will fill the void left when Gavin and Stacey finished.

What are your thoughts based on the trailer? Will it be a tidy remake or a big mistake?

Why the world is going gaga for Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga features creative levels and challenges building on the traditional match-three formula

There has been an invasion of games on Facebook in recent years. From Farmville to Bejeweled, the inclusion of game apps on the social networking site has had a Marmite effect – you love them or hate them.

The game of the moment is undoubtedly Candy Crush Saga. Following months of resisting signing up, I am now hooked.

Candy Crush Saga is just like Bejeweled before it but with added twists. To advance each level, the player is tasked with different challenges. Not only do you have to get high scores, but you need to unblock certain squares or drop certain tokens to the bottom of the grid.

Interaction is important in Candy Crush Saga – you need to engage with your Facebook friends in order to advance or pay a small fee to unlock more levels. Whilst there was once a sense of “oh god another game request” when you logged into Facebook, now people are writing statuses asking for help and it’s incredible to see the amount of people playing via the on-screen map.

There are a number of reasons why Candy Crush Saga has remained one of the top played games virally over the last few months:

It’s Goal Orientated

Candy Crush Saga has its own narrative and doesn’t follow the same formula with every level. Whilst you might be against the clock on one level, the next will challenge you to break chained blocks of ice to free candy pieces. These differences stop the game from becoming monotonous and intrigues the player to wonder what challenges will appear next.

It Allows Synced Platforms

The game doesn’t standalone on Facebook as it is also a downloadable app. One of the biggest problems with gaming apps on Facebook is that they don’t captivate users to a full extent – not everyone logs into Facebook everyday and if they do, they might not have time to play a game. By creating the app to connect with smartphones, users are able to sync their accounts so that they can engage with their Facebook friends without ever having to log into a computer. If they have a spare five minutes, they’re far more likely to play on their mobile.

The Game Map

Competitiveness is a natural aspect of life, so Candy Crush very cleverly includes a game map. Players will want to get further than their friends and will want to beat the high scores displayed, what better way to motivate them than including their friends profile picture over the level they’re on?

It’s Not Endless Gameplay

Most would see this as a fault, but I think it encourages a return to play. Each player only has five lives at a time. If they run out, they can pay for more or ask their Facebook friends to send some but if they want to wait an hour or so, the lives will return. This not only encourages competitiveness to advance but motivates yourself to progress in the next five lives.

What are your thoughts on Candy Crush Saga? Do you love the app or do you hate the influx of requests?

Crowd Funding: How Veronica Mars Could Change the Film Industry

Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is the process in which individuals can donate money to people and organisations to help them achieve their goals. It has long been associated with the arts, specifically with unsigned musicians or filmmakers, who ask their fans to help fund their projects.

These funding websites, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, frequently reward donators with perks and rewards for their financial contributions.

In the past, these websites were predominantly used by those who were relatively unknown, but recently they have become a source of backing projects made by well known organisations and filmmakers.

Since the cancellation of television series Veronica Mars in 2007, fans have been campaigning for series creator Rob Thomas to make a film version of the show. Both Thomas and actress Kristen Bell had expressed their interest in doing so but Warner Brothers, the show’s production company, opted not to fund the project.

Following persistence from Thomas and Bell, Warner Brothers agreed that should they find a way to provide funding for the film, they would back it. The pair organised a profile on Kickstarter with an objective of raising $2,000,000, the highest ever goal on the website, to be reached by April 12th. At the time of writing this article, with 18 days left to go, they have surpassed their aim and $3,872,624 has been pledged.

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

With the target being reached, the production of the film will now happen, with contributors winning rewards including scripts, limited edition t-shirts, DVDs, signed posters, twitter follows, premiere tickets  and even a speaking role in the movie.

Due to the support of the Veronica Mars movie project, the rumour mill has been going wild with the possibility of other defunct television shows being able to make films through fan funding. Shows including Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Firefly are now all being rumoured for revival.

The biggest issue with the increased interest in fan funded films is the fact that, should these higher budget films be successful, it will be a more frequented method of covering production costs and smaller independent projects may get overlooked.

When big production companies are already involved with the film’s development, it does feel like an elaborate ploy for these corporations to earn extra money and it is a shame that people are likely to be more willing to contribute to these ventures than those with absolutely no means of funding their projects without extra support.

Furthermore, this method of funding changes the whole viewing experience for film fans. Rewards are there to ensure that financial contributors aren’t taken advantage of, but the process still holds great risk – what if the production doesn’t deliver with its promises and, more importantly, what if the fans who contribute towards the project aren’t happy with the final result?

Fans will be donating a lot of money to the film, what with the initial funding pledges, cinema trips and the purchase of dvds and merchandise, these contributors will therefore expect a lot from the final product and so they should.

I guess it comes down to Veronica Mars to set the precedent but, because of the media attention of the project and the persistence of fans, it seems likely to be a commercial success, which may mean film fans could soon have a more active role in the production of higher budget films, whether this is for the best or not.

#danceponydance – Social Media Influences Ad Campaign

Advertising agencies are now embracing social media to the full. Nowadays it is rare to see an ad without the familiar ‘hashtag’ (#) symbol in the corner, inviting viewers to discuss what they have seen on Twitter.

The latest viral ad to take the world by storm is Three’s #DancePonyDance, featuring Socks, the moon-walking Shetland pony. Created by Wieden and Kennedy, the ad sees Socks shimmying across the Scottish Highlands to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’. Watch the ad below:

As a brand, Three are trying to put more emphasis on their Ultrafast network and as a result are encouraging people to share the things that they enjoy via networking websites:

Three want to let the world know that all the seemingly stupid, funny and downright daft stuff we look at online on a daily basis…is not silly at all. Their point of view is that this stuff connects us to one another through the simple act of sharing it. Which is why as a network they do everything they can to help you live up to their brand line ‘Keep on internetting’. The commercial ends with the line ‘Silly stuff. It matters’.

[Source: Wieden and Kennedy London]

The brand have even started a “Sharing Stuff” section on their website where they discuss the top online sharing habits of the week:

[Source: three.co.uk]

[Source: three.co.uk]

As well as encouraging viewers to discuss, and share, the ad campaign using the #DancePonyDance hashtag, a web-hosted app was also released to further inspire online sharing.

The remixing tool, The Pony Mixer, allows people to make their own customisations of the ad by adding different backgrounds and props as well as changing the music genre. Once the user has remixed the viral, it can be shared online again via social media. Some of these user-generated ads are now being televised alongside the creator’s twitter name. The @ThreeUK twitter feed even has a promoted post sending tweeters to The Pony Mixer, making it unavoidable to connect with the brand.

The ad has been so popular that numerous celebrities have now mentioned how much they love Socks and the first @ThreeUK tweet linking to the ad has now been retweeted 1,277 times. A parody account for Socks has also been created on twitter, @ponydanceparody.

Perhaps the biggest sign that the public are influenced by ads, and social media trends, is the fact that Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’, the soundtrack of the ad, has now re-entered the UK charts. It will be interesting to see if the new songs featured on The Pony Mixer will follow suit.

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

The ad has undoubtedly been a success for Three. Viewers are now linking their emotions towards the advert with the brand itself and the majority of tweets on the #DancePonyDance hashtag are positive.

However, there has of course been a surge of jokes relating to the recent horse meat scandal and now there is an unfortunate report of yobs forcing a Shetland pony to moonwalk off of a cliff. So it remains to be seen how long responses to the ad itself will remain positive.

Until then, I’m off to remix my own #danceponydance ad…

What are your thoughts on the ad? Love it or loathe it? Does it make you think of Three differently?

World Book Day: My Most Memorable Books

Today is the annual event made for avid readers like myself – World Book Day. It is the biggest celebration of books and reading in the UK and Ireland and whilst when I was younger it was an occasion to dress as my favourite fictional character, it has since become a time when readers recommend new books to read via social media.

In celebration of World Book Day, I have decided to look back on the most memorable books that I have read throughout my life:

Harry Potter and the Philosophers StoneHarry Potter

I would think the Harry Potter series would appear on most “life in books” lists. The series is so timeless that it can be read over and over again (in fact I’m half way through re-reading the books again now). Whilst J. K. Rowling may not have the most sophisticated style of writing, she created a world that is loved by children and adults alike.

The characters are all unique, intriguing and relateable and as a child I wanted so much for Hogwarts to be real. The best thing about the series though is that it doesn’t shy from more negative themes that children need to learn about – loss, neglect and danger.

 

A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange

I originally read Anthony Burgess’ classic ‘A Clockwork Orange’ for my A-Level English Literature coursework and immediately loved it. It was the book that introduced me to dystopian novels and I loved the fact that the themes of the novel were prevalent in modern culture.

When I discovered that the characters all used their own language in the book, I initially thought I would struggle to follow the narrative but I found it easy, perhaps due to the influx of modern day slang terms.

The best element of the novel though, in my opinion, has to be the main character, Alex. You want to hate him, he commits vile crimes and is extremely narcissistic but he is the definition of an anti-hero because in the end you actually root for him to turn his life around.

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ is another one of my favourite dystopian novels. It is set at a fictional boarding school in East Sussex where children are raised being taught the importance of being fit and healthy. It is revealed that the children are clones being raised to provide organs for “normals”.

The novel follows friends Ruth, Tommy and Kathy throughout their childhood at the boarding school, as they move to the “Cottages” a residential complex for young adults and eventually, when Ruth and Tommy become ‘donors’ and Kathy becomes a ‘carer’, looking after those who donate.

The narrative is completely captivating and emotionally heartwrenching. The book has a film adaptation, directed by Mark Romanek, which is extremely faithful to the novel.

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels has become my new favourite book series. Again, set in a dystopian future the narrative follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen from Panem, a post-apocalyptic version of North America. Each year, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts of Panem are selected at random to compete in the The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a televised event in which the selected participants are sent to fight to the death in an arena all in the name of entertainment for the rich that live in the Capitol. After her sister Prim is selected at random, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the event.

Collins’ writing style is absolutely fantastic and she keeps you captivated on every page. The novel is carefully written in the way that there is a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter and you just want to continue reading.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is the last novel I read that made me feel emotionally vulnerable. The epistolary style of writing puts you straight into the mind of the main character, Charlie. By writing in first-person in a series of letters, Charlie is honest and doesn’t hold back. He is extremely easy to empathise with and you end up putting yourself in his state of mind.

This novel also has a faithful film adaptation, with the script adapted by Chbosky. I’ve already written about an article about both the book and the film on this website already. Check it out here – Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – From Page to Screen.

So there are my favourite books – are any of them your favourites? Which books would be on your lists?

Everything You Need To Know About Monsters University

Mike and Sulley return as teenagers in 'Monsters University'

Mike and Sulley return as teenagers in ‘Monsters University’

It’s hard to believe that we were first introduced to Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc. a little over eleven years ago.

The loveable duo captivated hearts as their friendship, and careers as professional ‘Scarers’ in parallel city Montropolis, were put to the test when they accidentally let a human, Boo, through to their world. The story followed Mike and Sulley as they attempted to keep Boo secret and return her to her own world.

This Summer a prequel, Monsters University, is being released and will show Mike and Sulley during their university years and explain that, despite their closeness in Monsters Inc., they weren’t always friends. 

Here’s the low-down on what we know about the prequel so far:

It’s been a long time coming…

Plans for a second Monsters Inc. film have been in process since 2005, however, disagreements between then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs caused issues. Changes in management at Disney and renewed negotiations led to the confirmation of a Pixar-made film in 2012.

In a screenshot from the film we see villain Randall is featured in the film. [Image courtesy of www.filmofilia.com]

In a screenshot from the film we see villain Randall. [Image courtesy of http://www.filmofilia.com]

Many of the characters from Monsters Inc. will be returning…

John Goodman (Sulley), Billy Crystal (Mike), Steve Buscemi (Randall), Jennifer Tilly (Celia), Frank Oz (Jeff Fungus) and John Ratzenberger (the Abominable Snowman) are all reprising their roles for the sequel. Kelsey Grammer will replace James Coburn as Henry J. Waternoose III following Coburn’s death in 2002. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Boo will be returning.

New additions to the cast include Ken Jeong as a character named Mack, Rob Riggle as a character named Jenny and national treasure Helen Mirren will appear as head of the school Dean Hardscrabble.

You can enroll too…

In order to prepare for the film release, Pixar have revealed a fully functional website for Monsters University

The website is presented as the university’s own and includes admission information, campus news and a store where you can buy merchandise.

Here are some of my favourite elements of the website:

The website features many humorous articles including "Excel at the Art of Extreme Creepiness"

The website features many humorous articles including “Excel in the Art of Extreme Creepiness”

Comments by “students” are the kind of sickingly sweet quotes found in actual university prospectuses

A short film will be released alongside it…

As is the case with it’s predecessor, Monsters University has a short attached to it for it’s theatrical release. The short in question is The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld and produced by Marc Greenberg.

According to The Big Cartoon Database, the synopsis is as follows:

Amidst the rain in a singing city, two umbrellas– one blue, one red– fall eternally in love. The blue umbrella notices and takes a shine to the red umbrella. Distance and natural forces halt their attraction, but objects on the street- such as construction signs and a mailbox- come to life to help bring them together again.

The film will be featured in Disney Infinity…

If you’ve yet to hear about Disney Infinityit is the upcoming video game that uses collectable figurines of Disney characters that are then virtualised into the game. These virtual characters are then available to interact with in the game.

Monsters University will be one of the worlds in the game and Sulley, Mike and the Abominable Snowman will all be featured characters. The game will see these characters interact with other Disney elements and although marketed for kids, I can’t wait to hear more information about it. Check out some screenshots below:

Sulley and Mike appear in their Disney Infinity set

Sulley and Mike appear in their Disney Infinity set

Mike and Sulley will also play alongside other famous Disney characters

Mike and Sulley will also play alongside other famous Disney characters

The UK will need to wait until 12th July to see it…

Whilst Monsters University is set to be released on the 20th/21st June in most countries, us poor Brits will have to wait a few more weeks to see the film. (Click here to see the scheduled release dates).

Until then, enjoy these trailers!!

Timeline of the MTV VMAs

The 2012 MTV VMA logo

Each year, MTV holds the highly popular Video Music Awards, better known as the VMAs. The infamous ‘moon trophy’ is given out in a number of different categories including ‘Video of the Year’, ‘Video With a Message’ and ‘Best Editing’. This year’s event celebrated the diverse range of genres currently popular amongst young audiences with performances from Frank Ocean, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Green Day, Pink, Alicia Keys and One Direction.

Whilst the 2012 award show ran through fairly drama-free, in the past it has been known to play host to some fairly controversial moments. This year’s host, Kevin Hart, used his opening monologue as an opportunity to warn the audience he is likely to make mistakes and to prepare themselves for the unexpected. After talking about some of the well-publicised mistakes of the year, including Kristen Stewart’s affair and Chris Brown and Drake’s New York bar brawl, Hart said:

“People here have made mistakes before, Kanye West, Lil’ Mama coming on stage when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys were performing, Britney Spears and Madonna, when they kissed, Russell Brand hosting… twice. The point is guess what people tonight I will make tons of mistakes and I suggest you prep yourselves”

This timeline will run through some of the key dates and performances featured on the VMAs as well as some of the more controversial events to happen over the 28 years.

1984 – The first VMA ceremony is held at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

1988 – Michael Jackson appears at the award show for the first time with a pre-recorded performance of Bad.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin is assaulted by Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil.

1991 – A fistfight occurred backstage between Poison’s Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille due to ongoing conflict about DeVille’s cocaine addiction. On-stage DeVille began playing the wrong song and his guitar lead disconnected during the performance. He was fired as a result.

1992 – MTV requested that Nirvana play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘, despite the fact the band wanted to play their new song ‘Rape Me’, eventually MTV and the band settled on ‘Lithium’ as their performance. However, Kurt Cobain sang the first few lines of ‘Rape Me’ before playing ‘Lithium’. Furthermore, during the performance, bassist Krist Novoselic threw his bass as it stopped functioning, hitting him on the forehead.

During the 1992 awards show Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain challenged each other to a fight. Cobain spat on a piano on stage, believing it to be the one Axl Rose would be playing, only to find Elton John to come out and perform with Guns N’ Roses.

1994 – Newly married Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley walk out on stage to a standing ovation.

1995 – Hole perform in their first major televised performance since the death of Kurt Cobain and bassist Kristen Pfaff. Courtney love dedicated the song to them both as well as other friends who had died, including River Phoenix.

1996 – Van Halen make their first public appearance together since their break up in 1985.

1997 – Foo Fighter’s Pat Smear announced he was leaving the band and presented his replacement Franz Stahl. He would re-join the band as a touring musician in 2006.

2001 – Britney Spears’ performance of ‘I’m a Slave For You’ receives criticism from animal rights group PETA for it’s inclusion of a live Burmese Python and a tiger.

2002 – Eminem challenges Moby to a fight on-stage as he is booed whilst accepting an award.

2003 – Madonna performs ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Hollywood’ with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Madonna dressed as a groom and kissed her two ‘brides’ on-stage.

2007 – Britney Spears sings ‘Gimme More’ for the first time following her well-publicised personal problems. The performance is given negative reviews due to her miming and disheveled appearance.

Kid Rock and Tommy Lee start a physical fight whilst Alicia Keys is performing on-stage.

2008 – Russell Brand hosts the award show for the first time and shocks American audiences with his controversial jokes.

2009 – Kanye West runs on-stage whilst Taylor Swift is accepting an award for ‘Best Female Video’ and proclaims that Beyoncé should have won. When Beyoncé wins an award later on, she invites Swift to give her speech again. Swift would perform a song about the situation, ‘Innocent’, the following year.

2011 – Lady Gaga appears at the show dressed as her alter-ego Jo Calderone. She performs ‘You and I’ with Brian May.

Beyoncé announces her pregnancy on the red carpet and makes reference to it during her performance of ‘Love on Top’

Compare two (or more) versions of the same text with close reference to their differing cultural contexts and production circumstances

This is an assignment I completed in my first year of university for a unit based on Adaptation

Whilst some adaptations remain faithful to their source text, others can be adapted to fit a new cultural context and be made under different production circumstances. This results in a film with little fidelity to its source text, such as Felix Gary Gray’s 2003 adaptation of Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job(1969). The film has been stated as being more of a “homage” to the original film due to their independent narratives and differing settings and characters. In order to conduct a comparison of the two films, it is necessary to look at the different eras in which the films were made and how this affects the themes portrayed in the films, as well as considering whether this is a result of the different cultural contexts. It is also essential to study the different settings used with reference to the Americanisation theory, the actors chosen and similarities between their characters as well as advances in technology changing the production circumstances and how these are seen in the mise-en-scene. In terms of the films being made in different cultural contexts it is also interesting to look at the advances in special effects whilst comparing similar scenes. Theories used by Tzvetan Todorov,Hutcheon and also audience theories debating changes in uses and gratifications will also be discussed further in this essay.

The Krays - A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

The Krays – A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

Having been made nearly 35 years apart, the differences between Collinson’s and Gray’s The Italian Job are very prominent. Whilst Collinson’s film focused on 1960s Britain, Gray’s adaptation looked at 21st century America, in particular life in Los Angeles. The original focuses on British gangsters, a highly discussed matter which was sensationalised greatly during the 1960s. A great amount of press coverage was dedicated to The Kray twins at this time and there was much interest and intrigue in the criminal underworld during this era. Gangsters of the era were glamorised, with some practically given a celebrity status. This is shown in the original film, as the main character, Charlie Croker, is portrayed in a very positive way and is shown living a very glamorous, and almost carefree, lifestyle. This is further emphasised by the lack of violent scenes featured in the 1969 original, for example, when Charlie is getting beaten up by the crime boss, Mr Bridger’s guards, no acts of violence are actually shown, merely a silhouette. Despite the two films’ differences, the emphasis on living a glamorous lifestyle is also prominent in Gray’s remake, with much emphasis being placed on the importance of wealth and the happiness it supposedly brings. This is greatly debated when Steve, played by Edward Norton, betrays his friends by stealing their gold, and uses it to buy the luxuries they all wanted, not knowing what he wanted himself. Despite this, more violence is shown in the 2003 adaptation, suggesting audiences have been desensitised due to the increasing amount of violence that is now shown in the media.

The themes of the two films are very different; the 21st century adaptation focuses heavily on the theme of cynicism, with great emphasis placed on revenge and betrayal rather than the patriotic style of the original. This can be identified through the heavily used quote “I trust everyone. It’s the devil inside them I don’t trust”. However, both films follow Tzvetan Todorov’s (1960) disequilibrium theory to some extent. Todorov claimed that in order to keep an audience captivated, the narrative of a film must contain disequilibrium where the balance and calm of the characters is disrupted and that the ending should restore the initial equilibrium or create a new one. Whilst this happens very clearly in the later adaption, with the characters getting revenge but then falling in love, the original 1969 film ends with a cliff-hanger, which is still a disequilibrium. It is arguable that it is not suitable to end a contemporary film with a cliff-hanger due to audiences now being seen as more passive consumers, however, it could also be said that the change in the storyline used in the adaptation is due to audiences becoming more active and not just wanting to see a repeat of the original.

In contrast to the cynical theme presented, there is a very patriotic feel to Collinson’s 1969 film as public morale was very high in the era in which it was made. Scenes with the character of Mr Bridger portray this feeling through the atmosphere created in the mise-en-scene. The non-diegetic music is often the British national anthem in his scenes and he is very well spoken, appealing to the “English gentleman” stereotype which is often highly regarded globally, making the film appeal to a larger audience. Mr Bridger’s clothing is also what is seen as typically British, wearing a sophisticated suit, and he also proclaims his love for the Queen by singing the national anthem. Furthermore, there is also a very positive representation of the younger characters, through their characteristics and the mise-en-scene, despite the fact the younger generation were said to dominate society in the “swinging sixties”. This creates a very positive representation of the British and links into the great public morale that was dominant in the 1960s.

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

The patriotic theme presented in the Collinson’s original The Italian Job could not be repeated in the 2003 adaptation due to a change in setting. Whilst both films have an Italian element, with part of the action shown in Italy, the adaptation is primarily based in the USA, indisputably showing Americanisation has taken place. Some may argue this is because the 2003 version of The Italian Jobwas aimed to be a “Hollywood blockbuster” and had more privileges in terms of production circumstances. White (1986) argued that:

“American films offered heroes and heroines who were less hidebound by class than their technically inferior British counterparts” (p.166)

This again, suggests that the common “English gentleman” is more suited to romantic-comedies for a global audience because they are seen as unrealistic to be con-artists in the way that Gray wanted the main characters of his version of ‘The Italian Job’ to be, showing that an updating in terms of national stereotypes has occurred.

The differing cultural contexts can furthermore be identified by the actors chosen to portray the main characters. In Peter Collinson’s 1969 film, all of the main characters are played by British actors. Michael Caine was a very popular British actor in this era, having already achieved success in Alfie(1966). However, in the 2003 adaptation, there is only one British actor, Jason Statham, with the majority of the rest of the cast being American. However, it is also noticeable that South African Charize Theron is also in the film; however, she portrays an American. This again supports the suggestion that Americanisation has taken place in worldwide cinema. McGuigan (1992) claims that this could be due to cultural populism and the idea people like to “look into” other cultures. He claims that it has become an increasingly influential perspective on the study of popular culture due to the success and intrigue it causes among other global audiences. It is clear that these cast changes in terms of nationality have been made because of the change in setting in the adaptation. This could be due to Gray wanting the adaptation to be viewed as a separate text to the source text, as there are very few similarities between the two films.

Whilst the actors portraying the characters are very different, some links can be made between some of the characters. Freddie in the 1969 film, played by Tony Beckley, and Rob in the adaptation are both represented as the “handsome” males, however, the cultural differences of the respective eras are obvious when comparing the films. This is because in the original Freddie is seen as a “dandy” with his flamboyant attitudes and sexual exploits fitting to the “swinging sixties”, whereas Rob is seen as very masculine, with his muscled physique and love of cars, in the more recent adaptation. This proves that modern notions of gender roles and masculinity have changed in the context of the last forty years, what was once viewed as masculine is not acceptable in the twenty-first century. Despite similarities between some of the different characters, one of the characters who features in both films, Mr Bridger, is given a very different representation. Whilst Bridger is seen to be a figure of gang authority and not very trusting in the 1969 film, the 2003 adaptation presents him as a father-figure to the main character. Again, suggesting that fidelity to the original text was not seen as important during the making of the film as it was intended to be a standalone text.

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Advances in technology between the years of production in both films are very prominent, mainly through the differences in the mise-en-scene. Whilst the 1969 film looks rather grainy, in contrast the adaptation has great use of special effects. This is mainly due to the latter having a larger budget as there is greater money in the film industry now. Technological advances can also be identified through the use of camera techniques used. The 1969 film relies heavily on fixed camera angles, as seen in the opening scenes showing the car driving on the cliff, whereas the 2003 films has a much more varied range of cinematography and more use of stunts and special effects. This is further seen in the iconic chase scenes. Collinson’s version of The Italian Job features stunts that were seen as outstanding in the era in which it was made but Gray’s adaptation featured new elements, such as stunts with boats and helicopters, which obviously would have been unachievable with the technology in the 1960s. These new action scenes reflect the new technological features available in the 21st century.

Furthermore, these new advancements in technology are reflected in the diegesis within Gray’s 2003 film, mainly through Seth Green’s character, Lyle. Gray used a key part of the original film in his adaptation, whereby the con-artists change traffic lights to “create the largest traffic jam in history”. In the original, tapes are used and the thieves have to manually change the tapes themselves, however, in the remake Lyle is a computer hacker and simply uses the internet to hack into the database controlling the traffic lights. Further advancements are seen in the tools used to commit crimes. Whilst the later adaptation has features such as lasers and timed bombs, the original has a heavy usage of explosives and blueprint plans, more manual tools.

When comparing scenes which are distinctly similar in the films it is clear that the key iconography remains in the adaptation in order to satisfy fans of the pre-existing text. An example of this is the inclusion of the infamous Mini Cooper racing during the final heist. However, this again expands on the idea of special effects with more daring and risky stunts included in the 2003 adaptation, as well as further features added in post-production. As key iconography of the original Italian Job it seems necessary for the Mini Cooper racing to be included in the adaptation and it is thought if it was to be cut from the adaptation there would be little link between the two films. However, some may argue that re-creating infamous scenes such as this scene lacks originality on the film-makers part. Linda Hutcheon (2006) argues that “adaptation is now the norm, not the exception” (p. 177) and that audiences are now used to adaptations and in a sense buy in to the commodity that is created from the re-creation of these infamous scenes. This proves that despite differing cultural contexts, audiences who are aware of the original are satisfied with the familiarity of iconic scenes.

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The introduction of more comedic elements, such as funny characters, in film is noticeable in the 2003 adaptation of The Italian Job. It is thought this is due to changes in audience readings of films and new expectations of the media. Stephen Littlejohn (2007) argues this is because audiences have now become more passive and watch films for escapism, making it necessary for content to be enjoyable and entertaining as people prefer this to more distressing themes. Furthermore theorists of the uses and gratifications perspective would argue that some of the more minor characters of the adaptation, such as Handsome Rob, Left Ear and Lyle, have been added to create the light-hearted humour and more comedic elements of the theme as. Although these characters are involved in the main plotline, some of their scenes, like the dream sequence in which they imagine what they would do with their share of the stolen money are greatly over-exaggerated. For example, Lyle talks about speakers that could “blow a girls clothes off” and Handsome Rob pictures himself in a major police chase. This type of comedy would have been seen as unsuitable in the 1969 version of the film due to the cultural context in which it was made.

In terms of the endings of the film, the differences between the results of the final heist can furthermore be related to the development of audiences. Whilst the source text results in a cliff-hanger, the adaptation results in good triumphing over bad, suggesting audiences may now feel the need for a definitive ending in film. In ‘A Structural Study of Myth’ (1955), Levi-Strauss argues that binary opposites are now dominant in every media text as audiences like the idea of one subject dominating over another. In the case of ‘The Italian Job’ (1969), it is featured in ways such as revenge against justice and heroes against villains. The more recent adaptation (2003) also contains the idea of males against females, with Charlize Theron’s character, Stella, seeking revenge for her father’s murder. This could suggest that the messages featured in Hollywood films can at times, be quite immoral.

To conclude, it is obvious that, due to the differences in cultural contexts and production circumstances between Collinson’s original The Italian Job (1969) and the 2003 remake, both films can, in a way, be read as entirely separate texts. However, by keeping the key iconography in the adaptation, it still makes reference to the original text and would therefore be pleasing to its fans. By keeping this iconography, fans of the 1969 original film would be interested and with the new features such as special effects, popular actors and intriguing plot lines, new, younger audiences would also be intrigued. With such emphasis on overall profit in the movie industry it is essential to tap into all different types of audiences and by featuring these new aspects as well as features from the original Gray successfully does this. Furthermore, by moving the cultural setting, there will be further interest by Americans, which, as the main source of capital in the film industry, is important for marketing and achieving greater viewing figures. This also links to the changes in theme, as contexts which were popular in the 1960s would not be understood by the younger target audience of the adaptation. It is fair to say that in comparison, the different cultural contexts and production circumstances is the main reason the films can stand as individual texts because as culture is moving forward and adapting, so is cinema and the expectations of the audience. Therefore, when comparing texts for different cultural contexts and production circumstances it can be said that with adaptation, new audiences can be reached through additions to an already popular text.

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Bibliography
Films
– ‘Alfie’1966. Film. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. UK: Sheldrake Films.
– ‘The Italian Job’1969. Film. Directed by Peter Collinson. UK: Oakhurst Productions.
– ‘The Italian Job’2003. Film. Directed by F. Gary Gray. USA: Paramount Pictures.

Journals
– LEVI-STRAUSS, C., 1955.The Structural Study of Myth. Journal of American Folklore. 78. 428-444

Books
– DELDEN, R et a, 2005. A Readers Guide To Contemporary Literary. London: Pearson Education.
– HUTCHEON, L, 2006. A Theory of AdaptationLondon: Routledge.
– LITTLEJOHN, S, 2007. Theories of Human Communication9th Edition. London: Wadsworth Publishing.
– MCGUIGAN, J, 1992. Cultural PopulismUSA: Routledge.
– STRINATI, D, 2004. An Introduction To Theories of Popular Culture2nd Edition. London: Routledge.