The Witcher, and Howlers in the Void

Henry Cavill’s departure from The Witcher, allegedly because he was unhappy with how the writers were deviating from the source material (something that was obvious from Season 1), brings to mind an ongoing complaint I have about adaptations in general:

If you don’t like the source material, you shouldn’t be allowed near it.

Consider Star Trek. JJ Abrams openly admitted he didn’t like Star Trek, didn’t “get” Star Trek, didn’t understand it. So why was he allowed within spitting distance of it? His “reimagining” reeked of outright contempt… from a puerile re-interpretation of Kirk to his (literally) destroying Star Trek canon. Abrams should have been booted from the project (and from Star Wars, frankly, where he committed similar acts of vandalism) the nanosecond he brandished his sledgehammer. The same applies to Rian Johnson’s subversive turn at the franchise.

We see this trend with other adaptations, where the writers confess to never having read/enjoyed the source comics, books, games, or novels. They prefer to take the reins of a property strictly to transform it into a hollow vehicle for their own egos. Halo, I Robot, I Am Legend, The Hobbit, She-Hulk, anything by Uwe Boll, and so many others exemplify this. (And don’t get me started on Ridley Scott’s sabotage of the Alien universe–a universe he helped create—with his nonsensical Promethean re-imaginings).

It’s inexcusable. It’s a cheap, lazy, and insulting stunt.

It’s also unnecessary. I’ve been invited to write stories set in other peoples’ universes, including some bestselling properties. My contributions were respectful of those IPs. I studied the source material. I researched the parameters. I understood that my job was to add something to existing canon… not mutate it into something that’s unrecognizable.

To put things in perspective, I’ve never seen an episode of Downton Abbey. (I actually thought it was called DownTOWN Abbey for a long time). Yet if a studio hired me to make a movie in that universe, I’d do my research. I’d scour the episodes for ways to explore and expand characters and events. I’d respect the IP that I’d been given. I wouldn’t introduce aliens and cybernetic marmosets, forcing the characters to revert to cannibalism because alien DNA has made local produce inedible. Aliens and cybernetic marmosets and cannibalism don’t belong in that show. (Probably–I’ve never seen it.)

Inevitably in these kinds of discussions, the toxic subject of politics gets brought up, but this is nothing more than distraction. A bad script is a bad script. It doesn’t matter if the writer is a MAGA-chanting Trump supporter or a crusading Social Justice Warrior; political stripes can’t conceal terrible products, and political proselytizing doesn’t excuse being scornful of the IP you’re trusted to helm. I found the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters to be excretable. Guess what? I found Ghostbusters 2 to be just as bad. Why? Because both films had rotten scripts at their cores. (I strongly suspect that film studios are the ones playing the political card anyway, counting on our terrible social media hygiene to create dust-ups that try deflecting legitimate criticism of legitimately bad movies). These distractions ignore the fact that the Stars Wars prequels were terrible films without an iota of politics, as was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as was Star Trek V, as was every Terminator film after T2. Bad writing was the culprit in each, and it becomes an especially hated culprit when it’s injected into beloved and otherwise quality franchises.

Consider the exceptions. The Toy Story series. Rogue One. Top Gun Maverick. The original Star Wars trilogy (even with Ewoks included). Aliens. These films meaningfully and respectfully expanded their universes. Toy Story 2 is so well done that it felt like a natural continuation of the first film after a short intermission. Aliens is one of the finest sequels ever made,  showing respect and comprehension of the original. Maverick was a film I was certain would crash and burn, and yet it plays out as a logical second chapter in the titular character’s life, because the people behind it care about its universe. And Rogue One actually took a weak point of the original movie (the Death Star’s strangely combustible exhaust ports) and turned it into a narrative strength — a feat that still has me in awe.

Am I excited for a Mass Effect adaptation? No, because odds are it will be Mass Effect wrapping paper loosely taped over an unrecognizable product from bad writers who have either never played the games, or openly mock everything that made the games popular to begin with. If Cavill (an admitted super-fan of the Witcher games and books) was upset enough to jump ship, then I don’t blame him.


In other writing news, my horror sci-fi story “Howlers in the Void” is now available in the hot-off-the-press Worlds Long Lost anthology, with the nicest editorial intro I’ve gotten yet:

“Trent has a knack for telling stories that cross a range of subgenres, while letting his own voice and personal touches shine through. For this story, he’s managed to bring a lot of his signatures to play. Marooned soldiers on an alien world, hostile alien pirates, and far more dangerous things lurking in the dark corners of a dead world… the resulting tale is a rollercoaster.”

I’ve written before about the composition of this story, and now the weird little creature has been born and is out there in the world. The anthology overall is one of my favorites that I’ve been featured in, with wonderfully talented writers crafting memorable episodes of terror throughout its pages.

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