Choose: A Movie Based on a Book or Your Religious Beliefs

With The Hobbit movie trilogy ending and with one more The Hunger Games movie left to be released, the public awaits the other movies within the same genre (Book to Film): Insurgent, Fifty Shades of Grey, Child 44, etc. (I will discuss comic books and their media adaptations in another post). While movies based on books are nothing new (i.e. The Exorcist, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs), we have been seeing more of them since the turn of the century. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, Twilight (it makes me cringe to mention that one) are some of the franchises that were the most successful and saw all of the books in the series adapted into movies.

Children’s books are always popular for media adaptations. And, the same can be said bestselling novels. Fans and audiences of both books and movies are always curious as to how the movie will look and how true to the book the movie will be. This is the main issue people often see in media adaptations, but it is NOT the only one. Recently, there have been complaints as to why there have been series in which there is only one movie, and then the rest of the books in the series do not receive the same translation.

Now, with franchises that have had more than one movie adaptation, audiences are wondering whether or not the movies will ever be completed. The Chronicles of Narnia saw three out of their seven books get translated into movies (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). However, the actors were also signed to doing an adaptation of The Silver Chair; and, as we figured out, the movie never got made.

Ironically, the situation surrounding The Chronicles of Narnia was not just about public and studio interest, but also about the religious overtones found within the remaining novels. The Magician’s Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, and The Last Battle all contain allegories and allusions to Christianity. C.S. Lewis, the author of the series, also included some mockery of the Islamic faith in those same novels. Many of us who have read those books as children and/or adolescents did not even notice the insult within the pages. However, as adults you tend to look at what is written into children’s books more intensely. I will admit that it was a pastor I know who pointed out to me what was really taking place in the pages of those books. He is a fan of C.S. Lewis, but he said that those insults should not have been placed in a children’s book. Given the fact that there is still a religious war within the Middle East, one can quickly understand why filming those books into movies would be an issue.

On the opposite end, there was the planned movie trilogy based on Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Material trilogy. The Golden Compass/The Northern Lights was a success in North America and Europe, but due to the anti-Christian themes found within the books, the movie was met with several protests. While Phillip Pullman is an atheist, the trilogy is a retelling of the classic work Paradise Lost. Plus, the author is a professor at Oxford University—just like C.S. Lewis was—so there are more allusions within the text that readers might have missed during the first reading.

For instance, “dæmons” are not based on present day society’s belief of “demons.” The former comes from Greek and Roman mythology. They were invisible beings assigned to every individual—masculine for men and feminine for women—who acted as guides for the duration of that person’s life. These dæmons sound more like angels, consciences, etc., not the “evil demons” we have transcribed them to be in modern society. I believe Phillip Pullman used these ancient deities within his novels to point out how much Christian mythology twisted other mythologies to where we forget the actual origins of them. To be honest, I am a little surprise that Rick Riordan did not mention dæmons in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series. Those books were perfect to include such a reference.

This is the scenario that Hollywood has had to deal with, adapting books into films regardless of the backlash they might get due to religious institutions. His Dark Materials halted the series after one movie because too many people called the first movie “anti-Christian” while The Chronicles of Narnia films was halted because people feared that the Muslim community would be offended by them. Other movies have poked fun at religion regardless of the protests and the backlash from society (i.e. the Catholic Church with The DaVinci Code). South Park has mocked all religions for several years (18 seasons), but the creators saw protests when both Islam and Scientology (Isaac Hayes, who voiced “Chef,” quit the show afterwards) were parodied.

Throughout history, many challenged religion with “new” knowledge and these people were either threatened or executed (i.e. Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, etc.). However, it seems that the bigger concern within the religious powerhouses are how they are portrayed in within society, and it appears that the “new” threat is coming from children’s books. While some of the religious themes will most likely be glanced over by younger readers, it is the adults that make something as trivial as messages within a book to be a big deal. The Harry Potter series, while not religious, was met with several protests throughout the world because the books were about a school of witchcraft. Ironically, all seven books were adapted into eight movies, and those novels contain more lessons on morals and ethics than other modern children’s books. The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials also contain choices involving morals and ethics, but remain somewhat controversial as well. When you think about it, there is not really that much of a difference amongst these children’s literary series.

Current events within society have allowed us to witness what happens when there is no balance between literacy and religion. Boko Harem and Al-Qaida are doing everything they can to limit knowledge within their communities (especially amongst women). However, we cannot want every popular book to become adapted into a movie. At the same time, we cannot protest against every movie and/or book with influences to religion due to fear that a mob might be opposed to what is written in the text.

My question is: how many of these “protestors” take the time to read the book? Many people go by what they “hear” about the book instead of reading it. Also, it is known that media adaptations are not always similar to the book! Yes, Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code are books that go against organized religion. However, they are also great stories with interesting information. And yet, I did NOT see any petitions for the continuation of The Chronicles of Narnia movies! Protests work both ways!

To me, it looks as if we must choose between literature and their adaptations and our religious beliefs. No decision needs to be made because not many people want to do one or the other. Movies are straightforward, you either want to see them or not. Religion on the other hand, contains more layers. There are the devout, the spiritual, the ones who take part in it a few times a year, etc. Those who are leaders of these foundations assume the worst before they see what happens. Thus, everyone suffers because of it.

To prove my point further, the novel The Satanic Verses is (supposedly) an excellent work of literature (I just started reading it). However, the amount of backlash the book received upon its publication (1988) and the number of death threats its author, Salman Rushdie, received makes the book sound too dangerous to read. And yet, the book has been read and translated into languages all over the world. Unfortunately, no one has tried to make a media adaptation of the book because everyone is afraid of protests from the Muslim community. Has it ever occurred to you that some of them might have read the book and want the same thing as the other fans/readers?

We should not have to choose between the two because both of them have more in common than we know. Both The Bible miniseries and The Red Tent were successful adaptations based on religious texts. However, we also got Exodus, the visually acclaimed, but historically inaccurate adaptation of the story of Moses (Egypt has refused to show the movie for obvious reasons). There should not be a choice because everyone—even if they are in the same religious community—has a different way of interpreting a work of literature. As long as it is done appropriately, no one should have to choose. Plus, the author almost always includes a personal belief within the pages of their book.

Most Surprising Video Games of 2014

2014 was not the best year for gaming, but there were still some good releases and some surprisingly excellent games that were worth purchasing and playing. The interesting fact that can be said about this year in gaming is that there were many video games that took us by surprise. Some video games were discussed more by critics and gamers alike, and they made the “must play” list. Then, there were other games that were either pushed back or did not live up to our expectations (you can list some of the many games here). I will be discussing the games that took the gaming community by surprised to the point where we could not wait for the price reduction, we had to get the game A.S.A.P.

These selections are in no particular order. However, I felt the need to acknowledge these games since they did help with the slope the video game industry went through during this year. These games span across several consoles and should be looked into if anyone is looking for a gift for someone he or she knows.

The first game I wish to discuss is Bayonetta 2. Bayonetta was a surprisingly successful action-RPG game for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. However, because Microsoft and Sony were not satisfied with the amount that the game brought in, they decided not to publish the sequel, which was already in development. Instead, Nintendo decided to pickup the franchise in order to attracted more adult gamers to the Nintendo Wii U console. No one doubt that the sequel would be good, but would Nintendo alter the game? Surprisingly, they did not and the game lived up to everyone’s expectations. Bayonetta 2 was just as good (or better according to some critics) as Bayonetta. Also, the game—along with a few other Nintendo releases—will see an increase in sales of the Nintendo Wii U. As someone who is a fan of Bayonetta, I just might have to consider investing in a Wii U after all.

The second game I want to mention here is South Park: The Stick of Truth. Now, anyone who is a fan of South Park and/or a gamer knows for a fact that all of the previous games based on the popular television show were terrible. What makes this game different? One, the creators of the show finally got involved with the development of the game. They even made a map of the town; now, we know where Kyle’s house is in South Park. Two, the storyline in the game reminds us of an episode of South Park. In other words, you are immersed in the game as if it was an extended episode or a movie within the series. Three, you play as a “new kid” in the town. This way, you can interact with all of the characters from the show instead of playing as them. This makes the gameplay more memorable and entertaining.

The third game I want to talk about is Bravely Default. It was crazy when a RPG by Square Enix was released for the Nintendo 3DS. There has not been collaboration between the two gaming companies since the late 1990s! Plus, Square Enix has been getting a lot of flack for delaying both Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games. However, there were some gamers who wanted the company to develop a new RPG for everyone to enjoy that was not tied to their known franchises. What gamers got was Bravely Default, a game that reminds us why some of us enjoy RPGs and why Square Enix is known for having some of the best games in that genre. And, it’s on a handheld console. What more could you ask for?

The fourth game I wish to discuss is Child of Light. This digital game received a lot of attention and praise for both the story and the graphics (as well as anger over the constant rhyming). Similar to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, the protagonist is a child, Princess Aurora, who is experiencing a dark situation and has a chance to change her fate. The world is beautifully designed with an atmosphere that reminds gamers of how somber the mood is supposed to be in the game. The characters within the game make us wonder if the protagonist is living in the afterlife, or experiencing a dream. Child of Light reminds us of the bedtime stories we were told as children, which left a sense of foreboding afterwards.

The fifth game I want to mention is Mario Kart 8. I chose this game over the latest Super Smash Bros. game because—and I believe it is safe to say—the expectations for Mario Kart 8 were lower than for the Nintendo fighting game. The latest Mario racing game is worth purchasing and playing because we finally saw an upgrade in the vehicles and the race courses. Plus, requested characters either got included or were brought back. The graphics, the gameplay, the levels, and the multiplayer revamps the enjoyment we all felt the first time we played a Mario Kart video game.

The game that gets my “Honorary Mention” is Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. This fighting game is an upgrade to its predecessor—Persona 4 Arena—with a better storyline and an improved gameplay. Also, this game was a preview to the game Persona Q, which was the actual Persona crossover game fans have been waiting for. And yet, as RPG fans already know, crossover-fighting games involving characters from popular franchises (i.e. Super Smash Bros., Dissidia: Final Fantasy) can be worth investing in. Plus, fighting games never go out of style; one only needs the skills to master them.

These are my picks for the “Most Surprising Games” of 2014. There are in no particular order. If you do not agree with what I have chosen, then please comment below. I am very interested in what you have to say, especially since changes are occurring within the video game industry. These games (and several others that I did not mention here) will occupy us until the 2015 releases. GAME ON!!!