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The Sciences

The Trashing of a Classic

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJanuary 16, 2006 10:26 PM

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I know I'm about a year late on this, but it was only recently that I finally watched the notorious Sci-Fi Channel version of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea cycle. LeGuin has complained at length about how the adaptation destroyed her novels. I heartily agree. The Sci-Fi version simply invents, out of whole cloth, weird subplots and characters that don't exist at all in the books, for no apparent reason. Kargad warriors sacking the wizard stronghold of Roke? Come on. The Sci-Fi adaptation also blends two different Earthsea books together so that their events happen simultaneously, instead of years apart. It creates romances and political intrigues that don't exist, presumably for the sole purpose of generating Hollywood endings. And on top of these big changes, the adaptation does any number of crass and offensive little things, like switching characters' names around. In the book, for instance, Sparrowhawk is the main character's spoken name, and Ged is his secret true name. In the Sci-Fi version, it's vice versa. Given that "true names" represent the essence of a thing in LeGuin's book, it's pretty unforgivable to go around swapping them, especially when it's completely unnecessary to do so.

More generally, it is difficult to imagine Peter Jackson treating The Lord of the Rings with such disrespect. The fans would have had his liver. The first Narnia film also struck me as very faithful, and of course, the Harry Potter flicks follow the books with extreme fidelity. Why LeGuin alone, among all of these famous fantasy writers, got screwed over so royally by the movie business is unclear to me. But the result is simply appalling and offensive.

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