Weekender

Jumping the chasm from page to screen can be risky

I didn’t do the reading.

It feels really good to say those words without a disapproving teacher or the disclaimer “because my dog ate the book” trailing close behind.

I have no prior history with author Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” and I think that might actually be of service when I sit down in the theater this weekend to watch the Steven Spielberg adaptation starring Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and newcomer Ruby Barnhill.

It’s rare these days that I get to walk into a movie with a clean palette. At this point, I have usually binged heartily on a diet of trailers, Facebook reviews and talk show junket sound bites — the cinematic equivalent of going to a restaurant and filling up appetizers before the main course even arrives.

Either way there’s significant amount of weight involved — in this case it’s the kind associated with expectations, not swimsuit season.

Hollywood loves a built-in audience. Comic book films, old television shows, beloved novels — it’s all grist for the mill. It’s easier to open another McDonalds than it is to take a gamble on Uncle Jack’s All You Can Eat American Café & Really Good Food Spot.

You’ll save money on signage too.

A rabid audience has always been a bit of a double-edged sword. They can be your best friends or your most devoted of enemies and the line between the two is thinner than you might think.

My initial brush with fandemonium (you never forget your first time) came early in the new millennium, during production on director Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” movie.

“People” — an abbreviation I use loosely to describe a bunch of disembodied voices screaming at one another over the internet — were up in arms because the movie had decided to have Spider-Man’s webs come from organic slits in his wrists rather than mechanical devices he had manufactured himself (as in the gospel according to Marvel).

If that last paragraph read mostly as gibberish, don’t worry about it. In the grand scheme of the film itself, the change was a distinction without a difference, like looking at paint samples and trying to tell the difference between two shades of white.

If you know what you’re looking for you’ll see it — you may even spend the rest of your days haunted by the knowledge that the walls of your kitchen are colored “eggshell” and not “snowshoe” as previously agreed upon — but the day-to-day impact is negligible.

It’s the broad strokes that matter.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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