Books Hollywood Screwed Up in the Movie Version
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Hollywood is by no means innocent, but the greatest of atrocities in my mind are all the wonderful books felled by bad script writers, horrible directors and worse actors. When I hear of a popular book or even a well written book being adapted to the silver screen I cringe! Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised but there is such a risk of being disappointed that I have made it a habit of not getting my hopes up.
So, to honor the fallen and to warn the unwary I make the following list.
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising - This AWFUL movie is based off Susan Cooper's book The Dark is Rising, which is the first book in the series of the same name. I grew up having this book read to me and then reading it over and over. I was excited when this movie was announced. I took my wife to it. She has never read the books. During the movie she and I were both confused. The screen writers destroyed the story! More than anything else I blame the screen writers for this mistake since the cast was actually rather impressive. It didn't help that the main character was made American rather than being English like in the books. At least it was based the UK though. My recommendation, if you see this movie run. If you see the books on the other hand, grab them. They are well written and can be enjoyed by all ages!
Starship Troopers - This movie was based off of Robert A. Heinlein's book of the same title. The book changed my life. The depths of thought combined with the action of the book kept me on the edge of my seat. Cut to the movie and it is a different story. The special effects were revolutionary for when the movie was made, but that is about all the movie had going for it. Bad actors, bad writing, bad director. They added several nude scenes to the movie to attract the horny young guys to the movie. It is a waste of time. Read or listen to the book. It is compelling and well written. It also helps that such popular games as Halo got their inspiration of powered armor from this book which was published in 1959. The failure to include that particular tidbit added to the epic failure of the movie, although such failure needs no help. Also, skip Starship Troopers 2 & 3 as well. The mini series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles was an alright CGI adaptation.
Harry Potter 1 through 4 - Hey, J.K. Rowling is rolling in the money because of this particular franchise, but that still doesn't mean the adaptation of the books to movie form was well done. The last few movies have improved somewhat despite poor acting, but I personally find the entire franchise a waste of time. Others disagree, but I happen to be a little pick as to what I will spend my money on. The books and audiobooks are great, but the movies will never find a place on my shelf.
Eragon - Christopher Paolini wrote this first book of the same title at 15 and I was impressed. The movie on the other hand was depressing. Back to the bad writers. The adaptation was poor at best. The acting was fair. I feel this movie is a pale shadow of the story that was written.
The Golden Compass - Based off the first book in as series that was first named Northern Lights and later renamed to The Golden Compass written by Philip Pullman. The movie put me to sleep! The book series is a little adult for kids under the age of 16 in my opinion because of the subject matter. Some people have banned their kids form ever reading it because this, but I personally disagree with that sentiment. Rather I want my kids to be mature before they choose to tack such a book, but I digress.
The Indian in the Cupboard - This book written by Lynne Reid Banks is magical! Part of its magic is that it is based in England. The movie made it based in the USA. Imagine if someone tried to make Harry Potter American! I have nothing against America, I am a citizen and love my nation, but there are some things that should be left alone and this story is just one of them.
Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief - Based off of The Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan. I will be honest, I feel this movie was okay. It didn't do the book justice but it was okay. Enjoy the movie before you read the book though. I did so and then re-watched the movie. Still, I think the book was a far better use of my time.
A Wrinkle in Time - Base do the book of the same title by Madeleine L'Engle. This book had depth and all ages can enjoy it. The main reason the movie fails in my mind is the poor special effects. The attempt to make it was too soon and so the movie sucked. The acting wasn't very good either, but my eyes were in such great pain from the attempt to make this movie I almost cried. Skip the movie and enjoy the book and it squeals; all of which were well written and impressive.c
Gulliver's Travels (with Jack Black): Based of the book of the same title by Lemuel Gulliver. This movie was a farce! Don't waste your time if you enjoy good literature that is made into movies. If you like Jack Black humor (count me out!) then this movie is for you. Just realize that the accuracy to the book is lacking so don't watch the movie thinking you can write a book report off of it.
War of the Worlds - based off of H.G. Wells epic novel which was also aired as a radio show done as if it was real life. This scared people so much some people committed suicide rather than be caught by the flesh eating aliens! Cut to the laughable movie staring Tom Cruise and you have another case of bad writers on your hands. I am not against a little creative licence, but seriously! The book was good! Don't destroy a good thing!
There have been some successes and I would like to point them out before you follow those who jumped to their deaths for fear of H.G. Well's imagination. Some of these movies are somewhat like the books while others diverged greatly in some respects while keeping the spirit of the book. The first four books are such books:
Stardust - Written by Neil Gaiman the book was originally a graphic novel. It was rather adult as is its novel adaptation, so please don't read it to the kiddies. That being said, the movie was well done and even though the movie was "Disney-fied" I think both book and movie are good in their own right.
The Postman - Based off of David Brin's masterful book, while the book and movie resemble each other only slightly I did enjoy both greatly and think both are worth watching. That being said, please be aware that there is a 3 minute sex scene in the movie you may want to skip. I personally think that could have been left out.
Jurassic Park - Base off of Michael Crichton's book of the same title, I actually enjoyed the movie better, but please don't discount the book. It is good. Be warned the book is full of a lot of cussing in case you have issues with that.
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov's book of the same title is similar yet different. Enjoy both. They are both worth the time to watch/read/listen.
The Lord of the Ring Series: J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful series adapted to the big screen very well. The extended cuts are longer but better.
City of Ember - Written by Jeanne DuPrau, the movie and the book both impressed me. Great kid's/young adult book.
Gettysburg - Based off of The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War by Michael Shaara the movie took its inspiration from the book and both are well done.
The Man Without a Face - Base off of the novel of the same title by Isabelle Holland the story is compelling and well done.
The Twilight Series - I personally hate the books of the same title by Stephenie Meyer, but I have to admit that if you want to avoid suffering through the series and skip all the crappy narrative then the movies are the best way after reading spoilers to get the story without all the crap. I actually think the movies are good, if not great. Oh, and before anyone gives me crap for not liking the books, yes I did actually read them and I will never get those wasted days back thank you.
The Chronicles of Narnia (Recent Disney versions): This series by C.S. Lewis is well done! Worth reading and watching. Yes there was some creative license taken to adapt the movies to the silver screen, but the essence of the story remains.
Holes - By Louis Sachat was well written and the movie wasn't bad either. Enjoy them both.
The After Thought
As you can see I am somewhat loose in my criteria for a good movie adaptation. The movie has to be well done and close to the essence of the book. Still, most good adaptations of books hold close to the book rather than diverge drastically.