Books! The written word is the original gateway to the imagination, and has led millions of avid readers to digest the work of their favorite authors or series. Countless of these stories have been adapted to the big screen (some multiple times), but as any reader can tell you, a great book does not always make for a great movie. Book adaptations can go sour real fast, as fans of the Stephen King's Dark Tower series recently learned. There are a number of reasons for why these movies end up failing hard, but knowing those reasons doesn't exactly remove the scowl from any hardcore reader of the book.
Even the best of novels can be turned into a crummy movie, no matter how classic it is or how hard production works to live up to a particular novel's legacy. Not everything can be a Harry Potter or a James Bond, and even the technically bad Twilight movies have their big fan bases. No movie should have to be 100% faithful to the source material, but it can't forget to, well, BE GOOD. A book adaptation can get it so wrong that it can never earn back our forgiveness, and these are 10 movies that likely still piss people off.
The Hobbit Trilogy
A prequel to The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit trilogy failed to live up to J.R.R. Tolkien's original masterpiece (opens in new tab). Despite having great casting in Martin Freeman as Bilbo, plus the return of Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey (the best Gandalf), these three movies were a bust from start to finish. Peter Jackson phoned it in for three movies straight, overly relying on CGI, cartoonish action, and references to the original trilogy over memorable characters. The films have their bright spots for sure (Smaug is noticeably epic), but ultimately the decision to split one normal-sized book into three movies was its real undoing.
Gulliver's Travels (opens in new tab) is Jonathan Swift's satirical look at societal rules and travel novels was written almost 300 years ago. The most well-known part of this story is Gulliver's encounter with teeny-tiny people on the island of Lillipy, who have tons of quirky customs (what end you crack an egg is the source of a political divide). The movie envisions the story in modern day and includes Jack Black, the Bermuda Triangle, poop humor, giant robots, and Guitar Hero III -- a little man gets sucked into Jack Black's butthole for crying out loud! Let's just say it takes some liberties, making it a shallow effort just trying to capitalize on name recognition.
World War Z
This adaptation of Max Brooks' zombie horror novel (opens in new tab) never had an easy time. Multiple rewrites, productions troubles, and an extensive third act reshoot all plagued World War Z about as a well as any zombie virus. While not a totally bad film, its generic plot and crappy ending prove how difficult it can be to streamline an unconventional novel. The book is a collection of accounts from multiple perspectives recounting how the world dealt with an international zombie outbreak. The movie opted to focus on one point of view (Brad Pitt) but wasn't quite able to do much with it. That wall of zombies was pretty cool, though.
The Scarlet Letter
This is an example of how deviating from the source material can pretty much tank a movie. This 1995 adaptation of the classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hollywood-ified Nathaniel Hawthorne's original work. The story follows a Puritan woman who -- by modern definitions -- is slut shamed for having an affair with a minister and forced to wear a scarlet letter "A." It's about sin, betrayal and lust, which the movie version confuses for more softcore sex scenes with Demi Moore. The novel doesn't end well for her or her lover, but the movie ends with a convenient last-minute save that allows them to live happily ever after together, missing the entire point of the novel. But man, look at how steamy Demi Moore and Gary Oldman are!
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Written by Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a popular sci-fi comedy series that began as a radio show but then spawned into book and television series'. The books, which are probably the most digested format, are odd, uniquely funny, and pretty confusing (in a good way). They don't easily lend themselves to adaptation on film, which people saw firsthand when the movie version was released. Starring Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel, the movie doesn't quite match the spirit of the novels and ends up being just confusing (in a bad way). It's not a trainwreck by any means, but it's a fairly generic look at one of the most un-generic properties.
All the King's Men
All the King's Men, rated as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, was already adapted into a film in 1949 that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. When they did it again in 2006... well, it's a movie, I can tell you that much. Despite boasting a star-studded cast (Sean Penn Judd Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins), with Steven Zaillian directing, the film failed to live up to TWO different versions of itself. It has a Rotten Tomato score of 11%, which writes that the movie "lacks political insight" in a story where politics is used as a lens into themes of consequence and morality. There's no life in the film, as scenes just drag on, and Sean Penn's Louisiana accent is better left on the page where it can only hurt your eyes.
Bonfire of the Vanities
Brian De Palma crafts some great thrillers, but he bit off more than he could chew with Bonfire of the Vanities. Adapted from the 1987 satirical novel of the same name written by Tom Wolfe, the story follows a wealthy New York City stock broker who accidentally runs over a young black man, tracing the highly-publicized trial that follows. The movie version softens up the events and characters of the novel and loses most of its bite in the process. Tom Hanks is miscast in the lead role, and the film is just unable to match the in-depth look Wolfe hooked readers with in his novel.
Dune has drummed up a cult following since its release in 1984, but it remains divisive among book fans. The plot, which chronicles rival noble families competing for control of a harsh desert world with a valuable resource, was hard to follow and over stuffed. The film couldn't keep up with the novel's dense text that created a world that fascinated readers, and the result was a film that critics hated, and one that tanked at the box office. Even writer-director David Lynch distanced himself from the project,and there are some versions where he is credited under a pseudonym. Lynch later admitted that he probably never should have done the movie at all. That being said, Denis Villeneuve should still try to remake it.
The Positronic Man is a novel by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, based on a short story by Asimov. The book tells the story of Andrew, a robotic helper to the kindly Martin family that slowly develops human emotions and creativity over time. Andrew eventually replaces his mechanics with synthetic organs, abandoning his immortality so that he may finally be considered human. The novel is a thoughtful and subtle look at what it means to be human, so of course, you cast Robin Williams in the lead role of the movie adaptation. Called Bicentennial Man, the movie interjected more goofy humor and some very unsubtle sentiment that chiseled away the sharper source material until all that was left was just a genuinely bad movie.
The Cat in the Hat
You should not see this movie in a box; you should not see it with a fox or any other living creature because no one can know that you saw this. This movie -- which came in a temporary bad live-action Dr. Seuss phase before they decided to just do bad animated ones -- is pretty horrible. The Cat in the Hat is as classic as children's literature gets, yet that is not a medium that suits full-length feature films. Starring Mike Meyers as the title demon, there's really nothing positive to say about The Cat in the Hat. It's got weird sexual innuendos, bad special effects, and is mostly unfunny. The Cat in the Hat book taught me to read; The Cat in the Hat movie taught me I might be better off blind.
Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.
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