The movie is never as good as the book. Never. Sometimes it comes awfully close, but it’s never quite there. (Except for AUSTENLAND. Book and movie are even stevens.)
And then there are those really, REALLY bad adaptations.
In no particular order, here are 10 of the worst book to movie adaptations.
I’ll be honest here. I didn’t actually like the book/s. I thought they were poorly written and exceedingly boring.
But the movie. Oh my.
The movie was its own level of awful. From dreadful acting to abysmal script, this movie just couldn’t do anything right. Even the CGI looked embarrassed to be part of it.
No matter what I thought of the book (and I’m fully aware how many of my friends loved it), it certainly didn’t deserve the laughably dreadful movie that happened to it.
This one should die a quick, painless death.
2. Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli)
I can’t accurately convey my sense of absolute betrayal when I saw this dreadful excuse for a Diana Wynne-Jones story. For a start, it was animation. Okay, I could deal with that. I prefer live action, but hey! some stories are worth watching no matter what medium they’re made in. And HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is one of my all-time favourite books.
This movie, tho. This movie. It stomped on HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. It took names and vague ideas and then made a horrible, pastel anime chuck-up all over my tv screen. It had the worst tropes you find in anime, the worst of the stupid gasps, shrieks, and little girl noises that anime is capable of. And it totally messed up one of the coolest storylines I’ve ever read to turn it into a caricature of itself.
I’m going to go all stern Mr. Knightly and say: “Badly done, Studio Ghibli. Badly done!”
3. HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I actually feel kinda bad about putting this one here. I mean, the movie was actually kinda fun. I mean, c’mmon–
Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschenel, and Alan Rickman’s voice. You can’t ask for much more than that. And it was so ridiculously enjoyable!
Then I read the book.
Oh my. The book was fabulous. It made me determined to go out and buy all of the books.
It did not do the movie any favours. So, as book to movie goes, not a good job.
4. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
I waited for this one with barely contained excitement. The trailers, the tag-lines–everything about it was so beautiful. And with Tim Burton directing it, I figured there was absolutely no way it could be anything other than flamin’ fantastic.
I was wrong.
Well, I was right, too.
It’s seriously one of the most beautiful films you can watch. Gorgeous colours, fantastic outfits, kooky characters, and delightfully dark scenes.
Unfortunately, the movie had no plot. Unless that plot was to show how special and quirky Mia Wasikowska is, of course. She was a dreadful, smug, utterly boring Alice. Even Johnny Depp as the Hatter couldn’t save this movie from being a beautifully presented piece of depthless fluff.
If you love Alice, try the 2009 miniseries ALICE (my favourite. Oh! I could rave about this miniseries for hours!) If you’re more inclined to a traditional Alice, probably go for the 1999 ALICE IN WONDERLAND. It’s a little younger, but it’s quite lovely and mad.
Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re saying. It’s TWILIGHT. Of course it’s rubbish.
I should say here that I actually enjoyed the book. (Actually, I enjoyed the first and the last. I’m not a great lover of love triangles, so I didn’t particularly enjoy books #2 & #3.) It wasn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable. And it was reasonably new in its time–something I think people forget now that we’re used to it and all its ripoffs.
The movie/s managed to take all the worst of the books without any of the good: we ended up with a sickly saccharine, badly acted, badly directed, dreadfully scripted mess. I won’t bash Kristen Stewart for that–I’ve seen her act amazingly in too many movies to think that she was the problem. In the behind-the-scenes features that I watched (what? I love behind-the-scenes stuff! I’m a writer, for pete’s sake!) all I could see was the director squashing any spark of life from the actors who were doing the best they could do with an abysmal script.
If you simply must watch any of the movies, do yourself a favour and stick to the first movie only.
6. Pride and Prejudice (2005 version)
I feel bad about this one, too. Much like HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, it was actually a good movie. Great, even. Enjoyable, definitely. And the sisters were just so silly and young and beautifully done. I could even put up with Lizzy pinching some of Mr. Bennett’s lines. It was a good, albeit vinegary, version of Lizzy. This movie is well worth watching.
What it wasn’t, was PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I’m sorry, but I say no to the dawn strolls in nightclothes where the H & H meet and aren’t discomposed to find that neither of them are fully dressed while wandering.
And down with the spaghetti straps of Caro’s dress. For pity’s sake, KNOW YOUR APPROPRIATE FASHIONS AND RULES OF SOCIETY, DIRECTORS.
NO TO THE SPAGHETTI STRAPS IN REGENCY PERIOD PIECES.
And make sure you watch the very excellent 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version (then the Grea Garson/Laurence Olivier version just for fun and kicks).
7. ShadowHunters: The Mortal Instruments (TV Series)
I stopped reading the books because of this (apologies if there are any swear words in there, it’s been a while since I read these), and because some of the things in the books made me uncomfortable from a moral standpoint. I’d like to stress that I didn’t find the books badly written. They certainly didn’t deserve what has been done to them in this series.
What has been done to them is much the same as what was done to TWILIGHT. Truly cringe-worthy script. Acting of the worst, overly-dramatic kind. REALLY bad wigs. The fact that Clary (a size 0 at biggest) fits the clothes of Isabella (a tall, curvy, busty brunette), just so that we can see her in ‘hot’ clothes that natch she wouldn’t *gasp* normally wear.
And then there is the hugely sexualised way in which every single teenaged character is portrayed and/or behaves.
Mostly, though, it’s just really bad tv.
8. Persuasion (2007 version)
I was so sad about this one. And really, it’s not a bad movie. It’s just that there is zero chemistry between the H & H. I also don’t think they could have made the pleasant-faced Sally Hawkins look any uglier if they’d tried. Seriously, her hair is pulled back so tightly that it looks painted on. As far as consistency goes, it’s very close to the book, and it’s beautifully set. It just…leaves me empty and unmoved.
This version of PERSUASION (the book of which is a huge favourite of mine) doesn’t have a patch on the warm, soft, loveable 1995 version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. That’s the version to watch.
9. The Hobbit
I should preface this by saying that I really enjoyed the first two HOBBIT movies: they were too long, but they were fun and I absolutely love snarky Bilbo/Martin Freeman. I didn’t even mind the changes (aka Tauriel and Kili), since I thought they added a nice element to the story.
Then the last movie came out.
For starters, with the lack of remaining material, it should have been about half an hour long. Then we have to consider the atmosphere of it all. In book HOBBIT, the atmosphere, although chancy, adventurous, and exciting, was always light-hearted and never heavy. When there was sadness it was dignified and valorous. The first two HOBBIT movies managed that quite admirably with just touches of darkness as appropriate. The last HOBBIT movie changed all that.
I liked you, Peter Jackson. Why did you have to ruin THE HOBBIT?
10. The Count of Monte Cristo
All of them. ALL. OF. THEM.
Look, the whole idea of Edmund Dantes was that he was out for revenge on everyone in his old life who had done him wrong. And the whole idea of the book, as we follow him through his meticulous and terrifyingly clever machinations, is his redemption and eventual learning to forgive. To leave the things and people that hurt him behind, and to grasp those things which are ahead. A new start. A new life. A new love.
A giving up of hate and the old ways. A taking on of forgiveness and life.
Why, then, in every single movie version of MONTE CRISTO, do the directors/writers insist upon having Dantes get together with his old love, Mercedes? WHY?!? Why do they ruin the book?!?
Dantes gives up his last chance for revenge because he has been taught to love again. He falls in love with *spoilers* Haydee, the princess he rescued *end spoilers* Mercedes doesn’t even enter his mind. Why? Because she’s a part of his old life and one of the ones who (indirectly but certainly) did Dantes wrong. She was faithless and useless.
It doesn’t help that there’s such a depth and richness in the book that you simply can’t do justice to in a movie–or even a short tv series.
I love you, Gerard Depardieu. But your version of MONTE CRISTO was just as bad as Jim Caviezel’s.
Okay. End rant. what do you consider to be the 10 worst book to screen adaptations?
(And yes, in case you’re wondering: I did gif this entire post with MY MAN GODFREY. Why? Because MY MAN GODFREY is amazing, and they were just so appropriate…)