10 Worst Book to Screen Adaptations

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.

1. Eragon

Or, yanno, good acting? Or good dialogue, for that matter...

Or, yanno, good acting? Or good dialogue, for that matter…

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–

Sorry, Movie HGTG, you're just not as good as Book HGTG!

Sorry, Movie HGTG, you’re just not as good as Book HGTG!

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.

5. Twilight

Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re saying. It’s TWILIGHT. Of course it’s rubbish.

Godfrey is not impressed by your scriptwriting...

Godfrey is underwhelmed by your scriptwriting…

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.

No.

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)

Oh. Wow.

Just wow.

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.

tumblr_lm3dntYa7L1qbz270o1_500

Oh! The drama!

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. 

sorry some dayThen 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

Which one?

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…)

When in doubt, be Frank

When in doubt, be Frank

Housekeeping

Did you guys know that printed books should always be odd-numbered on the right page? Or that text should be right and left justified? Or, for a matter of fact, that when you shorten the front of a word with an apostrophe (ex. ‘leave ’em alone’) that the apostrophe must face the same way as one that shortens the end of a word (ex. ‘doin’ what comes naturally’).

I didn’t until I started self-publishing. Got any idea how long it takes to go over 300-odd pages of text, looking at every flamin’ apostrophe? Oh yeah, and MS Word just puts ’em through as regular apostrophes. You gotta think about every shortened word as you type it. (Well, there’s probably a function I can turn on somewhere in the recesses of the program, but beggared if I know where it is.)

Also on today’s housekeeping: both Masque and A Time-Traveller’s Best Friend: Volume One are on a Goodreads giveaway at the moment, until about mid-April. I’ve got three signed copies of each to give away, so if you’re interested, click through the link on either above, and enter to win. A handy little feature of Goodreads that I found out about just a few days ago, and that I’m very happy to make use of!

And as I announced on my Facebook and Twitter pages, Wolfskin is at present being sent out to bloggers and reviewers. If you’re interested in getting a free copy (either ecopy or paperback) for the purposes of a review, contact me at gingellwrites [AT] gmail.com, through the comment section, or from the form on my Contact page.

Fourthly and lastly, I’ve been bingewatching On The Up with the wonderful Dennis Waterman, delightful Sam Kelly, inimitable Joan Sims, and pot-stirring Jenna Russell. SO MUCH FUN. So many glorious one-liners. And I’m completely in love with the ending.

Well, that and the equally wonderful live-action version of Black Butler. I’ve watched it three times now. It’s become one of my all-time favourites along with Alice (mini-series version with Andrew-Lee Potts), The Fall (Lee Pace), and City of the Lost Children (Ron Perlman).

Seriously. Watch any of these.

Over and out.

(What? You didn’t think my housekeeping would include actual work, did you? Well, apart from all the apostrophes.)

Musings: On Hannibal The Cannibal

Okay, so first things first. When I talk about Hannibal I mean the TV and Movie Hannibal. I haven’t read the books. That said, proceed!

hannibal lecter

I’ve watched a few of the Hannibal movies (Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Hannibal) and I’m now in the process of watching the second season of TV Hannibal, which is slightly different again but just as compelling. (Also it’s fun to listen to hubby retching when he comes in sight of the tv screen for a particularly gruesome murder.)

The murders are one and all excessively gruesome and sometimes beautiful in that gruesomeness (for example, the guy with a tree wrapped around his legs, his arms in its cherry-blossom’d branches and glorious flowers blossoming from his split torso). They’re also almost completely unbelievable. I mean, seriously, what murderer has the uninterrupted time to set up a guy in a tree in a parking lot without being noticed? Or slice a girl into slides and arrange the slides so beautifully that it’s like looking at one of those books with the plastic slides of musculature? Not to mention the cops should have a field day with stuff as easy to find out as who purchased eight-odd MASSIVE FREAKING SLIDES OF GLASS.

That’s another story, though, and for the most part I suspend disbelief and just go along with it. The question that occurred to me the other night is, why do I go along with it? Why am I watching this show? Why am I even half cheering for this guy?

To recap:

  1. The bloke eats people. Yanno? He actually slices pieces of flesh and bone (though mostly, it seems, the soft organs like kidneys and brains and tongues) and cooks and eats them. That’s not okay. That’s gross and disturbing and completely alien to any right-thinking person.

  2. He murders on a whim. If he thinks someone is being rude, whether to himself or some other societal more he considers important, wham! That person is liable to end up dead, with missing body parts. That goes for any musician unlucky enough to disturb Hannibal’s enjoyment of a concert by playing a wrong note. I can only imagine what he’d do to someone whose mobile phone went off in the middle of said concert.

  3. He’s been known to wear people’s faces. Seriously. Like, tearing off a dude’s face and wearing it to escape (if you want to know how that happens, watch the movie yourself). And he tends to disemboweling and other gross stuff like that. He seems to prefer his victims alive, too. That is also not okay.

There’s more, but those are the main things. This guy is a predator; a terrifying, alien, other predator with no normal human morals or perceivable conscience.

So, the question remains: Why is he so compelling?

And I can’t deny that he is compelling, because despite the extreme violence in the movies/tv show, and the (for me) more than usually allowable bad language, I found it hard to stop watching. Why is that? Since the moment I watched The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal (my favourite of the movies, if ‘favourite’ is quite the word to use) I’ve puzzled to myself about why I find Hannibal so compelling. Watching the second season of the TV show Hannibal got me wondering again.

This morning, in the middle of my devotions, cuddling my cup of tea, I got it.

There’s a catechism/truth/principal that is used in the Presbyterian church I go to, and in some of the older protestant books that I read. It goes something like: ‘The value of a soul depends upon the object of its affections’. It’s used in relation to God and His loving of His own Self: ie, that His soul/person is of infinite value and worth because the object of His affections (Himself) is utterly beautiful, perfect, right, just, and unchanging. His affections are set on what is most right and beautiful. In that sense, God defines Himself. It’s also used with regards to Christians. We’re ultimately beautiful when we love that which is beautiful- in this case, God. Our worth is dependent upon appreciating and finding beautiful the things that are beautiful and ought to be appreciated. If we love wrong things and see them as beautiful instead, our soul is corrupted.

To tie this in, consider Hannibal’s main relationships. In the movies, it’s mainly Clarice Starling: an upright, righteous, and morally straight FBI Agent. There’s the sense that she’s a good copper, but the main idea that I personally got from their interactions on screen was her unwavering sense of right. She was morally upright.

In the TV series there is Will Graham. Now, as the series proceeds, he gets darker. But the thing about Will that I most appreciate is that he sees the darkness in the world and potentially in himself, and he hates it. Even the wrong things he does are motivated by a sense of right. He is terrified of the darkness, and yet he keeps fighting it in the world and in himself.

And these two people, in one way or another, Hannibal loves. He loves them fiercely, terrifyingly, and in some cases, almost entirely selflessly. It’s an alien and unfathomable emotion in him. He sees the uprightness in them and he loves them for it. He knows that if he gets too close he’ll be burned, but he can’t seem to help himself. He’s drawn to them.

And that, right there, is what makes Hannibal such a compelling character. In his otherness and alienness, he is terrifying. But in his love of these two people (and seemingly only these two people) with their uprightness and unwavering determination to do what is right at all times, there is something oddly good and worthwhile.

So while the violence turns my stomach at times, and I fully recognise that Hannibal needs to be shot quickly and efficiently, I can’t help but find him compelling still.

Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal Lecter

Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal Lecter

Strong Female Leads

I’m very definite about what I like in characters. I will very often put down a book without reading all the way through if I don’t like the main character/s, and I’ve been known to verbally remonstrate with TV characters who are doing stupid things. This holds true for all characters, but is more stringently applied to female lead characters I read/watch (mostly because I’m female and dislike seeing females made ridiculous without good reason. Men can mostly be as ridiculous as they like without upsetting me unduly).

If the female lead is, for example: a) Always relying upon the hero to save her, b) Always belittling/snarking at the hero, c) Making stupid decisions because the book/movie needs it for angst/danger, d) Always having sex because she’s a strong female lead who don’t need no man/rules/standards ETC, ETC, ETC-

I WILL BURN THAT BOOK/MOVIE.

(Actually, I won’t: I’ll probably just make a face and donate it to the op-shop/bin/a friend. But still. Ya get me. If I get really hot under the collar, I’ll compose snarky reviews in my head that will never see the light of a computer.)

There’s a lot of angst about Strong Female Leads. Someone is always trying to make sure that movies have enough Strong Female Leads, or that a book has a Strong Female Lead. It’s one of those things that you’re forever hearing about on the ‘net. I mean forever. There are tantrums and jumpings up and down, and accusations of misogyny etc, clouding the air and making things generally difficult to see.

I’ll admit, I used to roll my eyes about it a lot. (Actually, I still do at some of the more tantrum-like outbursts.) And then, the matter having been brought to my attention, I started noticing stuff.

It was most often in movies. (Books have weak, annoying, and/or stereotypical female leads, but they have an equal amount of weak, annoying and/or stereotypical male leads.) I’d be watching a movie, enjoying it more or less depending upon which one it was, and then BAM- there was a female lead wearing next to nothing. FOR NO REASON. Cos, trust me, if you’re a ninja/knight/samurai/whatever, you’re gonna want as much body surface covered. The male counterpart would be fully clothed. And then the female lead would fall/trip/get bashed and have to be rescued by one of the blokes for the seemingly sole purpose of being clutched to the well muscled chest of whichever one happened to save her.

So basically, the female lead was there for looks, and for the rush that the male ego gets for having saved a damsel in distress. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a female in a movie/book having to be rescued. But when it’s already established that she’s apparently the best/strongest/fastest, it’s really annoying to find that she has to be saved by the male of the piece simply because she’s female.

That’s not cool. It’s not cool to see female characters used in tv shows/movies simply for the purpose of eye candy. It’s not cool to see them always berating and/or sleeping with the male counterpart simply to prove that they’re a strong female lead who don’t need no man. C’mmon dudes, there has to be some middle ground here. And it’d be kinda nice to see female action figures, too (I’m looking at you Avengers. Yanno, while I’m on the subject).

It’d just be nice to see more interesting, reasonable females (action movies, I’m looking at you) who have their own stories and react to events/people/etc on their own terms and not merely with relation to the storyline of the main male character. I love action movies, but they’re the ones most guilty of female stereotyping (yeah, Taken.  I love you, but Liam Neeson’s wife needed to be murdered a lot sooner).

That’s all. That’s all I’m asking.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

I saw Walter Mitty first when he was the golden-haired Danny Kaye. He won my heart with his over-the-top imagination (‘A mere scratch, sir, a mere scratch! Set the bone myself!’) and his typically Danny Kaye comedy routines. Virginia Mayo plays his sometimes exasperated but always fond love interest, who is responsible for getting him into trouble to start with and who accompanies him to the bitter end.

Danny Kaye Walter Mitty

 

In this particular version are murder! mayhem! and spies! Because, yanno- murder, mayhem, spies! There’s the dead body in the car. There’s the little black book with Secret Information. There’s the overbearing mother that Walter lives with. There’s the dotty girlfriend. And of course, there are the men who are trying to kill Walter. It doesn’t take long for Walter to realise that as much as he loves daydreaming about adventure, the real thing is entirely terrifying.

What I loved about this version:

  1. The screwball comedy. Some of the best of the 40s.

  2. Danny Kaye’s comedy routines, worked brilliantly into his everyday life, and his larger-than-life daydreams.

  3. The hopeful, thoughtful outlook of the entire film.

  4. The fantastic wackiness to it all. And Virginia Mayo so calm and sedate through the madness, trotting in on her elegant high-heels to rescue Danny and push him on again.

 

I was understandably nervous when the new Secret Life of Walter Mitty was announced. I loved the old version so much that I couldn’t see the new one even coming close to being as good. I thought it might be passable, and decided to give it a go.

In the new version, Walter is a Negative Asset handler for Life! magazine. His job is in jeopardy as Life! magazine goes through the transition from physical to digital, downsizing its human resources as it does so. His new boss treats him with scorn and extreme disrespect, he’s in love with the new girl, Cheryl (who doesn’t seem to know he exists), and his dating profile on e-harmony (set up for the express purpose of ‘meeting’ Cheryl) is plain boring, because he’s never been anywhere/done anything interesting. Instead, Walter day-dreams in gorgeous HD.

In this particular version there are no spies or jewels or black books. Instead, there is a missing negative, the quintessential expression of Life! magazine that is meant to star on the cover of the very last issue. And to find this missing negative, Walter has to track down the photographer who took it, using only a series of moderately unhelpful surrounding negatives. The search for Sean O’Connell, who seems everything that Walter would love to be (adventurous, physically able, rakish, and casually cosmopolitan) occupies a large part of this movie. Walter is pushed out of his comfort zone, encouraged by Cheryl (in daydreams as well as in real life) to keep searching and leaping into the unknown, and finds himself stronger and wilder than he ever believed possible.

Things I loved about this version:

  1. The use of blue throughout to indicate Walter’s static state, and the likewise eyecatching use of red to indicate life, the seizing of opportunity, and adventure. Visually amazing.

  2. Walter’s realisation that his constant daydreaming (even in the presence of his dream girl!) is stopping him from achieving all that he could be.

  3. The sheer bombasticity of Walter’s imagination, in all its glorious HD ridiculousness.

  4. The point when you realise that as much as Walter admires Sean O’Connell (the wild man, the adventurer, the romantic), Sean O’Connell respects him.

  5. The fact that the plot didn’t make the mistake of ‘Trying To Save The Magazine’. The end was inevitable, graceful, and integral to the storyline.

 

To conclude: I never thought there would be a point in my life when I would say that the remake of a movie exceeds the original. But I’m saying it now. Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty has all the outrageous imagination that Danny Kaye’s Walter Mitty ever had, but where Danny Kaye’s WM is light and frothy and fun, Ben Stiller’s WM is rich, layered, and intensely satisfying. The more I watch it, the better I love it.

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty

Happy watching, guys.

Look, Ma! I’m Makin’ A Movie!

Look, Ma!  I’m makin’ a movie!

Well, I’m writing a screenplay, anyway.  Close enough?

For those who don’t know what a screenplay is (one of the guys at my writer’s group asked me this morning); a screenplay is the bones of a movie or tv series, or sometimes even a game.  It’s a script plus a few extra bits, like scene settings or actor instructions, or camera shots/angles.  It’s the beginning of a movie.

I wrote a short story a while ago that I just couldn’t get out of my head.  There were things I knew about the setting and characters that didn’t make it into the short story for the very simple reason that if I’d included them, it wouldn’t have stayed a ‘short’ story.  It was an unusually visual story for me, and it didn’t cease to prod at the corners of my mind when I finished it, unlike every other story/book I’ve written.  I always still love my characters when the story is done, and I’m always fully immersed in the re-writes and editing, but this particular story just seemed to keep growing with scenes and dialog that were increasingly visual.  Then someone from my writer’s group read the story and said: “This should be a movie.”

movie_camera

At first it was just ridiculous thoughts of: “Oooh, this is a great song for the soundtrack!” and “This actor is perfect for George.  Oh, and this one is going to play Ruth.”  Then I started wondering about the form of screenplays: how they’re structured, what they contain, etc.  It didn’t really occur to me that I could write a screenplay, of course; because I’m a writer and don’t you have to be a playwright/screenwriter to do that?  Am I allowed to write a movie?

Well, apparantly I am.  I did my research (ahem.  Well, a full day of furious typing on the google and madly following links, and reading the screenplay for True Grit); found out the correct format (oh boy, are they a pain!); and started writing.

And I can do it.  It’s a different form with different rules, and entirely refreshing.  It’s almost easy, because I know where it’s going and what I have to show to make it work.  It’s just a matter of plugging away until it all done, and then making it as beautiful as I can.  I don’t know that I’ll try and send it out to anyone when it’s done.  Heck, I don’t even really know if I’m doing it properly.  But now that I’ve started, other books have begun with the same siren song . . .

Well, the world really does need a four-hour miniseries of The Count of Monte Cristo, after all.