The Book was Better: 7 Movie Adaptations that Failed Miserably

With Stephen King’s IT coming to the big screen this weekend, I’ve been thinking about Hollywood’s fascination with turning popular books into film (and typically ruining them).  I started making a list in my head of book adaptations into movies that I’ve seen in the past year or so and if any of them lived up to the entertainment/enjoyment of the read.

My conclusion? Of course, the book is always better.  There is some argument as why.  Many point to the fact that Hollywood just can’t seem to follow a storyline to save their lives.  The book is popular because people actually like the story!  Somehow, movie producers think they can invariably improve on it, which in turn usually makes it a fail.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken!

The other argument is our imaginations are so individual that when we read, we draw on our own experiences, people we know that might fit the description of the character, places we’ve seen that fit the setting, and any number of plot points we identify with as readers.  It’s simply impossible to account for those differences on the big screen.

I do like it when authors play “Who would you Cast” type games with their characters and fans.  Having a dream cast picked out is a great idea. Makes the casting director’s job easier too, I bet.  At a minimum, they have a feel for how audiences see the characters.

With so many poor book-to-movie adaptations though, I do wonder why authors continue to sell their works.  I guess money does talk.  I mean, it’s not like I would turn down a chance to reach a broader audience should someone ask me to use my work as inspiration for a movie.  Or the money.

As readers, it’s probably best if we go into the theatre with the idea we are about to see FanFiction, versus a visual replay of something beloved from our imaginations.

Anyway, here is my list of SEVEN of the worst book to movie adaptations I’ve seen in the last 18 months or so.

  1. Anything by Stephen King.

    Honestly, the man is a prolific writer of horror and scary.  And Hollywood is pretty prolific with making scary movies.  So why, oh why, can they not make a good SK movie?!  About the only one I’ve enjoyed thus far is Misery or going way back, The Shining because Jack!  Nicholson was the bomb in that movie (even with the screenplay deviating from the book significantly).  The recent Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger and now IT were total duds in my opinion.  But, with IT being released this weekend, I’ll let you guys decide.  Be sure to leave me a comment if you feel different and be sure to let me know what you loved about the big screen version!

  2. The Hobbit. 

    I don’t know how Peter Jackson failed this one.  He did such a great job with LOTR!  Some say it was greed, with the decision to make three movies out of a 300-page book.  I’m not sure if that was actually Jackson’s call or some fat cat producer, but it was the wrong decision.  At least for those who are fans of the book series.  My kids saw all three movies and loved them.  But, they are too young to have read the books yet and therefore are unbiased.

  3. Live by Night.

    This was a Ben Affleck film released back in January of this year, based on the book of the same name by Dennis Lehane.  Affleck did a pretty great job a few years back on Argo, but this one was a fail.  It’s OK to fail.  I’m not picking on him for that.  It was just a poor adaptation of a pretty great book.  Maybe you’ll get ‘em next time Affleck!  It’s rentable now, so check it out and let me know if you disagree.

  4. Anything by Nicholas Sparks.

    I’ve only read a couple of his books, and only because the movie was set to come out.  I’m not much of a romance reader.  Unless it has zombies or vampires or other supernatural elements that punch up action.  It’s just my preference.  But, the books I have read by him are decent and I can see why people love them.  The movies on the other hand, are almost always stinkers. I recently saw The Choice (2016) and it was predictable and clichéd. I feel bad that this keeps happening to Sparks, but it doesn’t stop him from cranking out best sellers.  You go, guy!

  5. The Divergent Series.

    I read this series after someone in my life encouraged me to stay on top of the YA dystopian movement.  I enjoyed the series, but not as much as Hunger Games.  The movie versions, although visually pretty great at depicting the factions and Chicago destroyed, the storyline changes irked me too much to enjoy the films.  I think the young cast was great with the material given and redeemed it some, but again, the adaptation left me feeling displeased.

  6. Through the Looking Glass.

    Is it just me or is Johnny Depp and that costume of his disturbing?  I sort of feel like he was scarier than the guy playing Pennywise in IT.  Normally I enjoy his antics.  He’s one actor who can really pull off method acting in costume (Edward Scissorhands, Pirates, Sweeny Todd..), but this adaptation felt too much like Willy Wonka in an ugly, disturbing way.  I love, love Alice in Wonderland and this just made me mad that they ruined it so much.  How about you?

  7. The Legend of Tarzan (2016 version).

    How many times will they remake this movie?  We just saw the Jungle Book remake which is basically the same premise.  Why must we revisit the same material over and over?  This was a waste of time and energy.  That actor, Skarsgård, must have spent a lot of time working out to beef himself up for the role.  Yet, no matter how many shirtless scenes he was in, they couldn’t redeem the overly CGI’d and weak screenplay.  Hollywood, please stop making this movie.  At least for like 20 years, K?  Thanks.

Most of these I’ve mentioned were from the 2016-17 movie time frame because my memory gratefully blocks out anything older than that when it comes to poor book to movie adaptations.

Certainly this list isn’t exhaustive.  So let me know which ones you’ve found hauntingly bad in the comments below!

— KT

The Book was Better:Movie Adaptations that Fail
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