In this post, we look at the worst book to film adaptations.
The Worst Book To Film Adaptations
It’s inevitable that books that are bestsellers or classics will be translated to the big screen or to Netflix at some point. After all, if one hugely enjoys a book does one not try to persuade one’s family and friends to read it?
(Authors would like to applaud you and say a heartfelt thank you for that.)
Certain classics, namely anything by Jane Austen, have had a surfeit of TV and film versions, adaptations – Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bride And Prejudice, Clueless, or fan-fiction versions – Death Comes To Pemberley, and Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. In the case of Charles Dickens – Scrooged, Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, and The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Thanks to Kenneth Branagh, the latest new book to film adaptations have been of Agatha Christie novels. When one loves Agatha Christie novels one accepts that when the film version calls itself ‘an adaptation’ there will be a few ‘changes’. The exigencies of film and TV mean that unless one has the budgets favoured by the BBC, changes have to be made. No one minded these when David Suchet played Hercule Poirot, and there was a good reason for that. The series was so faithful to the spirit of the books and the author’s intent that any changes really didn’t seem to matter.
But when the review says, ‘Hallowe’en Party is different, not just for its setting but also for the plot, characters and general tone and aesthetic’ one grinds one’s teeth. Plot? Characters? Setting? In other words, the entire book. The only thing they kept was the title and the name of the detective.
That is not an adaptation. That is riding the coat tails of the woman who has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible. It never fails to annoy one that there are writers out there that haven’t sold a tenth of what Agatha Christie did and yet still feel they can improve on her books – they can’t, or they would be selling more than she did and they don’t – or simply steal her titles and detective and write something completely different. They also know they can’t put as many bums on seats as she can so are shameless in their theft and feel by saying it’s an ‘adaptation’ is good enough.
Having got that off one’s chest, it’s time to look at other books that have been adapted to film badly.
The main complaint from book lovers is that the film producers saw a book was selling and wanted in on the action but didn’t bother to read the book. It’s almost as if they read the blurb on the back cover and then made up their own plot based on that. The assumption being that they know what viewers want without realising that what viewers want is the book they loved!
5 Book To Movie Adaptations That Were Dreadful
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This book was so much fun and was impressive considering it was written by a sixteen-year-old. The film was dreadful. It was dull. They took the essential parts — boy discovers a dragon egg, goes on adventures, gets into trouble — and…that’s it.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Three movies? That pretty much says it all. The Hobbit can be read in a few hours. There simply isn’t enough material to make 3 extremely long movies out of it. That was sheer hubris, and possibly greed, on the part of the producers.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
When the film leaves out the ENTIRE PLOT TWIST they deserve to have their armpits infested by the fleas of a thousand camels. The book’s twist showed how fragile life can be and how relationships are precious and shouldn’t be abused, even with the best intentions. The film was just a ‘made to make you cry’ movie.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
This classic book drowned in the Disney-fication that itself was swamped by CGI. It was definitely a case of the filmmakers trying to be too clever. The film was corny instead of charming, overblown instead of understated, popcorn blockbuster instead of brain food, and watered down instead of challenging.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The most recent remake of Persuasion starring Dakota Johnson is just dreadful. It sounds like the worst of TikTok wrote the script. In the book, Anne Elliot is a plain, shy young woman who is insecure in her own judgment. In the Dakota Johnson ‘adaptation’ she is always attractive, sly, and plucky. Clearly, the filmmakers thought there was nothing more to the era of which Jane Austen write than empire gowns and a rom-com ending.
One thing we can thank Netflix for is the ability to tell longer stories in a series rather than a 2-hour film. But even they get it wrong. It seems the lessons filmmakers are reluctant to learn – how to read books; what’s on the page and what’s between the lines. One crew member they need, and one whose word is law is the ‘book-slapper’. That person who knows the book; its whys, wherefores, reasons, meanings, and depth, intimately. Their job? Whenever anyone…ANYONE no matter who they are…suggests something that’s not in the book, goes against the book, misses the point of the book etc., the book slapper literally slaps them, hard, and says, ‘That’s not in the book! You can’t do that!’
The Last Word
What film adaptations of books have you seen that left you feeling dissatisfied or annoyed? If you have always wanted to learn how to write a book, Writers Write is the perfect place to discover how to navigate the journey to getting your book down on paper.
Look out for our post on the best adaptations.
by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series and The Device Hunter. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.
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