Everyone has a favourite book that has been mangled beyond recognition by the filmmaker who decided to move it to the big screen; our writers look at some of the worst offenders.
See our their six entries for ‘Worst Book to Film Adaption’ below!
The Cat in The Hat (2003)
Novel by: Dr. Seuss
Screenplay by: Alec Berg
Bo Welch’s 2003 adaptation of children’s book The Cat in the Hat is completely bizarre. Redeemed only maybe by its design, the ‘kids’ movie debases Dr. Seuss’ original depiction of innocence and playfulness by featuring crass humour and sexual innuendo aplenty. While films like Toy Story are made for youngsters but also contain genuinely good humour for adults, The Cat in the Hat doesn’t seem to be sure who its been made for. This perhaps wouldn’t be such a problem if the film was actually funny, but instead all the jokes fall flat, apart from maybe one kitchen sequence. The movie takes the source material’s joyful surrealism and turns it into something crude and charmless and sure to eternally anger the fans of Dr Seuss’ work. I would normally argue that risky humour should be respected, but probably not when it’s aimed and marketed towards children.
Words by Jack Dillon
Novel by: Khaled Hosseini
Screenplay by: David Benioff
The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s turbulent history, and it is clear from Husseini’s depiction of his beloved country’s fall into oppression that there is still, for him, a heart-wrenching sense of loss. Lacking the narration of protagonist Amir, in the 2007 adaptation Afghanistan is far less a homeland remembered fondly, and more an exotic spectacle. Husseini presents a nostalgic and fond recollection of childhood in Afghanistan as he introduces the reader to the complexity of protagonist Amir’s relationship with his father Baba, and best friend, Hassan. The adaptation, however, breezes quickly over this, meaning that the fated ‘alley scene’, upon which the Amir’s emotional turmoil rests, is introduced before the viewer has had time to truly invest themself in Husseini’s characters. The severity of Amir’s guilt and betrayal is lost, and this is hardly helped by the stiff performances from Amir and Hassan’s child actors.
Words by Chris Evans
Novel By: Suzanne Collins
Screenplay by: Gary Ross
Although it does stand alone as a great film, The Hunger Games, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the expectations of its print version. The book relies heavily on Katniss’ internal monologue to paint a picture of fear at the constant risk of death. The pacey, emotive language Suzanne Collins uses makes her novel the thrilling page-turner it is, but in the film, we get large lulls of silence and artistically ambiguous flashbacks of exploding rooms and blurry pigs. I was consistently explaining to my friends why Katniss was distant to her mother, why her relationship with Peeta was so complicated; Katniss’ internal struggle does not translate so well onto the screen and the viewer misses out on many things that make the book so engaging and shocking. How much better is the story when you know the servants have had their tongues cut out or that the killer dogs are mutated versions of the other tributes? It’s a good film, but it doesn’t do justice to the awesomeness of the book.
Words by Andy Haywood
Novel by: Jane Austen
Screenplay by: Patricia Rozema
Mansfield Park, written by Jane Austen, features the story of ten year old heroine Fanny Price, from an underprivileged family who is sent to live at her uncle’s wealthy estate. The 1999 Miramax film adaptation may suit general audiences with its modern twist on the period drama, but for Austen fans, it’s shockingly bad. Not only is Fanny’s moral, timid character turned into an unruly tomboy who refers to herself as a ‘wild beast,’ but most of the other characters are underdeveloped. There’s no real groundwork for the Crawford’s manipulative actions, and Edmund as the loving hero is pretty flat. Ironically, Mansfield Park is the tamest of Austen’s works, yet has been called the ‘steamiest’ Austen adaptation, and no wonder – director Patricia Rozema makes unnecessary references to lesbianism in Mary and Fanny’s innocent friendship, and there’s even a crude glimpse of a sex scene! Whilst this might be entertaining, I feel it demeans her novel – so if you are a loyal Austen fan like me, steer clear.
Words by Eva Pemberton
Novel by: Agatha Christie
Screenplay by: Stephen Churchett
Believe it or not, this film – part of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Marple series – was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive and Only God Forgives. It is probably the very worst Christie adaptation ever made and completely changes the plot of the original novel. A quietly disturbing, carefully plotted crime story becomes an over-the-top, off-the-wall bonkers mess that falls apart in its hysterical final act. The cast is terrific – Dan Stevens, Richard E. Grant, Amanda Burton – but even they can’t save it from Stephen Churchett’s awful screenplay.
Words by Barnaby Walter
Novel by: Philip Pullman
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz
The Golden Compass is the 2007 adaptation of Philip Pullman’s outstanding young adult novel, Northern Lights. For a film which has such an incredible, thought-provoking source material, it couldn’t have been more wrong. There is very little about Chris Weitz’s film that matches up to the book, which is the first in a series. Unsurprisingly, the sequel novel, The Subtle Knife, never got transferred into film, something which I am sure that fans of the series are eternally grateful for.
Part of the problem with the film is its haphazard approach to narrative structure. For some inexplicable reason the creators of the film decided to change the order of several important events in the text which totally disrupted the narrative. This would have caused problems down the road, had a sequel been green lit. There was also some very dodgy manipulation of both the witches and Gyptians, who felt thrown into the film, rather than created as the well established characters they are in the novels.
Characterisation is the main issue in The Golden Compass. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig both star in the film, and while they are both fine actors, they fall flat in this film. Their chemistry is nonexistent, which given the characters’ history, and what happens in later books, is disappointing. You should feel a palpable tension and emotional link between the two characters who love each other but fundamentally disagree on everything which matters to them. Similarly Dakota Blue Richards is screechy, irritating, and very unconvincing as the central character Lyra. Lyra is a young, headstrong and vibrant girl – she is endearing in her stubborn resistance, not aggravating. The fact that the film focuses so primarily on her means that you tire of her performance very quickly. There are no characters which standout as truly engaging, or true to their character within the novel, which is a shame because Pullman creates very vibrant and engaging characters.
Overall there is very little to like or praise about The Golden Compass. Terrible narrative choices combine with mediocre acting, and for the most part sub par CGI. It was immensely frustrating, watching this film . Pullman creates an intricate world, with very interesting allegory, and a fascinating commentary on religion and politics. The film misses all of this, which is a mistake on the part of Weitz. What could have been an exciting exploration of identity, religion and sin becomes a substandard film, best left unwatched.
Words by Rebecca James.