What Books Did Not Translate Well To Movies At All?
Posted on 18th of July, 2018


Without a doubt, it has to be Dune. There are so many things wrong with this film adaptation that I don't even know where to start. What could have been a film that rivals Game of Thrones in terms of underhanded politics and drama was instead turned into an unwatchable mess featuring Sting prancing around in a silly metal codpiece.

Everyone from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Ridley Scott tried in vain to get this movie made, but it was David Lynch that was saddled with directing it in the end. Even he knew how bad it turned out as he not only distanced himself from the film when it flopped spectacularly after release, but he even insisted that his name was taken out of the credits and replaced with a pseudonym.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say that even Roger Ebert considered it to be the worst movie of the year. Considering how great the books are, it is a crying shame that the film squandered all of it in such a inept manner.
I have actually found the opposite to be true many times. There are so many movies that I really like only to have to listen to fans of the book screeching about how the book was so much better. I even tried reading a few of these books to see what all the fuss was about and in almost every instance I was left baffled and disappointed. One of my favorite movies is Pride & Prejudice. I discovered it when I found out that it was from the same producers as Bridget Jones's Diary. I only much later found out that it was originally a book. The book is so old that it is free so I downloaded it to have a read and barely got half-way before I threw in the towel. The film makers did a spectacular job improving the stiff and boring dialog from the book and turning it into something watchable. Pride & Prejudice the movie feels like a old time version of Bridget Jones's Diary, but the book feels like something that belongs in a museum. Just my two cents.
If there is one film that is so bad that the author is probably spinning in his grave, it would have to be The Cat in The Hat. Whoever greenlit a live-action version of this classic book by Dr. Seuss must have been high on green eggs and ham. The only positive thing about this turgid excuse for a movie is that Dr. Seuss' widow put her foot down for any more live-action films based on her husband's work. Considering that things started off bad enough with How The Grinch Stole Christmas before nose diving even further with The cat in the Hat, it was definitely a sensible decision on her part.
"Without a doubt, it has to be Dune."

The movie has a reputation for being bad, but I actually think that a lot of it is just herd mentality. It's not the best movie based on a book, but it really is not as unwatchable as everyone seems to want to make it out to be. What I really think was the downfall of the movie is just how much inner monologue the book has. The movie attempts to replicate this with the characters standing still while the inner monologue is narrated, which has a very awkward feel to it. Having the characters just explain everything instead through spoken dialog also doesn't quite work. The issue seems to be that the movie was made for people who have already read the book, which confused those who didn't and resulted in a lot of negative reviews. You know a movie is in trouble when they have to give out two pages of terminology with the ticket just so that you can understand what is going on. Just imagine how confusing Game of Thrones would have been if instead of an eight season television show it was cut down into a three hour movie. This is exactly what happened with Dune and which is why I think the director actually didn't fare too bad considering what was expected of him.

- Carrie - They keep remaking this movie and it keeps sucking.
- Eragon - The book wasn't that great to begin with, but the movie just plain sucks.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid - The first one was bad, but they still persisted with a sequel before giving up on the rest of the books.
- Twilight - Vampires suck. The books suck even more. The movies suck the most.
- 50 Shades of Gray - There was just no way that the movie was going to be faithful to the book without using straight up porn stars.
There is a misconception that movies based on books are aimed at fans of the books, but that is not necessarily true. Remember that the primary purpose of movies are to make as much money as possible and to do this they need to appeal to as many people as possible. They might toss in a few scraps for the true fans to obsess over, but mostly the film will gloss over most details to ensure that it doesn't bore the masses or require them to, heaven forbid, actually read the books to understand what is going on.
In all honesty I really don't think that there are any books that translate well to movies. Sure, some are better than others, but not one of them can capture all the complexities and nuances that authors are able to leisurely weave into their tales. With books we are able to listen to the innermost thoughts and fears of characters, which is something that movies simply cannot do. The blame doesn't completely fall on movie directors either as even television shows, who have a lot more than two or three hours to work with, struggle to include all the material in the books. Just look at Game of Thrones for example, even after so many seasons they still had to cut out large portions of the books. Enjoy movies for what they are, but don't go expecting that any of them will live up to your expectations.
I'm amazed that nobody has mentioned Battlefield Earth yet. It's a contender for the worst movie of all time, period. The book was written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, and co-produced by John Travolta, who also starred in it. Travolta is a staunch scientologists, which explains his obsession with getting this film made even after it was turned down by pretty much every major studio. He even flushed away millions of dollars out of his own pocket by pouring it into the movie. If this movie was supposed to be a recruitment tool for Scientology as many people believed, then it failed dismally to say the least.
I'm assuming that you don't mean bad books that were turned into even worse movies, so I won't mention anything written by Dan Brown. What I will say is that I love Tim Burton, I love Johnny Depp and I love the Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, mix these three together and you get the film from 2005. It's one of the most cringe worthy book adaptations that I have ever watched and Johnny Depp channeling his inner Michael Jackson for the role just makes things even more awkward. I think the reason that more people aren't talking about how bad this movie is, is due to the fact that their minds have blocked it out.
There are no shortage of films that fall in this category, but the one that irked me the most personally is The Dark Tower. Honestly, this is such a slap in the face to fans of the books as the film dumbs down pretty much everything in order to make it as appealing as possible to mainstream audiences.

In the end, the only thing that Nikolaj Arcel managed to accomplish was turning a series of multi-layered novels into a generic action movie. Honestly, if you are going to change so many things from the source material, why even bother calling it "The Dark Tower" in the first place.

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