10 Good Books That Made Bad Films (published March 5, 2012 on http://www.shadowlocked.com)
Hollywood directors seem to be sneaking into our homes in the night time, snatching away our favourite books and destroying them by regurgitating slapdash adaptations on the big screen. Everything from science-fiction favourites to timeless graphic novels have been snapped up by the jaws of some horrible, dollar-eyed monster and squeezed into an hour and a half of such terrible cinema that it would make anyone spit out their popcorn. Not even our most beloved childhood stories are safe anymore. We thought we’d venture through these awful remakes to bring you the worst offenders.
Warning: contains spoilers
10) Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Lemony Snicket’s novels were packed with dark humour and dry wit that tickled younger audiences. Following the story of the three Baudelaire orphans, the story spans over 13 books as their distant cousin Count Olaf brings about countless tragedies in an attempt to claim ownership to their inheritance. The movie turned out to be a rather unfortunate event itself. The first three books were crammed into one film, with the plots being hacked apart and stuck back together. Although visually pleasing, the film is let down by their choice of villain – Jim Carrey, who decides not to bring the sly, scheming Count to life, but instead chooses to play Jim Carrey. The artwork on the end credits is very impressive though, if you can make it that far.
9) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Originally a graphic novel by Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‘s inspired balance between 19th-century literature and silver-age supermen joining forces to save the British Empire sounded like a sure-fire hit. However, when Stephen Norrington got his hands on it, he sucked the life out of fictional greats such as The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and Doctor Jekyll. CGI effects try to distract you from this, but ultimately you are left with an unfocused film where the modern and classic have been thrown together in a blender.
8) The Great Gatsby (1974)
This 20th-century classic was a hit around classrooms, with F. Scott Fitzgerald expertly capturing the hollowness of the American dream. The jazz-age romance between the high flying Jay Gatsby and the flirtatious Daisy Buchanan tells of a strained relationship and unrequited love that ultimately leads to tragedy. Giving credit where it is due, the 1974 adaptation does have stunning cinematography, but the acting leaves it feeling flat. Robert Redford puts in a wooden performance which fails to depict the mysterious nature of Gatsby. Daisy’s natural charm is also amiss as Mia Farrow appears fragile and, in parts, seems close to being hysterical. A remake will be hitting screens in the US later this year though, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead. At least this time around we might be able to watch it sucking in 3D.
7) American Psycho (2000)
Before Christian Bale was badly acting Batman on the big screen, he starred in the 2000 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, where he was badly acting Bateman. Many out there will disagree that this is a bad film, but nodirector could do justice to the novel. The dark and disturbing story slowly pulls you in with horrifying depictions of murder alongside chapters of Bateman’s mundane thoughts. It eventually builds to the reader feeling that these acts of chainsawing up hookers are as empty as the rest of his middle-class lifestyle. The unsettling atmosphere is lost in the movie, and as a compromise, Bale plays an over-the-top nut-job who can’t decide where to have lunch. There is something distinctly missing, and it’s not just Pat Bateman’s mind.
6) Starship Troopers (1997)
Robert Heinlein’s controversial sci-fi novel was written as an attempt to generate support for a nuclear-weapons testing programme in the US during the 1950’s. It follows a young soldier called Juan ‘Johnnie’ Rico as he fights in an interstellar war between man and ‘the Bugs’, dealing with social and philosophical issues along the way. The 1997 film adaptation did Heinlein no justice. The central plot device of ‘power armour’ was cut out due to costs. Also the characters barely resemble those in the original story, and a half-hearted love triangle sub-plot was thrown together. But what can you expect from a writing team who didn’t even know the book existed? Not to mention director Paul Verhoeven, who was apparently so ‘bored and depressed’ he couldn’t make it past the first few chapters.
5) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has been nominated for a number of awards, and is undoubtedly a cult classic and favourite amongst young audiences. So why has it made our list? Well, for a start, the entire film seems overly focused on Gene Wilder’s faintly depressing portrayal of Willy Wonka. They may as well have just left Charlie Bucket standing outside the gates looking sad. The belching scene was an unwelcome addition that resulted in more on screen sulking by Wonka. Even the Oompa-Loompa’s appear as visions of tortured souls in neon orange. Roald Dahl was so disappointed by the film that he disowned it and refused to let the film-makers meddle with the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
4) The Golden Compass (2007)
The engrossing story and captivating prose of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials made it a hit amongst audiences of any age. Northern Lights had all the ingredients to leap to the screen in an impressive family epic. But the rush to cash in on the growing trend of adapting fantasy favourites meant that the plot was mangled up and the script was unimaginative. A CGI polar bear may be impressive, but it doesn’t pave over the lack of magic and drama that fans were expecting. The pace moves so fast that character development is lost amidst the special effects. Overall it feels like a watered-down version of a story that should have been great.
3) The Grinch, aka How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Whimsical children’s author, Theodor ‘Dr. Seuss’ Geisel, was always reluctant to licence his stories over to film makers and with the creation of Ron Howard’s feature length adaptation of The Grinch, it’s easy to understand why. After Seuss passed, away the rights were sold off for this garishly exaggerated rendition that would have him spinning in his grave. Jim Carrey takes the lead role, tarnishing the Grinch with his usual slapstick comedy routine. The Christmas classic is butchered in a sickly swirl of colour and the simple, iconic tale is bloated with awful acting, bad songs and over-the-top villainy.
2) Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief (2010)
Rick Riordan’s fantasy adventure, The Lightning Thief, was sold off to 20th Century Fox and put in the hands of director Chris Columbus, who proceeded to turn the novel into a cheap Harry Potter knock-off. The book told the engaging tale of a modern 12 year-old boy and the discovery that his father is none other than the Greek god Poseidon. The film continually deviates from Riordan’s plot and decides to make the characters much older, which means the significance of Percy’s approaching sweet sixteenth is lost. The fast pace sucks the fun out of the young demigod’s adventure and replaces it with an overblown story of a kid with daddy issues.
1) I Am Legend (2007)
I Am Legend claims the top spot for taking the underlying themes and twists of Richard Matheson’s 1954 vampire horror and deciding ‘fuck this, we’ll replace it with an explosion instead’. The novel tells the story of Robert Neville’s attempts to survive as the last human on earth after the outbreak of a zombie-like virus. Neville spends the majority of the book hunting down the creatures and experimenting to find a cure, only to discover that the vampires were intelligent, sentient beings all along. He realises that he was in fact the legend – a murderous man with outdated morals who must die so the species can live on. The 2007 Francis Lawrence film instead decides that Neville should end up curing the mutated humans while sacrificing himself in a massive explosion. This is somehow better. Well maybe not better, but definitely more explosioney An alternate ending that did justice to Matheson’s masterpiece was actually filmed but was later scrapped (though later made available). Maybe they felt audiences wouldn’t be able to handle the idea that Will Smith was the bad guy all along. I mean, he was the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air! Remember the episode when Carlton wasn’t very street? That was amazing.
(Alternate ending can be watched here)
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