As per the second episode of the Inkling Podcast – Adaptations, here are five of what we think are the worst book-to-film adaptations:
FIVE– The Harry Potter series
With the first Harry Potter book being 20 years old in June and the first film being over 15 years old, the series has held up pretty well. I mean, the Fantastic Beasts pentalogy is carrying the franchise on with surprising sustain, bringing in both kids and adults alike, much like the original series did. Don’t get me wrong, the films are good – they stand up well on their own – but chopping down the books to make a two-hour film just doesn’t work. Bits get missed and certain events don’t happen or are changed which can really skew the feeling you should establish for the scene. Example: “HARRY DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?!” said Dumbledore calmly. Just doesn’t work, does it? Dumbledore is meant to be calm and safe and not prone to bursts of anger and to have him so really twists his character which doesn’t change until the Half-Blood Prince.
While they are good films, it’s the little things that can make or break a film…
FOUR– The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia – seven books, three films with maybe a fourth. The books have been out since the 1950s and it’s fair to say they have definitely stood the test of time. The films, however, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad films as such, they’re just guilty of mixing things around and getting rid of bits and events for the sake of “plot convenience”, when in reality it just makes the plot more confusing to follow, which ain’t something you really want happening to a series with SEVEN books. That’s a lot of plot to mess with. A point made by Molly and Reece in the “Adaptations” episode of the Podcast was that Peter and Edmund essentially tear into Susan for not being there saying she’s “more into lipstick and boys” than Narnia. Quoting Molly: “I fully support Susan’s decision to chase lipstick and boys rather than wait around for a giant magical lion that might not even turn up.”
But with the potential for a fourth film, we’ll have to wait and see if they’ll fix any plot holes…
THREE– The Hunger Games
It seems that adaptations that do well in book form get their final installment turned into a pair of films rather than one – namely Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. It’s either a way or to fit more into the story or, more than likely, a cash-grab. But far be it from me to be cynical in any way… Anyway, the films. While they are pretty good films, they suffer from the same problem that seems to be a recurring theme now – leaving out plot points for the sake of convenience. During the actual Hunger Games in the first book, Peta loses a leg in the explosion and Katniss suffers ear damage. There are constant references in the films to Katniss not being able to hear properly – fair enough – but Peta doesn’t even get a severe wound, let alone lose the leg! Reece and Molly again debated this on the podcast and came to the conclusion that, from a director’s standpoint, it would “ruin the young romance for the moviegoers coming to see young love” which shouldn’t be justification for leaving something like that out, even if he does get a new leg from the Capitol.
But something closer to my heart is the pin. That bloody Mockingjay pin that just appears in Cinna’s hand before Katniss goes up in the lift. No. Just no. There’s an entire third of a chapter devoted to explaining the Mockingjay, where it comes from and why it’s a symbol of rebellion. Not only that, Katniss actually gets the pin from the mayor’s daughter who bought it from a market, if memory serves, and the whole short scene makes the mayor’s daughter seem like less of a prim princess and makes her actually seem like a little girl. But nope. Not actiony or “hot” so it gets cut, leaving the audience wondering what the hell this pin means all the way until the second and third/fourth films. Something which would’ve taken just a few minutes to explain…
TWO– The Percy Jackson series
Let’s start by saying if you want a proper explanation of why the Percy Jackson series is “not the best for staying faithful”, listen to Reece’s Three-Minute-Moment in the “Adaptations” podcast (it’s in the last quarter or so). The two films taken from the five books aren’t the best with the plot bouncing from point-to-point with no time for character development or exploration of lore for any of the monsters. The fight with Ares? Yeah that’s not a thing in the film. Persephone being a complete and utter creep? Not in the books but in the film – oh yeah. And don’t even expect Thalia to be explained – she is a girl who used to be a tree and that’s all you’ll ever know about her. Annabeth is portrayed as stereotypical damsel-in-distress, save-me-save-me character when she is actually smart, intelligent and absolutely holds her own. Kronos? He’ll be killed in the first film and brought back in the second because directors can do that.
While the series was meant to be getting a third film, it got canned in April this year so you don’t need to worry about Hollywood getting their hands on Nico and Bianca…
ONE – Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
And finally – a perfect example of an adaptation being carried by the actors rather than a “compelling plot”. First off, Jim Carrey is amazing as Count Olaf, Billy Connolly as Uncle Monty, Timothy Spall as Mr Poe and the dear Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine – not to mention the actors that played the Baudelaire orphans. You’d think that with such a stellar cast this film is sure to be a masterpiece – well you’d be wrong. If you’ve read the Series books, as I’ll refer to them, you’ll know the film takes all thirteen of the books, puts them in a blender and makes a shape out of what comes out. The way the plot bounces around – shunting the middle of the series to the end, pulling the middle to the start and throwing the beginning to the – actually to the right place, props for that Hollywood! Don’t get me wrong, I understand condensing thirteen books into one film isn’t possible, but what I don’t understand is why they tried to do it in the first place. Why not make it an ongoing series of films rather than choosing to butcher Series into a way that will spin you an essentially blank cheque?
Molly has a Three-Minute-Moment on this too in the “Adaptations” podcast as well which makes way more sense and goes into way more detail than I could.
Oh, and I probably should mention that Series is getting a Netflix Original release – in a series format which could, who knows, save the franchise? Let’s be honest, it couldn’t do a worse job than the film… Except for the actors… They were damn fine actors… Shame about the plot though…