The Top 10 Worst Book to Movie Fantasy Adaptations

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Sometimes fantasy adaptations can be pretty awesome. But sometimes they can go horribly, horribly wrong. Hollywood can sacrifice the joy, wonder and depth of the source material for a quick cash-in. They can put a good book through a blender and throw the disgusting sludge that results in a toilet bowl and call it a film. They can completely disregard the source material and turn out something lackluster…or sometimes even something horrifying.

But what makes a bad adaptation bad? What are the worst of the worst? As we go through this list, we’ll try to the discover that. If you have any suggestions of disagreements, feel free to comment!

  1. The Hobbit Movie Trilogy (Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit')

    I don’t think The Hobbit movies were terrible-they were completely watchable and the visuals were impressive. I felt like the first movie was pretty solid. But by the time the second and especially third movie rolled around it just got bloated and boring at times. A regular-sized book for young people just can’t be elegantly stretched into three movies. So while it wasn’t bad, the blatant cash-grabbing and dragging the thing out when they could have made a pretty great single movie- or even a two parter would have been better- just leaves such a dark shadow over the whole thing it has to be included on the list.

    I appreciate some of the intentions behind the changes- I’m all for more lady characters in anything, so I was down for Tauriel. But it was incredibly disappointing when the bulk of her character became wrapped up in a shoe-horned in love triangle, despite the fact the actress had specifically requested NOT to be in a love triangle. Tauriel could have been amazing, but the movie was more interested in using her as a romantic prop to motivate the men around her.

    Then there were bits like the whole extended slapstick-y chase scene with the dragon where they drowned them in melted gold- it just utterly killed the momentum of the story and made it impossible to take the dragon seriously as a villain after that. But the third movie was definitely the worst offender with some completely clichéd death scenes and eye-rolling action scenes and just…it was five pages of a book made into an entire movie.

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  2. Inkheart (Based on 'Inkheart' by Cornelia Funke)

    Inkheart was a 2008 adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s 2003 young adult fantasy novel. The original novel was quite popular, but the movie utterly failed to capture the magic. It was an extremely rushed, haphazard affair. It turned genuinely intimidating villains into doltish henchman and comic relief. The characters were made generic with rogue-ish personality traits massaged out of the heroes to make them blander. It was extremely hard to follow for anyone who hadn’t read the books. While it might be an acceptable movie on it’s own, as an adaptation it was terrible, excising the interesting elements of the book and bringing nothing new and exciting to the table besides generic action scenes.

     

  3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Based on 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare)

    Look, I don’t like Mortal Instruments in the first place because it’s basically a redressed version of the author’s old Harry Potter fanfic which was already a hodgepodge of plagiarism, ripping of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and copying Pamela Dean’s The Hidden Land shamelessly. Cassandra Clare got banned from fanfiction.net and somehow turned that mess into a book deal. So it’s not like the source material was good in the first place, but that doesn’t change the fact Mortal Instruments is a failure of a movie.

    The Twilight movies occasionally made slight improvements to the dreadful books they spawned from, but the same can’t be said for Mortal Instruments, which didn’t do anything to hide what rip-off mess the original book was. And it’s not like they couldn’t have made improvements- the recent Shadowhunters adaptation of the same work is thought by many fans to be better than the books (which of course, angered Cassandra Clare to no end). 

  4. Beautiful Creatures (Based on 'Beautiful Creatures' by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl)

    Riding the Twilight wave of popularity, Beautiful Creatures was yet another watered down young adult adaptation that just wasn’t very much fun to watch. The Civil War paranormal romance mess was changed drastically from the book with most of its mythology cut, so it became even more of a generic Twilight ripoff than before.

    A mess of disconnected scenes only strung together by clunky exposition, the movie focused on an unbelievably cheesy romance between two teens who barely seemed to know each other. It didn’t have as much toxic abusive subtext as Twilight, but that’s the only thing it had going for it. 

  5. The Percy Jackson Movies(Based on the 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians' Series by Rick Riordan)

    Even the original author didn’t like the Percy Jackson movies and compared them to visiting the dentist. While Rick Riordan’s original novels are praised for their characters and plot, the movies throw a lot of what made the books popular out the window and come off as incredibly derivative. Most people came out of it feeling it was Harry Potter-lite. The movies pay far less attention to the original Greek mythology the story was based on than the books, making a lot of basic mistakes like having Persephone staying with Hades during the wrong season  Characterization was traded in for moping and boring exposition.

    One reviewer said the movie was basically like watching the characters read D&D manuals at each other.  It’s just a basic boring paint-by-the numbers heroes journey that changed so many things from the source material it’s unrecognizable.

  6. The Golden Compass (Based on 'The Golden Compass' by Philip Pullman)

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that Hollywood had a hard time adapting a series of books that was incredibly critical of the Catholic Church. I mean, it’s about a plan to murder God. The movie very much downplayed this fantasy book’s political undertones and as a result, ended up with a much weaker, less biting story. And it didn’t even succeed in not offending Catholics, who complained about the movie anyway.

    The movie had to accept that if it was going to be true to source material it was going to be divisive, but by attempting not to be divisive, it ended up pleasing no one. That wasn’t the only problem with the movie though.  It was overstuffed with boring exposition and that made it a convoluted, boring mess. As one review puts it, “A bear punches another bear's jaw off in it, and it's still rubbish. That's quite a feat.”

  7. The Lorax (Based on 'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss)

    The recent trend of modern Dr. Seuss adaptations has not produced great results. The Lorax is a short story with a simple and powerful environmentalist message. It's a tragic tale with a small ray of hope at the end. The CGI-animated movie monstrosity throws all that away for a dumb comedy focusing on the tedious bromance between the Onceler and Lorax. And also some plot about a little boy yelling that you shouldn’t have to pay for air, taking any bite out of the environmental message by making the situation unrealistic and ludicrious.

    No one needs a movie about how we shouldn’t have to pay for air, because we don’t have to do that. But a movie about not mistreating trees or polluting lakes is actually relevant. The actual crux of the story, the part where the Oncler destroys the Lorax’s home, was reduced to one five minute villain song while the movie focused instead on bad slapstick and jokes.

    But it’s not a surprise the movie watered down the environmentalist stance of the movie, considering they wanted to cash in and use The Lorax to sell cars. Yeah. They used a story about being distrustful of polluting technology to sell gas guzzlers. That’s how you know they didn’t care.

  8. The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (Based on 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper)

    The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising totally gutted the source material, partly because of the directors evangelism and partly for no reason at all. The movie was directed by the self-described “missionary to Hollywood” David Cunningham, who expunged anything vaguely pagan (and by pagan we mean like…Celtic and Authurian type-stuff, the basic stuff you see in most Western fantasies) from the story in his zealotry and pretty much destroyed it as a result.

    All of the interesting backstory and worldbuilding was expunged and the movie was left with being a generic “gotta-catch-em-all” fetch quest to defeat a bland being of darkness who has decided to rise now after many years for reasons unexplained. The movie even changed the main character’s nationality to American inexplicably. You have to wonder why Cunningham bothered to adapt a book he apparently found to be so counter to his beleifs.

  9. Gulliver's Travels (2010) (Based on 'Gulliver's Travels' by Jonathan Swift)

    It takes some real nerve to take a literary classic and inject a bunch of fart jokes other types of potty humor into it, but that’s exactly what the 2010 version of Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black did. There have been tons and tons of adaptations of Gulliver’s Travels over the years, but this one is unquestionably the worst. Gulliver’s Travels is famous for being a scathing satire of people in power, but the movie throws that away for tiny people being assaulted by Jack Black’s butt. Jack Black plays the childish slacker character he plays in all his movies in this one, having little in common with the main character of it’s source material. Rather than Gulliver’s Travels, it’s more like Nacho Libre: The Giant, Unnecessary Sequel.

  10. The Cat in the Hat (2003) (Based on 'The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss)

    There was this weird period in our history where Hollywood insisted on remaking classic Dr. Seuss books and coating real actors with CGI and makeup to make them into horrifying creatures. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas remake at least had a couple funny moments, but The Cat in the Hat was just…really unsettling.  A short and sweet 1,600 children’s picture book is blown up into a bloated movie filled with fart jokes and raunchy sexual humor that is inappropriate for young children and just boring and vaguely uncomfortable for adults.

    I mean, it’s a Dr. Seuss adaptation that contains the line “I can’t believe you pissed on my taco”. Talk about being divorced from the source material. Unless you want to watch Mike Myers be vaguely creepy to some small children, avoid this one. It was so bad Dr. Seuss's widow vowed to never let them make a live-action movie of her late husband’s work again, apparently. While these adaptations are pretty terrible, there are some amazing adaptations too. You can read our Top 10 Best Book to Movie Fantasy Adaptations here!