Monday, 16 June 2014

Top 5 | Worst Book Adaptations

From Harry Potter to The Great Gatsby, over the past few years book adaptations have been absolutely everywhere. I've already done two previous posts in which I talk about my ten favourite adaptations, so now I think it's time that we address those adaptations that we wish had never been made in the first place.

This post isn't meant to be cruel or to make fun of anyone's tastes, these are just my five worst book adaptations!



Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
dir. Chris Columbus
Based on The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

First up we have Chris Columbus's adaptation of the first book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.

Now I have to admit I haven't actually read any of the Percy Jackson books. Yet. I actually started The Lightning Thief some time last year and I really enjoyed the chapters I read, but then my dissertation got in the way and I just haven't returned to it. While I have yet to really read the series, the chapters I did read were enough to tell me that the film isn't a very faithful adaptation.

That being said, I do actually like this film! If I watch it and forget it was a book first it's a lot of fun - something easy to watch on the nights when I just want to relax and not think. Even so, as much as it might be a fun film, it's not a good adaptation.



Inkheart (2008)
dir. Iain Softley
Based on Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

In many ways this adaptation of the first book in Cornelia Funke's Inkworld trilogy is the same as the Percy Jackson adaptations. If you forget about the books entirely and just watch this film then it's an enjoyable film; I remember seeing the film advertised in the cinema before I'd even heard of the books and I thought it looked really cool, but thankfully I read the trilogy before I watched it.

The main reason this book has made my list is because I love the Inkworld trilogy. I discovered it during my teens and I absolutely adored it; Funke's worldbuilding is fantastic and her characters are beautifully written (though I have to admit Meggie becomes less and less of a main protagonist after the first book). So when the film adaptation was relatively weak in comparison and the ending ruined the possibility of them making adaptations of the second and third books, I was so disappointed.

There's so much in this trilogy that I actually think it would make a brilliant TV series instead!



Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
dir. Mel Stuart
Based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Whenever I tell someone I prefer Tim Burton's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I'm usually met with gaping mouths and cries of: 'but the 70's adaptation is a classic!'

I, however, really cannot stand this adaptation. Why? Because rather than telling the story of a little boy whose luck finally changes when he finds the last golden ticket, this film is basically 'The Gene Wilder Show'. The fact that the name in the title has been changed is proof enough of that.

For me the 2005 adaptation is a lot more bizarre, fun and true to the original story. Obviously I don't expect an exact replica of a book when I sit down to watch an adaptation, but this film really takes the biscuit. It's also worth mentioning that Roald Dahl himself disowned this film, claiming that he was disappointed with the lack of emphasis on Charlie.



Eragon (2006)
dir. Stefen Fangmeier
Based on Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Do I really need to say anything?

I'm not a fan of Eragon. I tried reading the book a few years ago and I managed to get about three quarters of the way through before I just had to put it down. Whenever I've told fans of the Inheritance Cycle this they've often told me that the series gets especially good from the second book onwards, but I'm not the kind of reader who appreciates having to 'just get through' the first book before I can start to enjoy the story. I could be reading something else!

Having said that, even though I've never finished the book even I can recognise that this adaptation is just appalling. Like Percy Jackson and Inkheart, if you forget that this is an adaptation you can sit down and enjoy it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but even then it's still a pretty bad film.

I really do feel sorry for fans of the Inheritance Cycle.



Birdsong (2012)
dir. Philip Martin
Based on Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Unlike the other adaptations on this list, this adaptation of Birdsong is a two-part BBC drama. And it's terrible.

If you haven't read Birdsong then I can't recommend it highly enough, and now that we're honouring the 100 year anniversary of WW1 it's the perfect time to read it. It's a story that takes place both in France during WW1 and in England during the 70's. In France we follow a soldier called Stephen Wraysford through his harrowing experiences, and in the 70's we follow Elizabeth, his granddaughter, who is trying to learn more about the war.

It's one of those stories that will haunt you forever. Every now and then it creeps back into your mind and it's just stunning.

So when I discovered the BBC were doing an adaptation I was both excited and extremely nervous. Then I watched it, and was devastatingly disappointed. So much so that I didn't bother watching the second part. Honestly, the majority of the first part was just Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Poesy staring at each other in what I think was supposed to be sexual frustration, but looked more like constipation. I wasn't a fan of the casting either; Redmayne looks nothing like the Stephen I imagined while I was reading.

Out of all the adaptations on this list this one is definitely my least favourite - just seeing the cover makes me grumpy.

So those are my least favourite book adaptations, what are yours?

J.

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