Whenever a book is adapted for film and makes its silver screen debut, the first thing the audience wants to know is whether the films are better than the books. Unfortunately, if we look at the box-office and critical success of most book-to-movie adaptions, the answer more often than not is a resounding no.
Sure, adapting a book for the screen is a particularly tricky task and things can go horribly awry when left in the wrong hands. It’s a daunting endeavour – imagine whittling down the likes of the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings trilogy into a neatly packaged screenplay with a run time that’s less than two hours.
The success of book-to-movie adaptions is not solely reliant on the screenplay. Direction, casting and on-screen performances play a huge part. Coupled with the fact that these types of films are usually prefaced by huge expectations from the readers of the original book. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at a list of some of the worst movies that have been based on amazing books.
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The Scarlett Letter
Based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s iconic Scarlett Letter, this movie made its theatrical debut in 1995. Starring Gary Oldman, Demi Moore and Robert Duvall, it is often referred to as one of the worst film adaptions of a classic book that has ever been made. It bombed at the box office and received scathing reviews from critics. To say that the film was loosely based on the masterful novel is a massive understatement. It was directed by Roland Joffe who used more than his fair share of creative license with this film.
As I Lay Dying
American author, William Faulkner in 1930, penned the original literary masterpiece. Using the signature Southern Gothic writing style, in this novel, Faulkner weaves a remarkable story that shifts frequently between the consciousness’s of its main characters. The plot centres on the Bundren family, who travel across Mississippi to bury the matriarch of the family as per her final wish. James Franco is responsible for the bizarre film adaption of this American classic, writing the screenplay as well as directing the film. And boy, did he fall short on this one! The movie is long and tedious, relying too heavily on rubbing the harrowing misery of its characters in the audience’s faces. Give this one a miss and pick up a copy of the novel instead.
DC Comics first published this graphic novel in 1986. Written by Alan Moore, this ground breaking graphic novel, which made Time magazine’s List of 100 Best Novels, is a complex and moving masterpiece that reflects contemporary anxieties, deconstructs the traditional superhero archetypes and paints a dystopian world that resonates deeply with its readers. In 2009, Zack Snyder adapted the graphic novel for the big screen. The movie received mixed reviews; it was applauded for its striking visuals and great accompanying soundtrack. The cast received a lukewarm reaction from audiences and none of the actors gave particularly stirring performances. Snyder was tasked with capturing all the nuanced complexities of the book, something he missed the mark on. This saw the movie underperform at the box-office as fans were simply unconvinced whether the latest rendition of this comic classic was even necessary.