Many readers will probably agree that when Hollywood announces they’re adapting your favourite book, you cringe a little with a mix of excitement and dread — excitement because there is always that possibility of it actually being good, and dread because you know in your heart that it won’t. It would be nearly impossible to include every bad attempt at adapting a great book or video game, especially given Marvel and DC’s track record, so here is Part I of our series of film adaptations that weren’t good.
2005 marked the start of the Twilight era, where teeny bopper vampire fiction would take over Chapters and the CW for the next decade. Stephenie Meyer’s series was a smash hit among a readership that ranged from preteen to adult, and rightfully so. In fact, there was so much hype for this movie that in retrospect, absolutely anything would have been an utter disappointment. However, the bummer here was a little more obvious, with really crappy special effects paired with underwhelming acting. The film adaptations weren’t a complete disaster (Part One and Two of Breaking Dawn were actually pretty good), but many devoted readers didn’t feel as though it had done the series justice.
Prince of Persia
Video game adaptations are notoriously terrible in Hollywood, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is no exception. First of all, can we please stop whitewashing non-white character roles? Jake Gyllenhaal is nowhere near Persian. Neither is Gemma Arterton. Secondly, this movie wasn’t the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of video game adaptations, but it’s 100 percent forgettable.
The 2008 film adaptation of Max Payne has a humble 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Although there was lots to look at — wintery shots of New York, a lot of action scenes, and a stylish Max Payne — the film suffered from an incoherent plot, which seems to be a common denominator in video game films.
After seeing the success of the Lord of the Rings franchise, Hollywood more than likely saw an opportunity with popular fantasy and went for a new big craze: Eragon. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series has a massive readership, so the film naturally suffered the same nothing-will-ever-be-as-good-as-the-books syndrome. At least Twilight tried, though. This movie was just bad.
The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was an exciting novel surrounded by an equally exciting real-life controversy. The film, on the other hand, was disappointingly mundane. Much of the plot’s key moments fell flat and many people were probably deterred from picking up the book, which is unfortunate.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is a classic, loathed by high school students and loved by many. Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation took little regard for much of the book’s original plot and characters, the most obvious being Luhrmann’s choice to set a story about a tortured man chasing the American dream in Sydney, Australia. Much of the 1920s was also lost in the film’s modern soundtrack. Although The Great Gatsby was a flashy, colourful film akin to Luhrmann’s style, it just didn’t seem to work.
Queen of the Damned
Warner Bros’ adaptation of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series started off strong with Interview with the Vampire and then went downhill with Queen of the Damned. Apparently Warner Bros had acquired the rights to The Vampire Chronicles first three books — Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned — and when their contract was quickly coming to an end the production company decided to hastily squeeze the second and third book into one movie, called Queen of the Damned. With none of the original cast and a bad script, the film fell short.
Cat in the Hat
Cat in the Hat is a staple in children’s literature. Many of us who grew up with Dr. Seuss’ witty sentiments and wholesome storytelling are now passing down our affection for his stories to our children and our children’s children. Unfortunately, the adaptation of the writer’s most famous work was insulting and replaced any inkling of authenticity with bad comedy.
The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass is the first book in Philip Pullman’s widely acclaimed His Dark Materials series. The book is so good that news of a Hollywood movie was met with dread by fans. Much of what made the book so good was its religious undertones and metaphors, which were all lost in the remake.
Adapting this much-loved video game was a bold move, and of course also a bad effort. There isn’t much to say about this film other than it was a mess. Game over.
The Mortal Instruments
There have been two shots made at this series and both have been a sad attempt at translating a good series to film. The first shot came when the series’ first book, City of Bones, was made into an okay film in 2013 (still underwhelming). The second attempt is Netflix’s new ongoing series Shadowhunters, which is based on the Mortal Instruments series. Surprisingly, Netflix also couldn’t get this one right. The show has so much potential but the acting is so bad and cheesy that it’s seriously hard to get into.
Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic science fiction novel stands as one of the genre’s greatest works of all-time. It’s also particularly difficult to adapt for film, as evidenced by director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to make a 14-hour version for the big screen. While David Lynch’s filmography is near-bullet proof in terms of quality, his 1984 Dune film was met with heavy criticism despite approval from Herbert. Director Denis Villenueve has been confirmed as the next Hollywood heavyweight to take a run at adapting Dune, to which we say good luck!
Super Mario Bros.
One of the greatest video game franchises of all-time was set to hit theatres in 1993 with celebrated actors Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper in tow. What could go wrong? Well, everything. It turns out adapting video games to the big screen is no simple task, although it hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying over and over and over again. Super Mario Bros. holds a 15 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that might even be a little bit generous.
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe’s 1987 satirical novel set in New York City was a grand exercise in the author’s ability to effortlessly craft characters as cool as they come and as shallow as you can get. Director Brian De Palma took the story to the big screen in 1990, and despite a cast that included Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, and Bruce Willis, the film version of The Bonfire of the Vanities was a commercial and critical disaster. No one has attempted to adapt any of Wolfe’s fictional works since.
The Fantastic Four
Where to begin…Well, there was the low-budget 1994 film that’s made its rounds via various bootleg copies that can’t even be hailed as campy fun. Then there were a pair of films in 2005 and 2007 that both flopped. Perhaps the last kick at the can for this Marvel franchise on the big screen went down in 2015 when a reboot dropped. It was a commercial and critical disaster, holding a lowly 9 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A planned sequel for 2017 was promptly scrapped and even the The Fantastic Four comic was temporarily shelved following the film’s release.