Teaching Opinion

Awesome Books and Their Tragic Movie Counterparts

By Starr Sackstein — December 28, 2017 4 min read
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If you’re a reader, then you understand what it is like to get completely wrapped up in the fictional world of the books. We make friends with the characters and follow them on their journeys, growing with them or failing with them.
There is nothing better and/or nothing more tragic than finishing a good book. I know that when I finished reading the Harry Potter series, I experienced a depression about the fact that is was over.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were such a big part of my life for such a long time that I wasn’t ready to let them go. So it was fortunate each time a new Potter movie was released and even more recently, the Fantastic Beasts movie because I was able to run back to my favorite places.

Unfortunately, not every movie adaptation is as satisfying as the Potter series is. In fact, some of them are tragically flawed. I remember reading somewhere that Ken Kesey was angry with the choice to change the narrative perspective of his book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but Jack Nicholson did such a great job as McMurphy, as a viewer you had to appreciate the discrepancy.

Not all movies end up good though. Here are some examples of book adaptations that should have never been made. Especially because there were good ones made before them in some cases.

Pride and Prejudice - As a Jane Austen fan and a lover of the BBC version of this novel as well as the Colin Firth version of the novel as well, I’m not sure why we had to make this shortened version of the novel. Keira Knightly doesn’t do Elizabeth justice and then it seems like it was just remade because it had been a few years since they remade it last time. Granted, it is a great story, there’s nothing to disagree with there, but more isn’t always better. The scene with Darcy and Elizabeth in the rain is just awful and unbelievable. Neither of them is adding anything useful or meaningful to this screen version.

Hamlet - Although I love Ethan Hawk, this movie was a mistake from the start. Although I can appreciate a good updated, modern version of a classic, this movie was terrible, start to finish. There have been other modernized Shakespearean classics like Romeo and Juliet or even 10 Things I Hate About You, but those movies adhered more closely to the text and weren’t abysmally acted. It was a painful movie to watch and there was no reason to remake it. The Kenneth Branaugh version of Hamlet from just a few years earlier was exceptionally well done. I’ll never understand why they remake movies that are already done well, have they run out of storylines?

Great Gatsby (new) - This is one of my favorite novels and also, the Robert Redford version of this classic is also one of my favorite movies, so I never understood why Baz Luhrmann felt a need to do this to the novel. Much like Kesey’s problem with Cuckoo’s Nest, I don’t understand the changes made to Nick’s character and the modernization of some but not all aspects of the novel. I get it, it’s an awesome story, one that should be known to new readers and viewers, but do it right if you’re going to do it. This movie actually made me angry while I watched it. Ironically, when I saw it, the friend who saw it with me who wasn’t familiar with the book loved it. Perhaps it is my love of the text that made it completely untenable. I simply couldn’t separate the two.

Allegiant - This movie was a disappointment and a complete trainwreck. Honestly, it diverged so much from the text itself, that I was almost unwatchable. I enjoyed the entire series even if I didn’t love the way it ended, but the movie ruined it all. I’m not sure why they broke the last novel into two movies and since I only saw part one, I can’t imagine it came back from the abyss of horror it went into. The characters weren’t portrayed dutifully to their written development and the ones you love, you end up hating or if you’re like me in any way, you spend most of the movie screaming at the screen because you can’t get behind what is happening. If you read these books and liked them, only watch the first movie. That one is actually pretty good.

Cat in the Hat - It’s hard to believe that they could make a full-length movie out of a Dr. Suess classic, but they did. It worked for the Grinch, but it doesn’t work for Mike Meyers as the Cat. This movie is tragic, although I’m sure your four-year-old children will enjoy it because most children don’t care about bad acting. Although this movie is only an hour and 22 minutes long, it will feel like you lost hours of your life that you can’t get back after watching it. If you are desperate for a good children’s movie, there are far better ones to see than this one. Trust me, it isn’t worth it. Check out Toy Story, that’s one worth watching.

The Scarlet Letter (Demi Moore)- This is another movie that takes a perfectly good classic and butchers it. Demi Moore is not meant to play characters like Hester Prynne. She should stick to GI Jane because she was awesome in that one. The biggest problem with this American classic remake is the acting and the places that diverged from the actual text. Movie writers and directors should stick to the original sometimes. There isn’t much that goes right with this one and if you like the text, you will be shaking your head the whole time wishing it was over.

One of the beautiful things about reading is what our imaginations do while we do it. We deeply engage in the world, imagining what it would be like and as soon as a director makes it concrete, that world is suddenly tainted unless it is aligned with our own thought process. It seems that when the author is involved in the making of the movie, it is almost always better than if they aren’t.

What is one book that you loved that you didn’t like the film adaptation of or one move you were really surprised by how good it was despite being nervous about the adaptation? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.