Disappointing film versions of books

Last updated 08:27 25/06/2013

I will come out of the closet and say that I was actually quite disappointed with the Cloud Atlas movie.

Any reader of this blog will know that I'm a big fan of the David Mitchell book. I had my doubts about any film version of it, simply because its structure was so complex, and a screen version would by necessity have to rid itself of one of the novel's strongest points, the originality of Mitchell's use of language.

I am sad to report, after viewing Cloud Atlas, that my worst fears came true. The film was kooky, but not in a good way. The directors (the Wachowskis) had made the choice to use actors to portray recurring characters that were reincarnated through different lifetimes. In the book, this was done with a very light hand. The movie was about as subtle as those cartoon characters you see who are hit by falling anvils.

Here is a list of other book-turned-films that I've been disappointed with:

The Other Boleyn Girl
The movie held such promise - Natalie Portman, one of my favourite actresses, and Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana, for the hotness factors. The novel was a bit of a bodice ripper, which meant it should have been perfect for Hollywood. Turns out? Good actors can make bad movies. So bad. Henry VIII was portrayed not so much as a lustful, sadistic middle-aged monarch than a spoilt royal brat manipulated by an even more unconvincing Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. The real one would have turned over in her grave.

other boleyn girl

The Time Traveller's Wife
I'm beginning to see a pattern here, Eric Bana. Perhaps he just doesn't suit being the male lead. In any case, Henry DeTamble is what really drives the book. He's the main character, the romantic lead, the flawed hero, the object of literary desire. In the film, he's transformed into a sulky boy, rather than a man struggling with intense feelings and a strange illness he has little understanding of and even less control over.

time travellers wife

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
So, as it turns out, even faithful reproductions of the book can have unpleasant repercussions. What failed to come through in the movie was Douglas Adams' wry sense of humour. Somehow, it's just one of those novels where seeing the fantasy come to life lessens rather than adds to the experience. Seriously, was anyone else appalled by the 3D of Marvin, the Paranoid Android? Not at all what I imagined.

paranoid android

World War Z
I don't even have to see the film to know what a disappointment this will be. I've seen enough of the trailer to know that basically nothing of the book remains, except for the fact that a zombie apocalypse ends the world as we know it. The novel, written by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, was essentially a riposte against various world governments, using zombies as a clever analogy. The film is...a Brad Pitt star vehicle. With zombies. Sigh.

world war z

What books turned into movies have you been disappointed by?

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