Worst butchering of a novel adapted for the screen?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Josh Lowe, Oct 20, 2002.

  1. Josh Lowe

    Josh Lowe Screenwriter

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    The cliche' is that "The book is always better than the movie". But there are some cases where the book is taken out to a back alley, shot in the head and tossed into a dumpster.

    I offer you - Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm".

    One of the most informative and heartbreaking accounts of the lives of real people connected by one of the most freakish events since humans began scientifically observing the weather. Informative because not only did Junger go into the meteorology behind that particular storm - he also spent a lot of time going into the meterology of hurricanes in general as well as historical accounts of freak storms, waves and other occurrences at sea that have defied explanation. Plus he dug into the backgrounds of the characters - fishermen, USAF Pararescue Jumpers, etc. Since there was little room in the telling of the story for character development, Junger used history. He also managed to cover the stories of more people who were at sea during the storm.

    Heartbreaking because in as short a time as he had to develop his characters, Junger made you care about them. Particularly the PJs and the crew of the Andrea Gail. Junger didn't rely on the fact these were real people to guilt the reader into caring about them.

    And then there's the film.

    Some bumpkins get on a boat, infight for an hour, then get greedy and drown. But before that they go to a stereotypical bar filled a bunch of hack actors trying to look like Gloucestermen (including a 'salty old sailor man' so stereotypical all he was missing was a parrot and the word 'Ar!') and dance to a Rod Stewart song to prove that they're Blue Collar Folk.

    Meanwhile, Karen Allen, in an Oscar-worthy scene opposite a VHF radio transmitter, shouts "MAYDAY!" for 5 minutes straight in a way never before seen in the movies.

    And since the audience in the theater can't get seasick by looking at the ocean on the screen, Petersen manages to nauseate them anyway by endlessly pushing Diane Lane back onto the screen so she can show you how bad her accent is whenever she cries out for "Babby!"

    And lastly, it was nice to see Mary Elizabeth Masterantonio's acting talent used in such great ways as barking "You're heading into the mouth of the MONSTER!" into the radio, or Marky Mark's bobber scene that wrapped up the film.
     
  2. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Starship Troopers:

    While it does capture the fascist outlines of the book, it throws all but 1.5 scenes out, and then proceeds to steal more from the anime adaption (the prom, psychic session and football games)
     
  3. Doug D

    Doug D Stunt Coordinator

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    THE ENGLISH PATIENT.
     
  4. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    I like "The English Patient" a good deal, and so does the author (he just collaborated on a book with the film's editor, Walter Murch!). And while it deviates a bit from Heinlein's source material, "Starship Troopers" gets the tone right.

    The loser is, naturally, the 1995 adaptation of "The Scarlet Letter." Boy, I must have missed that masturbating-with-the-candle sequence when I read this in high school.
     
  5. Todd Terwilliger

    Todd Terwilliger Screenwriter

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    I disagree on The Perfect Storm. I read the book before seeing the movie and I thought the movie did a pretty good job of applying the book to the screeen.
    Though not based on a novel, per se, the Dungeons & Dragons movie comes to mind as the absolute nadir of adaptation.
    On the other side of the spectrum, I thought the film The 13th Warrior was much better than the Michael Crichton novel it was based on.
     
  6. Doug D

    Doug D Stunt Coordinator

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    For what it's worth, I've read the Ondaatje/Murch book. And while it's clear that he has a deep respect for and friendship with Murch, and is impressed at the level of deep thought that went into a lot of the creation of the movie, he never really comes out and says "that's a really great movie, there".

    When I saw Ondaatje read a couple years back, shortly after the movie came out, someone asked him what he thought about the movie. His response was "It's a nice story. It's not my story, but it's a nice story." Which I thought was a nice, diplomatic way of saying what I felt - that they had basically eviscerated the main story of Kip and replaced it with a much more mainstream-friendly love story that's tangential (at best) in the original text. (Later, some old lady started talking about the cave scene, and he had to explain that it was only in the movie, not in his book.)

    Perhaps THE ENGLISH PATIENT is a good movie on its own; as a fan of the book, I was all sorts of angry when I walked out of the theater. Perhaps I'll give it another try, but as for a faithful representation of the book? It'll never be that, in my eyes or Ondaatje's eyes. (Unless he's changed his tune of late; again, though, he never describes the movie as a faithful adaptation of the book in THE CONVERSATIONS.)

    Of course, I haven't seen THE SCARLET LETTER, but I was never much for the book, so I'll take your word for it.
     
  7. Larry Schneider

    Larry Schneider Second Unit

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    Bonfire of the Vanities?
     
  8. John M. Ford

    John M. Ford Agent

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    Two that come to my mind are the adaptations of Robert Heinlein's novel "The Puppetmasters" and William Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic".
    johnf
     
  9. John_Lee

    John_Lee Supporting Actor

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    The discussion begins and ends with 'Bonfire of the Vanities.'
     
  10. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    'A Prayer for Owen Meany' into 'Simon Birch'
     
  11. Chauncey_G

    Chauncey_G Second Unit

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    I didn't read the book of The Perfect Storm, but I have to concur that the movie didn't do it for me. I found myself much more interested in the Air Force rescue crew than I was with anyone else in the film. You know something's wrong when your subplot is more interesting than your lead characters.
    Back on topic, I'd have to say that the most recent version of The Count of Monte Cristo is a big turn-off for me. The book is so huge, and filled with incredible detail and plot twists and plans within plans within plans that reducing it down to 1 1/2 to 2 hours is ridiculous.
     
  12. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Raise The Titanic. Now, I'm not going to say that the original was high art or anything, but it was an enjoyable adventure story. The movie is drab and lifeless and completely reverses the ending.
     
  13. MichaelAW

    MichaelAW Second Unit

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  14. Chuck Schick

    Chuck Schick Stunt Coordinator

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    I know this is a little obscure, but being a big James Ellroy fan, I'd have to chime in and say "Blood on the Moon" into "Cop". James Woods was a good choice for the main character, but the rest of it turned a moody, psychological book into a shallow Cop vs. killer movie.

    LA Confidential was one of the best adaptations of all time. The book is 10x as complex as the movie, but they pulled out the most important items and kept a very tight and consistent tone.
     
  15. Justin1

    Justin1 Stunt Coordinator

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    Jurassic Park (the book) was a great story that happened to have dinosaurs in it. The movie was a great dinosaur movie that just happened to have a little story to it.
     
  16. Dheiner

    Dheiner Gazoo
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    "Eight Million Ways to Die"

    Great "detective" story, turned into a horrible movie.

    I think this is the source of my unreasoning hatred of all things "Stone".
     
  17. JessV

    JessV Agent

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    The Queen of the Damned
     
  18. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

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    Moby Dick (USA TV adaptation)
     
  19. Mark C Sherman

    Mark C Sherman Second Unit

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    Lost world Granted it is not up to par with the Classics Listed. If Spielberg Stuck to the Book it would have been one hell of a movie. I walked out of the theater went home and started reading it again.
     
  20. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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