Weekly Geeks – 2009 – 10 – Worst book/movie adaptations
Weekly Geeks has really been on a role lately with some very good topics. Last week was the favorite author quotes and this week they want you to discuss what, in my opinion, is the worst book-to-film adaptation ever. Here’s the challenge:
Worst movie adaptations: The recent release of Watchmen based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore got me thinking about what I thought were the worst movie adaptations of books. What book or books did a director or directors completely ruin in the adaptation(s) that you wish you could “unsee,” and why in your opinion, what made it or them so bad in contrast to the book or books?
This is an interesting topic because people can really get bent out of shape when their favorite books are supposedly done “wrong” on the big screen. To me, a book-to-film adaptation has to be taken as something completely on its own. The movie can be a good movie on it’s own merit, but also still adapt the source material poorly by changing the story or characters. To me, that’s still a win. If the movie makers take the source material and make an interesting movie, then I’m happy. I figure, if the movie is good, maybe it will entice people to check out the source material for themselves. That is a big win, because now more people will read the book and get the author’s original vision. But if the movie turns out, on its own, to be a bad movie, then you have people turning away from the original source, and that’s bad. So the question is really this; Is the movie bad, or is it just bad because you care so much about the source material you can’t separate the two? It’s the classic “chicken and the egg” syndrome.
So, having said this, I think, for me, the movie that is a poor adaptation of its source book, regardless of its merits as a movie, is Jumper.
I saw this movie without any knowledge of the book, or that there even was a book. I enjoyed the movie as a whole, even though there were flaws. Hayden Christensen isn’t great as the main character. He’s a little whiny and immature. I loved Jamie Bell’s character of Griffin and the entire concept of people born with the ability to Jump. So, overall, this was a good action movie with nice special effects. Then I find out it was based on a series of books. I was intrigued.
Like I said, I thought the premise was interesting and I was hoping the books would shed some more light on how the jumping ability worked so I put the 1993 book by Steven Gould on my Wish List at paperbackswap.com. A month or so later it shows up and I read it. The whole time I was reading it I was waiting for Sam Jackson’s Roland character or Jamie Bell’s Griffin character to make an appearance because I literally had no idea the book was so different than the movie. None of the movie characters show up and, as a matter of fact, the entire concept in the movie of Paladins and legions of people with the ability to jump and this huge war going on between them is not even mentioned.
The book’s story focuses on Davey and Millie and their relationship and Davey’s strained relationship with his father and mother. The entire story is more intimate and, honestly, better. In the book, Millie is a girl he meets at a party, not his elementary school crush. The government is, in fact, after Davey, but it’s the NSA, not some shadowy government branch with agents called Paladins. Also, it’s more clear in the book that Davey is supposed to be very immature and whiny due to his poor relationship with his family and the fact that he’s been on his own since he was 14 or 15. Which, now makes Hayden’s performance in the movie a bit better. And the ability to jump is explored more, but not really explained, which is nice, because the reader is learning about jumping as Davey learns about it. The book is really good and explores many issues not apparent in the movie version. So while the movie was a decent movie on its own, the book goes a completely different way with the story and is better for it.
So while I enjoyed the movie, it was a terrible adaptation of the book. With the exception of a few character names and the ability to jump, the stories are completely different. Gould wrote a sequel to Jumper in 2004 called Reflex that is a direct sequel to the book. It is fantastic. Davey is finally captured by a secret criminal organization and is tortured and conditioned into working for them. Millie must work with the government to save him. I really do recommend reading both Jumper books, even if you didn’t like the movie (but especially if you did).
For the release of the movie in 2008, Gould wrote one more Jumper book that is a prequel to the movie and focuses on the movie character Griffin and it’s called Jumper: Griffin’s Story. It also is fantastic, but, like I said, it takes place in the universe of the movies and has no relation to the first two books. Also, sadly, the only character from the movie other than Griffin to show up is Roland (Sam Jackson), and that was only briefly. I was hoping, towards the end of the book, we’d see an appearance by Davey. But the book ends years before the movie is supposed to begin.
So, as a stand alone movie, Jumper is good. When compared with the source material, it is a very bad adaptation. However, since the movie makers made an interesting enough story, I say it’s a win. It got me to read the original book as well as the sequel and the movie prequel books, so they did something right.
I guess I got a little long-winded on that. Sorry. I’ll actually post an addendum to this in a few days. I want to flip the theme a bit and discuss a few movie adaptations that were actually better than the original book source. It’s rare when that happens, but it does happen.