The concept of adopting a whole book into a movie is controversial at best because fans are most likely to always say that the book was better. But sometimes, the books really do turn out to be a million times better than the movies, owning to a major factor that these books were probably not “movie-turning-material”. Imagination can never know or be subjected to know any bounds, but after the release of the movies we list below, we think you’ll agree that sometimes, some books should be better left off as books.
1. Golden Compass (2007)
The first instances of magical beings and polar bears with armored suits were brought to life in The Golden Compass released in 2007 which was based on the first book in the series titled “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman called “Northern Lights”. A fantasy series set in an alternative universe, the 2007 movie edition starred an all-rounded cast like Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Sam Elliott, and others; yet the only epic this movie faced was an epic failure. The screenplay fell through and the actual elements of the fantasy never made it to the screen, leaving the book readers thoroughly disappointed.
The book jumps straight into an action scene, a trademark of Pullman, where he offers no explanation about anything or anyone in the scene. The movie ruins this element of surprise by opening to a scene of dragged-out introductions. Nowhere did the movie offer the typical hints for viewers to pick up, the cleverly placed loopholes fall flat on the screen; it becomes a drab version of a textbook on the book, utterly boring and unclassical from start to end.
Pullman’s book was a beautiful example of the “things are alright until they get so much worse” trope, and the movie steals every little nook that was set in the book to make it like that. The movie flat out removes the thrill of the journey, going from ok to ok and then bad. There’s no build-up, even if we pass by the scenes at too fast a speed.
2. Harry Potter series
Here’s the thing, if you’ve only seen the movies, you probably won't get why this one made it here. But if you have read the books, you know exactly what I’m going to break down here. Imagination is always a bigger and better tool than adaptations. When you create an entire universe of fantasy elements, imagination is the strongest suit to create that world; not to mention a world with elements of Magic.
The movies left out a lot, which is given considering time constraints in movies, and people could even argue that irrelevant stuff was cut out, but there was plenty of stuff that didn’t make it to the screens. For one, Ginny Weasley was a sassy, powerful witch, not to mention also really independent, with actual character and personality quirks; she was more than just the youngest Weasley, and surely a lot more than the girl infatuated with Harry Potter. An entire part about the House Elves is simply dropped from existence, with Dobby’s character showing up only to help Harry.
There’s no denying that the actors played by Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and others were impeccable; but too much got lost in translation. Fred and George are actually hilarious, owning to the fact that they get a lot of scenes to themselves throughout the series. Probably another reason why you mourn Fred Weasley’s death more as a book reader than a movie watcher. Harry’s thoughts are all lost because on-screen Harry’s thoughts never spoke out loud. Remember Petunia, Harry’s aunt? She too had a backstory deeper than her behavior as it was portrayed to revolve around Lily being able to work with magic. Voldemort had a deeper story when he created the Horcruxes. Everyone and everything was explained in the books. All of which was left out because of time constraints in the movies.
3. The Scarlett Letter (1995)
The 1850 published novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about the punishment for sins of adultery committed by a woman named Hester Prynne. The 1995 movie based on it was rated poorly by everyone who watched it, barely garnering any good ratings anywhere for the same. Despite its star-studded casts like Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, Robert Duvall, and others, the movie flopped heavily. The book is apparently quite famous with English professors on the Western side of the Globe, or so I’ve heard, and the fact that one can keenly segregate the ones who have read the book from those who have watched the movie in itself says a lot. The movie captured Hester and her lover’s guilt, her husband’s revenge plan, and the environment of colonial America, but that’s about it. Everything else is entirely changed for the worse.
I could argue that Nathaniel's version is a timepiece, so it remains available for understanding set in those times. But using that would be an excuse to erode the actualities plagued by Hester’s character in that era. In the movie, Hester is shown as more of a woman of a voice, which is great, but that was not who she actually was in the books. Actually, Hester was supposed to grind her teeth, not say a word, live her life with the huge “A” on her dress and die with a troublesome little fatherless daughter who asked way too many uncomfortable questions. Really, that was all. What happened? Hester screamed “I did nothing”, ran away, and actually ended up happy in the end with her lover and her daughter.
So, what did this cut-out? An entire depiction of her lover Reverend dying every day little by little in his guilt of having committed such a sin that the day he confesses, he also drops dead; completed eroded. That part of the book was a feeling in its own, a gut-wrenching cry that was supposed to hurt you. In all honesty, the book was supposed to hurt you. And it did. The movie, on the other hand, turned the entire story around to fit some family-guidance audience who themselves denied the need for one. The story’s focus was not the crime of adultery, but the life each person lead after the act was committed. The movie focused solely on the act, creating it into some sexual fantasy which turned it into an atrociously abysmal mess.
4. The Time Machine (2002)
If a book ends on a cliffhanger, I fail to understand why the movie can't either. We chase a happy ending around our entire lives because of movies and their inability to end in an ambiguous open ending that we cannot think of a movie with anything other than everyone living happily ever after. Quite frankly, HG Wells's original book is no great, his ideologies and thinking seemed to always have been far-fetched into different realities, ones he’d believe are since scientifically backed, hence worldly acceptable.
The movie falls so flat on its attempted adaptation of the book, it actually makes Wells's weird theories look good. It is flashy and action-packed, but the entire point of the long-lost love is somewhere abandoned and the movie derails onto some other pathway too soon. Nothing solid is ever happening in any scene, not to mention they had to add the little damsel-in-distress angle, the movie simply doesn’t make sense in so many parts of the entire fiasco.
5. Inkheart (2008)
The 2003 Cornelia Funke book was actually quite enjoyable, with a father-daughter duo who could pluck characters out of storybooks and bring them to life. It was the first book in Funke’s trilogy, where Inkheart was followed by Inkspell and Inkdeath. The characters are adorable and super fun and the plot is magical. With Cornelia on the production team for the movie, one would assume very little to go wrong. Good luck, because that’s exactly where I went wrong.
There is, quite frankly, no story. Actual, angsty moments of authentic feelings were washed away and replaced by dull, half-baked attempts at bringing to life the characters written between the lines. The entire magic of the book was in its atmosphere, the imagination in the readers' mind of the world of bringing a character from a book to life, anyone could be brought from your favorite books and maybe you’d be sent in place of them. The movie did none of this, the magic was over-the-top, nothing looked even remotely magical, and even with a talented cast, the portrayal of characters was subpar.
Every dark undertone in the novel was killed to fit some playschool level happy ending fiction that the filmmakers were trying to provide, which while is understandable, is also not agreeable. The open ending at the end for a gateway of more in the next novels was also buried in the movie, with EVERYONE getting a happy ending (a factor that really is annoying).
6. Twilight series
What was not wrong with the original books in question should be what we all should be asking right now, considering most of Gen Z grew up with the most dangerous notions of romanticizing toxic relationships because books told us they were okay. Keeping that discussion aside for now, the first book of the series was a slow-burn, a romance that took almost 5 months to actually develop into flames, instead of the rushed pace it took in the movie.
The books went into depth so much more about the supporting characters, like Rosalie's envious nature towards Bella was completed in one line, when the actual storyline depicted over the timeline how Rosalie actually came to terms with her behavior and spoke it out in-depth with Bella. Jasper and Rosalie were made absolute background characters throughout the movies when there was so much more depth to their personalities, not to mention the traumatic incidents of Rosalie’s past. The movie never mentioned how she actually craved normalcy, and that she kind of regretted being a vampire; all of it was never depicted in how she wished she was given a choice to choose no.
Frankly, Bella’s character isn't too likable in the movies or the books, and impressionable, young girls don’t need to learn to obsessively fall for someone to the point where everything in life must wind down to them ending up together, soulmates or not. But even in the books, you learned so much more about Bella than the movies could depict. Being told from the first-person point of view, it may be understandable that the depiction of Bella’s characteristics and personality quirks could not be drawn out on the screen that well, but I doubt anyone who didn’t read the book knew that Bella was actually a great cook, loved reading, hated the sight of blood, or that she actually had a long breakdown in Edward’s arms when she finally chooses him over Jacob.
7. The Host (2013)
I am genuinely very confused on how they managed to screw this one up. The book is not flawless, but Stephanie Meyer has her own little ways to grasp your attention and keep you occupied. I am not a great fan of her book, but it was a good read no doubt. It was quite beautiful to know what people actually fall in love with, the bodies, the minds, the hearts, the souls; those kinds of existential questions were amazing to grapple at. So obviously, how did they manage to ruin this little work of dystopian fiction art? Simple, by only focusing on the love angle where she must choose between the two men.
Zero-character development, no pacing of time and space, questionable (and laughable) actions by every character. Why is no one questioning why these aliens are here on this planet and attacking it and claiming humans as host bodies? In times like these, of course, there has to be room for elements of romance because life revolves around those, but to completely deviate from the original path of the novel to create some half-baked love triangle and push the entire focus through pathetic dialogues? Do your part as a warned viewer, and really, avoid this one. It is quite frankly a disaster.
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Anushka Chandra, Content Writer, Skyshot Media