If you’re a fan, a real fan, of a literary work, hearing it’s optioned for a movie results in a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, who doesn’t want an even more immersive experience of a place you thought you’d only visit in your imagination? On the other hand, will the actors cast be able to capture the depth and nuance of your favorite character’s journey? That’s less certain. There’s good reason for trepidation. Hollywood has a hit-or-miss record for movie adaptations, at best. Even within one movie, some aspects may be better than you imagined, while others have more of a wtf energy. Here are five of the worst movie remakes of exceptional books.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
51% on Rotten Tomatoes
The author of the books, Rick Riordan, uses social media to bemoan the movies adapted from his series of books. He sold the rights to his story outright to FOX, a decision he came to regret, saying in one series of tweets he’d “rather have my teeth pulled, with no anesthesia, but to each his or her own,” than watch the movies. The comment was part of a tirade on Twitter telling school teacher to screen the 1960s film Jason and the Argonauts or the Disney animated movie Hercules to teach Greek mythology rather than the movie made from his series.
Eat Pray Love
36% on Rotten Tomatoes
Don’t get me wrong, this treacly self-indulgent Julia Roberts Blockbuster is a perfect way to kill a few hours during a sick day. But it’s not the self-care revelation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book of the same name. The movie is a whirlwind of privilege and consumerism through three countries, promoting self-centeredness and escapism. While it’s an easy script to write, it’s not what fans of the novel wanted when they made a trip to the theater. One critic on Rotten Tomatoes dismissed the film as “navel-gazing tripe.” Harsh.
16% on Rotten Tomatoes
In the years after the success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, movie producers flocked to stories like that of Christopher Paolini, about an unknown boy who finds a mysterious stone that hatches a dragon and propels him on a journey filled with magic and danger to become a dragon rider. The 2006 movie had the weight of Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich behind it, but even they seemed more bemused than bewitched by the script. Despite the rich source material, the movie fell flat attempting to execute a blockbuster trilogy.
The Golden Compass
42% on Rotten Tomatoes
Despite an all-star cast with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, the film adaptation of the first book from Philip Pullman’s trilogy was, according to critics, “gutted” and “blows.” The movie fell victim to one of the major pitfalls of adapting a novel. Where an author has chapters to develop tone and create suspense, a movie has a mere 120 minutes of CGI, which can’t compete with the world building that takes place in novels.
A Wrinkle in Time
42% on Rotten Tomatoes
First published in 1962, by Madeleine L’Engle, the novel earned several well-deserved awards for its imaginative and challenging story. It tackles complex themes like conformity, religion, and empowers women in STEM subjects. The movie began with a star-studded cast that included Oprah, Storm Reid, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. But it’s vision overreached, leaving the film with stunning visuals, and “forced whimsy” according to one critic but little substance and without the heart of L’Engle’s original novel.