Posted in Books, Movies

Movie Adaptations That Were Irredeamably Bad

A lot of great books become okay movies (Ella Enchanted), and some become really great movies (The Princess Bride.) A few become horrible, weird disasters that are not recognizable as the books we love. A lot of these adaptations are young adult fantasy, partially because so little effort goes into making media for young adults and kids. Here are some movies that were face-palmingly disappointing. Of course, the people who worked on these movies worked hard and are human beings, but we can critique the films without being too critical of the people who made them happen.

The Percy Jackson Series

It is almost universally agreed within the fandom that the Percy Jackson movies were terrible. They even made a second one despite the horrible reception the first received, in an attempt to save the franchise. The biggest mistake this movie made was taking the heart out of the series. They aged up the characters in order to sell the movie to teens, and instead of sticking to the source material, made cheap jokes about sex and used a lot of expensive visual effects. While a lot of books don’t translate well to the screen, Percy Jackson could have been amazing. It could have been on the level of Harry Potter as a film series, if it was done right. It literally would have been better if they had a robot voice read the text of the book and had the only visual be the Microsoft screen saver. Even the author publicly repudiated the movies. Zero stars. 

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The Divergent series has a lot of issues- and we won’t get into those now, but the movies were a huge flop. They did not even complete the series, which gives you an idea of how poorly they were received. The studio kind of got in over their heads by splitting the last book into two films. The last book was pretty bad, and while the first movie didn’t divert much from the book, it only exposed the weaknesses inherent in the book. One of the central facets of the book was the love story, which was wooden in the movie. It doesn’t help that the male lead looks about ten years older than his costar. As movies go, I’d skip these ones and save a couple of hours.

The Mortal Instruments

While Cassandra Clare’s popular series is a byzantine, magical journey, it’s also kind of a crazy ride. Some of the source material didn’t exactly translate well to the screen (incest, but not the real kind.) The movie flopped, and then there was a second attempt with a TV show, which hit a lot of the same beats without fixing the inherent issues (too many characters, too much plot, too much explanation.) While Clare has continued writing her books, it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be making their way to the screen any time soon.

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Me trying to make sense of this movie

Vampire Academy

Admittedly, this movie is only really bad if you read the books. The books are kind of dark, emotional, and intense. The movie is a campy comedy, with romantic subplots. It’s mostly disappointing for fans of the books, which are much deeper and more complex than the movie, which basically just makes vampire jokes for two hours. It’s kind of a fun, silly thing, but it’s barely recognizable, with the exception of the book’s basic mythology and characters. Like the Percy Jackson series, there was a lot more source material, but further films have not metastasized. It’s just disappointing that the studio beefed it on what could have been an epic saga. They also un-ironically subtitled this film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, which is so menstrual that it has to be on purpose?  

The question remains: why are all of these excellent books being butchered to make movies that barely recoup their costs? To my mind, the answer is twofold, and fairly straightforward. Firstly, movie studios think that they can make a quick buck if they make films even vaguely based on source material that is popular. They think that people who liked the book will go see the movie on principal. Even if you go to hate-watch it, they still have your money! Secondly, Hollywood thinks kids and teens are stupid, or at the very least, not demanding. This is wrong on several levels, but believing it means that they can write lazy movies with bad casting on the assumption that people will watch anything. To some extent, they’re right. Mortdecai made 47.3 million dollars. Some people will go see anything, once. However, if you have a viable franchise, and you throw it away for a cash-grab, people aren’t going to come see the next one. That’s why all of this is so disappointing, and such a waste. These are decent books, some of them are brilliant, and they deserved better than they got. Studios have proved that they can make great movies for teens and kids, they’ve just decided not to try. Two thumbs down for effort.

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Posted in Books, Movies

Thoughts on Allegiant

For a long time, I resisted the pull to read the popular Divergent Trilogy. I had already been disappointed by The Hunger Games books, and I have read too many other dystopias that are good to waste my tolerance for the genre on a poor facsimile. However, I did decide to give the first book a chance. I read it, and found it to be very interesting and compelling, and purely for reasons of completion, decided to read the other two.

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Here we go!

While I found Insurgent tolerable and even interesting, it was really fast paced, which made it difficult to cram all of the character development Roth wanted to fit in into the novel. I read Insurgent and Allegiant back to back, which might have exacerbated the obvious and problematic differences in the latter. Roth’s explanation of “We’re all just rats in someone’s locker” falls completely flat. If you replace every time they say “science” or “genetics” with “magic” “voodoo” or “energy” the story would be exactly the same! Oh, by the way, your whole world is a lie. And all of the characters reconcile themselves with this pretty damn quickly! The dual perspective is a bit jarring, it’s a bit distracting from the narrative flow. It is nice to see things from Four’s perspective for a change, but he and Tris seem to think fairly similarly. The world Roth created outside “the experiment” doesn’t make much sense. How can so few people be rebelling with any effect? Surely someone remembers the countless other wars fought in the name of equality? My other problem with Allegiant is that I can’t think of it ending any other way. With most endings that upset me, I can just make up my own ending and be happy with that. But with the story that Veronica Roth was trying to tell, the ending she wrote is the only one that I can see. Of course Tris would never willingly let someone die for her, if she could save them and sacrifice herself. When Tris tried to die for everyone in Insurgent, she was saved, because she was trying to sacrifice herself for selfish reasons. But when she died to preserve her city and change the world that she had just discovered, she did something entirely in character with the person she had become. But it didn’t stop me from just bawling like a small child.

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The problem is that Roth gets you very invested in Tris and Four’s relationship. So many people die in the course of the books, but Tris was the main character. We heard her thoughts and knew her deepest feelings, we connected with her. If she had not sacrificed her life for her brother, it would not have not been in character, but this is the story that Roth chose to tell. Tris and Tobias have their happiness but for a little while, it’s like teasing. They have so little time together when they’re just happy and get to be themselves. They’re always fighting a war that they were born into, and later a fight that they don’t even have ownership of. While I don’t think the ending is fair, life isn’t fair. Neither is death. Who cares? Tris did the right thing. She did the only thing she could. There was no ending to this book that had her live. Tobias honored her by defying his fears. He reconciled with his mother, and stopped the war. He did what he had to do, and so did she. The ending isn’t fair to Tobias, and I can definitely see him developing a drinking problem later in life, but it was the only ending. And, despite my grief, I have accepted that. Bye Casablanca animated GIF