The movie that ruins the book

We’ve all had the experience. They are going to make one of your favorite childhood books into a movie. You are excited — finally your treasured tome will become a part of the larger popular conversation.

Then you go to see it, and your heart sinks. They’ve turned a brilliant jewel into another example of stupid Hollywood treacle.

The worst part about it is the realization that future generations of children will never read this book. Because the terrible movie will replace the great book in the awareness of the populace. Sigh.

For me this happened when they made a movie from the first book of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. If you actually read that book — The Golden Compass — then you know what a masterpiece it is, and you have probably gone on to happily devour the second and third books.

But if all you saw was the movie, then there may be nothing I can say that will get the bad taste of that film out of your mouth. A terrible aesthetic crime was committed against you, and you may not even realize it.

A friend of mine told me today that this happened to her with Inkheart. I never read Cornelia Funk’s novel, but I did see the movie, and I thought it was a train wreck.

My friend told me that when she saw the film — after having read and fallen in love with the book — she had pretty much the same reaction that I did when I saw The Golden Compass: A deep sadness that another brilliant novel had been buried under the weight of a terrible Hollywood adaptation.

Have you ever had a favorite book that was similarly destroyed along the way to the big screen?

One Response to “The movie that ruins the book”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    The movie version of Kon-Tiki is one of the worst movie adaptations. The movie lost all of the humor of Heyerdahl’s chronicle, and just became dreary.

    Neither version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” matches Roald Dahl’s book.

    Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” is one of the most magnificent audio books I’ve ever listened to. Noah uses his impressive impersonation skills to re-create all of the characters (including himself, as a young child). I have little hope Hollywood can match that.

    I do recall one reverse case, where the movie was an improvement over the book. The TV miniseries “The Martian Chronicles” did a better job of tying together the separate short stories into a single narrative than Bradbury’s original did.

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