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Comments for Weekly Geeks 2009-10: Bad Movies

Weekly GeeksWeekly Geeks 2009-10: Bad Movies: 03/14/09

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 "un-see," and why in your opinion, what made it or them so bad in contrast to the book or books?

It's funny to me how the Weekly Geeks theme will so often dovetail with a recent post of mine. This week's worst movie adaptation comes right after I wrote about one of my favorite movie adaptations, Our Man in Havana which is finally available on DVD in the states.

I have to admit that I'm pretty forgiving with adaptations either books into films or the other way around as films into books. I expect things to change between media. Films and books have different conventions for their storytelling and of course different strengths and weaknesses. Films for the most part rely on images followed very closely by sounds but you can still have a good story in a silent film or with a modern day film muted (try it some time!). Books for the most part rely on language: puns, dialect, vocabulary and so forth. Of course they can have illustrations and the graphic novel (or manga or comic book) comes as close as one can to being as visual as film.

With those differences in mind, I delight in seeing a film take a book and run with it even if it's in a completely different direction. The ones that typically bother me the most are the ones that try to be completely faithful to the original novel (the Harry Potter films, for example).

In fact the only film adaptation I can think of where I had loved the book and wanted to see one thing and was completely disappointed to the point of walking out (not a good thing since it was a film class in grad school!) is Stanley Kubrick's version of Lolita. Lolita is of course the story of a pedophile but its told in flashback from a man who has been defeated by his final conquest. Part of her power over him he attributes to the excesses of American consumer culture. In other words, Humbert Humbert was a means to an end for Lolita getting all the crap she wanted. Worst of all from H. H's point of view, Lolita's actions are treated as normal behavior for any ambitious American young woman.

All of that subtext about American culture being more depraved than that of a sexual predators is missing from the film. It's not even hinted at. Not one iota. Sure, they go through the motions of getting through the plot at the right times but whole thing is just Kubrick's voyeurism playing through Humbert Humbert. The entire middle section of the book is missing and there is nothing new or different to take its place.

I swear the man could only make one kind of movie no matter which book he started with. Sometimes he managed to find a book forgiving enough to blend with his one and only way of directing (2001 and The Shining) but most of the time he made absolutely crap that was too long and so oozing of his grand self styled view of himself as an auteur that his films lack any sense of individuality at the expense of telling a good story.

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Comment #1: Saturday, March, 14, 2009 at 17:45:30


So tell me, how do you really feel? ;) I used the word "crap" in my post too, and I agree with you on this one. The punch of the book was completely taken out. Of course, a book that brilliant, it's hard to capture it on film anyway.

Comment #2: Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 17:52:03


I think it's funny how many of us have picked on Kubrick for our examples. There's at least three of us the last time I checked.

Comment #3: Saturday, March, 14, 2009 at 17:50:17


I have not seen the movie Lolita and now am glad. I would have shuddered the whole way through. The only redeeming theme in the books is the underlying metaphor on our over indulgent culture.

I thought visually 2001 was stunning, but still think the book is much much better.

Comment #4: Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 17:58:11


I agree with you on 2001 the book versus the movie. I wish too that 2010 the book hadn't been so close to the movie and thus cutting out the fact that they had gone to an entirely different planet in the first book.

Comment #5: Saturday, March, 14, 2009 at 18:43:24


Watchmen is a visual and psychological cornucopia -- definitely worth watching

Comment #6: Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 18:02:42


Maybe when the hype dies down.

Comment #7: Saturday, March, 14, 2009 at 19:16:07


Interesting post. I was never able to finish the book Lolita, and haven't seen the movie, but you've convinced me that Kubrick missed the point entirely when he did the adaptation.

Comment #8: Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 18:05:10


Kubrick never tried to be on point.

Comment #9: Sunday, March, 15, 2009 at 15:18:07


I haven't seen either version of Lolita but i have read the book. I do also prefer the book of The Shining to the movie but consider the movie pretty good on its own.

As for watching a modern film without the sound, try Pan's Labyrinth. as it's in spanish you can also just turn off the subtitles and still enjoy the music. It's a beautiful movie and uses so many fairy tale conventions that it's easy to follow.

Comment #10: Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 20:34:10


I speak Spanish well enough to follow along without subtitles but I do like to watch anime without subtitles just to enjoy the episode or the film without necessarily understanding everything that is said.

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