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When Film Adaptations Get Weird

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Kristen Twardowski

Staff Writer

Kristen Twardowski stumbled her way through working with wolves and libraries and found her professional home doing marketing and data analysis in the publishing industry. Though there will always be a place in her heart for numbers and graphs, the rest of her love is given to words. She recently published her debut novel, a psychological thriller called When We Go Missing, and blogs about books and writing on her website A Writer's Workshop.

We here at Book Riot love to talk about film adaptations of books. (Which is good because there are many of them happening in 2018.)

Film adaptations can be marvelous. Deviating from the source material can be a solid creative decision that adds to the overall narrative. Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 film Throne of Blood (alternately titled Spider’s Web Castle), for example, beautifully marries Shakespeare’s narrative with Japanese culture and folklore to spectacular results.

In other cases, however, film adaptations get a little strange. The plot isn’t quite right. The characters don’t match the original text. The story no longer fits with the original.

I can’t help but look at some of these movie interpretations and wonder: how did we get here?

Below are a few of the film adaptations that have gotten a little too weird for the source material. But beware: there be spoilers in these here waters.

Macbeth, 2006, directed by Geoffrey Wright

I went through a phase when I was obsessed with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (To be perfectly honest, I still might be going through that phase.) I watched every film adaptation I could get my grimy paws on, and since I worked in a library at the time, I could get my grimy paws on a lot of them.

Unlike Throne of Blood, Geoffrey Wright’s 2006 adaptation was bad.

Really, really bad.

In this adaptation, the characters struggle to seize power over the Melbourne underworld and, in particular, a local nightclub. The acting and characterization, especially of Lady Macbeth, leave a lot to be desired.

But the Toronto International Film Festival chose it as an official selection in 2006, so what do I know.

Blood and Chocolate, 2007, Directed by Katja von Garnier

Blood and Chocolate  by Annette Curtis Klaus is a perfectly adequate young adult novel about Vivian, a sixteen year old loup-garoux (werewolf) from Maryland who revels in her nature yet longs for a normal life. Amidst a struggle over who will lead her pack, Vivian falls in love with a fellow high school student named Aiden while a twenty-four year old loup-garoux, Gabriel, vies for her attention. The novel ends with Vivian accepting her true nature as a werewolf and as Gabriel’s mate.

Blood and Chocolate, the film, is a more uncomfortable story altogether. It features Vivian as our leading nineteen year old were-lady and is set in Romania. Vivian falls in love with Aiden, a human graphic novelist and is sought as a mate by Romanian pack leader, Gabriel.

Gabriel. Who is played by Olivier Martinez. Who was in his forties when the film was released. And was definitely playing the role of a much older, skeevy, sexual predator. There is a scene where he spends a little too much time eating a fruit in Vivian’s general direction. It is uncomfortable. (No shade to Olivier; he was obviously acting the way the script wanted him to. He just is nothing like the book’s version of Gabriel.)

Needless to say, film Vivian ends up with Aiden rather than Gabriel – thank goodness – and the overall moral of the story becomes a bit muddier.

Still, whatever critiques I have of the film, I have to respect the sheer number of wolf sculptures that appear in it. Wolf sculptures everywhere might just be my new aesthetic.

The Hobbit Trilogy, 2012, 2013, 2014, Directed by Peter Jackson


Much has been written about the narrative padding and interpretive oddities of Peter Jackson’s interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s book The Hobbit, and I won’t repeat those arguments here.

(I will, however, note that because of scheduling demands, Jackson said the movies forced him into “making it up as [he] went along” and that he “didn’t know what the hell [he] was doing.”)

Still, I can’t be too angry with Jackson’s The Hobbit. After all, it gave me the gifts of disdainful Thranduil and war rams. Such things are blessings for us all.

The Golden Compass, 2007, Directed by Chris Weitz

Guys, I was so sad when I saw the film version of The Golden Compass. So very sad. I adored Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy when I was a wee lass, then I saw this film, and I felt…nothing.

The movie managed to kill the joy and magic of the original series, and I’ll never understand how it all was allowed to go so wrong.

Queen of the Damned, 2002, Directed by Michael Rhymer

I liked the adaptation of Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned the same way that I like cheese fries. I know they aren’t good for me, but I just can’t say no to the cheese.

The novel is a complicated vampire origin story featuring twin witches who curse a pre-Egyptian royal couple. In the modern era, Lestat, a powerful vampire, gains fame through a rock band while a mysterious entity who turns out to be one of the cursed royals and mother of all vampires, Akasha, engages in vampire mass murder.

The film, on the other hand, mostly revolves around Stuart Townsend-as-Lestat’s leather pants. It is a love triangle between Lestat (and his pants), titular Queen of the Damned, Akasha, and Jesse, a descendant of an ancient vampire line. With its the leather, chokers, mesh shirts, and ringed eyeliner, the film is so late-90’s/early-aughts that it hurts.

But I love the score. And the soundtrack. But having read the book, I have to admit it is best to think of the film as a completely different narrative.

Of course these aren’t the only film adaptations to go awry. What other adaptations of books rustle your jimmies? Does the live action Cat in the Hat make you cringe? Did you smash all green light bulbs after watching The Great Gatsby? Have you wondered how The Dark Tower film could go so wrong?

There are so many ways that a film adaptation of a book can turn strange. Why not embrace them all?