Top List Thursday – The best worst movie adaptations

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While Hollywood loves to draw on other media for their film ideas, they often times have this habit of then taking said source material and going out of their way to change whatever it was that made it popular in the first place. Did I say “change”? I meant “take a violent crap all over”.

But occasionally, even after throwing out all those original ideas, filmmakers still end with a movie that’s actually pretty decent. Here are a couple of them.

Clueless

Hands up all of you that enjoyed 90’s sorta girly movie Clueless (You can put yours down Lourens. We already know of your love). Now hands up all of you that knew that this American high-school tale of sex and drugs that thrust Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash and the late Brittany Murphy into the limelight was actually based on Jane Austen’s 19th century England set novel “Emma”. Yeah, didn’t think so.

The film is very loosely based on Austen’s tale (I don’t think there was much weed smoking in the original), but the film went on to become a huge commercial and critical success, that spawned it’s TV series and multiple spinoff books.

I, Robot

Yeah, there was definitely no wise-cracking, sneaker obsessed, backwards cap wearing, space Audi driving Will Smith figure in sci-fi grandmaster Isaac Asimov’s seminal short story collection, but that’s exactly what we got when the erstwhile Fresh Prince teamed up with The Crow and Dark City director Alex Proyas. And somehow it kind of worked. Sure, the most thinking you’ll end up doing is wondering where the next CGI action sequence is coming from, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t entertaining.

The Shining

Contrary to what original author Steven King would have you believe, acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s version of his tale is simply better. While most would claim that that’s due to Jack Nicholson’s rampant performance, the truth is that Kubrick took King’s novel and changed and expanded on and subsequently improved on it in just about every way.

Blade Runner

The fact that Philip K Dick’s novel and Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi game changing film doesn’t even share anything like the same name should have probably have been the first clue that the film adaptation took some big liberties with it’s source material. While Dick’s “Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?” is certainly a great novel, there’s not that much that actually made it across to the screen when Scott unleashed his since then often times copied vision of a dystopian future. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Scott’s handling of folks being able to dial up emotions like you play a song on a iPod.

Jaws

Duuuuuuuhhhhn-duhn. Duuuuuhhn-duhn. Duuuhhn-duhn. Duuhn-duhn. Duhn-duhn. DUHHHHHNNN! With two simple notes, composer John Williams created one of the most iconic soundscapes in all of movie history. But a great score is not the only way that Steven Spielberg’s classic aquatic 1975 horror-thriller differentiated from Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name. For starters, the book is actually nowhere new as exciting. The shark plays a smaller role, they spend more time on Chief Brody’s wife having an affair on him, Quint isn’t killed by the shark but rather his own ineptitude with a harpoon rope and the ending is also incredibly anticlimactic: instead of the large explosive finale of Brody shooting and detonating the gas tank that takes out the Great White Shark, it simply succumbs to it’s wounds from a couple of harpoons and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The end.

Dr Strangelove (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

Yep, that Stanley Kubrick is at it again. While Peter George’s original novel “Red Alert” definitely also dealt with nuclear war and the world ending potential thereof, there is one major difference: It was deathly serious. Posing such moral dilemmas such the US President having to choose which city he would allow the Russians to nuke as compensation for an unhinged US general unleashing  preemptive nuclear strike on the USSR.

Kubrick’s black comedy version on the other hand had a character called Jack D. Ripper, Peter Sellers playing three increasingly manic characters, one of whom has a Nazi possessed hand, and of course actor Slim Pickens bareback riding a nuclear missile to his fiery demise. Yeah, that was definitely not in the book.

Constantine

I know what you’re thinking: “Kervyn, you’ve been sniffing the comic book ink too much again! How can a Keanu Reeves movie be ahead of such classics as Blade Runner, Jaws and Dr Strangelove?!” Well, it’s simple really. Constantine should never have worked. Those other aforementioned movies’ changes all sort of made sense when you thought about it (like the absurdity of mutual nuclear destruction), but Constantine took acclaimed, long running supernatural comic book Helllblazer and then just changed stuff for the sake of changing them.

Lead character John Constantine was transformed from hard-nosed, chain smoking, trench coat wearing, magical limey bastard to… well, Keanu Reeves. Shia Lebouf played a character that was supposed to be about 3 times as old, and oh yeah, did I mention that everybody was now American instead of English for absolutely no reason whatsoever?!

And yet, despite all that and more, debut director Francis Lawrence (who has since moved up a few notches and will be stewarding the Hunger Games series from here on out) gave us a rather brilliant tale of the occult that featured outstanding world building, creepiness turned up to 11, and thanks to Peter Stormare, one of the coolest incarnations of the Devil that we’ve ever seen on screen.

Hellblazer purists hated it, but as made literally obvious last week, Constantine is a guilty pleasure here at TheMovies.co.za and apparently among many of you readers too. Now if only they would make a damn sequel!

Last Updated: February 28, 2013

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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