Why Movies Don’t Stack Up

One of the big stress factors of movie geeks like us at TMB is that sometimes we get books or comics that we love and care about and watch as they are translated into a movie. Usually we have our reservations about this because so often this offends our minds. You see, only we can come up with the RIGHT way to do a film and therefore whatever vision the directors and producers have for a movie is just outright wrong.

They get it wrong a lot. I will give a few examples of this.

The Book was Better This is a sore spot for a lot of Harry Potter fans out there. If you were a fan of the book, then you were no doubt excited to see the movie. The first movie was so dead on with the book that many raved how wonderful a translation this movie was. As sequel after sequel takes place, the fans of the novels began to get more sensitive to the butchery of the books that the movies had become. “The first movie was spot on, why are the rest sucking??” Firstly the first book, Philosopher’s Stone was what… 223 pages? The script had no trouble keeping up with this. As the books carried on, the story became more involved and therefore longer. Some stuff had to be left out. Most books have more information, backstory, environment, subplots and full out story to ever be captured in 90 minutes of screen time. Much like Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, and any movie based on a book.

They didn’t tell the story Movies based on a true story, or worse, movies based on video games. I will group all of these into this paragraph as many of them become victims of the Hollywood machine. Churning out movies to make money. That is the point right? Recently I wrote about a new movie called 21 and how it really didn’t grab my attention despite my love for movies of its type. The comments section had little to do with the movie except to say it was based on a documentary and how they were changing too much to make a movie of it. Well kiddies, its BASED on a true story. They are giving credit to the inspiration, not an accurate retelling.

Video game movies are no better as the quarter sucking or time killing console game is likely the inspiration of a movie and they choose to make it “better”. Often there is little story to a game or it doesn’t translate well to a movie. So they “fix” it.

They didn’t stick to the source material This is somewhat different than my take on the “Book was Better” problem. I am talking about movies where they change something SO critical to the character or story that it ruins the charm of seeing your favourite fandom converted to a visual masterpiece. Like Catwoman. This movie was supposedly based on the Batman villian, but really not at all. The only comparison was that she gained her powers in a similar manner. The story was nothing like anything Catwoman ever experienced. Some of the treatments for a Wonder Woman movie being set in the 40s sounded way off as well (despite her original origin story taking place then)

Or Transformers. John and I had good discussions about Transformers being made into a live action movie. I was arguing that it was dumb to make Prime into a Conventional truck instead of a Cabover Rig. And that was just a little thing. I ended up liking the film despite my misgivings but it strayed so far from the cartoon that I loved as a kid that I was sure I would hate it.

Some of the treatments for the Superman movie would make most people who disliked Superman Returns thank their lucky stars. If you don’t know what I am talking about, see An Evening with Kevin Smith. Giant fucking spider.

It became something it wasn’t Movies that face multiple sequels often degenerate into something far from what they started as. Highlander was a self fulfilling prophecy when McCleod says “There can only be one”. The follow up movies had to trip over themselves just to make the story work, and that made the story NOT work. But making sequels is what Hollywood is about. People love a movie, they want more. Hollywood makes more. Rarely do they surpass the original, but this is a story for another post.

Take the Spiderman movies. The first Spiderman was awesome. I loved it. Great effects, great action, perfect adaptation of the characters and who they were (though he didn’t meet MJ till much later in the comics – we didn’t care) Then the sequel. I also liked it a lot. Still wasn’t the same as the first movie, but still a LOT of fun. And then came the third movie. So many of the above reasons why movies don’t stack up all came to a head with Spiderman 3. Bad use of characters, too many characters, too far off the source material, just wasn’t right, whatever reason you didn’t like it. It just wasn’t something that fit with what the character was.

And with that I will leave you with some clip of some Japanese TV or Movie show featuring Spiderman…. and a Mariachi who shoots bullets from his guitar, a Samurai, a Giant, and a Transforming Robot. I couldn’t make this up. Spiderman 3 could have been worse.

We have so much fun bashing movies we dislike, but what movies do you think DID stack up to your expectations?

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17 thoughts on “Why Movies Don’t Stack Up

  1. rod@
    sorry for the lazyness.
    I remenber,AICN posts turned inside out with the GEEK purists rage!!!
    I Dont know about you,but in cases like Raimi and Nollan,when you see that the director really likes and understand the character and his universe(unless for me of course)it becames more easy to understand changes.
    I think they know waht should be protected and what should be taked of the history whitout mess with the source.
    I really got worried when the director dont undestand the character and try to make a movie with the focus on some characteristic he liked or thought should turn into a good history.
    People like schumacher(i saw his interview when he was in my country doing press conference for Batman Forever,and he said he liked Batman because¨he was the coolest superhero around.he have all that money and the coolest car on the city!¨no kidding!
    Or Burton,he even didnt care about the character he tought the dark mood of the comics was cool and the villans weird enough to turn a good movie.
    Or Singer,he identifys him self with the “OUTSIDER”figure.
    and because of this he made 2 good X men movies but a horrible Super man.
    I know is hard to find a GOOD comic book addicted director to do the movie with respect.
    And those who pick the project most of the times are just trying to do the best job possible.
    So i will keep seeing movies aniway until someone hit the jackpot again.

  2. I have started reading fight club and its very close to the movie, so far. I think i good video game adaptation would be GTA:Vice City. It has the coolest storyline that works perfect. They would obviously have to cut all the missions, but i saw a 47 minute “movie” that a person created from all the VG clips and actual game play, and it worked perfectly. I wouldn’t mind a vice city movie.

  3. They adapted the book – Jurassic Park as best as they could. There were some dino’s in there that I wished made the movie, but all in all the movie and book stacked up nicely.

  4. God. Why can’t they release those Japanese Spiderman episodes on DVD? Fuckin love this stuff.

    I read the first Harry Potter book and didn’t see what the fuss was about. I gave up on the second one. It just didn’t hold my interest. I like the movies very much and each one gets better and better, which is a rarity.

  5. Lord of the Rings,

    Before complaining I should say that I loved these movies. I even feel like there were some necessary departures from the books for the purpose of a movie (for example the embellishment of liv tylers character which many people hate). Yet I really feel like there were a number of bad decisions, changes that should never have been made. In general there were too many cheeseball moments,

    – council of Elrond “You have my axe! my bow! my sword!” gag me!

    – making gimli’s character entirely into a vehical of comic relief

    – the hobbit’s speech to the ents to motivate them

    – the elves showing up to defend helms deep

    just to name a few

  6. 1) Layercake was a very good book to movie, there was a lot left out, but it stuck to the theme. Plus the screenplay was written by the author… so that helped.

    2) No Country For Old Men was pretty much spot on.

  7. @Takata

    To be fair, Raimi’s Spiderman was the basis of much trash talk when they said the movie would have Parker’s first girlfriend be MJ and that his webbing would be genetic (in the comics, parker invents the webshooter gadgets)

  8. One True Thing – Wonderful, heart wrenching, beautiful book. Miserable, waste of time movie.

    The Golden Compass – Excellent book. Meah for the movie, it is another classic example where so damn much happened in the book and they could never fit it all neatly into a movie and really make it worth their while.

    Memoirs of a Geisha – Again, excellent book, full of vivid detail and beauty. The movie truly was good, BUT you had to have read the book FIRST. Very important fact.

    Prince of Tides – Fantastic book, one of my all time favourites and the movie truly lived up to my expectations. Other than the fact that I really can’t stand Barbara Streisand, she just annoys me.

  9. 1) Miami Vice.

    I was a fan of the TV series (although I loved ‘Crime Story’ more) and I was looking forward to the theatrical version. It took a different turn than I thought it would, but ended up enjoying it just the same.

    2) Batman Begins

    While anything would most likely be better than the blood and brain draining “B&R”, when the casting, the director and story was set, I was not let down in the least… despite the early online script reviews which gave away everything including the twist with Ras Al Ghul

  10. I love books and I love movies, so this is a frequent issue for me. I now prefer to read the book after the movie comes out, so the movie experience isn’t ruined by disappointment.

    If you hate when they “ruin a good book with a movie”, you might like this t-shirt. (BTW, the first copyright infringement lawsuit involving a movie made from a book was in 1908, so their date is off by a decade or two.)

  11. ROD@
    good post though!
    Sometimes i bash a movie (most the comic book ones )just for the fun of do it.im not a kid anymore and i know that there are reasons(you preety much exposed most of then)why they couldnt keep exactly like they should.
    Picking the most recent case the changes on the Abomination apearence for the HULK new movie.
    DAMN that look awfull,but then you think about why they done such changes and it turns very logical.
    Do a balanced job when you deeling with fans vs normal viewers its a hard thing to do.and the normal people are the ones who bring fast money.
    I know that when the contract is signed they(the movie staff)have the right to do everithing they want to turn the material good for easy sale.
    And is exactly on this part that i get cranky.
    Raimis first spider man is almost a100% success on this case,and maded a lot of money.
    Why not keep the formula?
    You see?im cranked again!
    Well…i will keep seeing movies aniway between one and another its very possible to find something surprising.

  12. Sin City was a bit of both for me. Loved the movie, met my expectations, but as a huge fan of the books it still bugged me that for an almost page for page adaptation, they had to leave out my favorite 2 pages. Bugger!

    Serenity certainly lived up to my expectations. I still haven’t seen the movie Shooter, but I loved the book Point of Impact and my hopes and interest went down as I read reviews on it and how far off they went with it. Been awhile now, so I might have to watch it and see what I think of it. It’ll be interesting to see how they do with the Wolverine movie and if it meets my expectations as a fan of the character. I liked Xmen 1 and 2, but Xmen 3 while fun as a comic action flick, sailed really wide on some of the out of character aspects, so that one didn’t stack up.

    The Bourne Identity was different too. I read the book after seeing the movie. I loved the first movie, but was surprised at just how much they ventured away from the books and kept going further away with each subsequent movie. I wound up liking the first and third movies, but would still like to see a movie from the book plots.

  13. I noticed with the last Harry Potter movie that almost universally, if people had read the book just before seeing the movie they hated the movie. But if it had been a while since they read the book they liked it much more.

    I hadn’t read the books in over a year so really only remembered a vague outline of the story. And therefore pleasantly surprised when something I didn’t remember from the book was shown. Whereas those I talked to who had just read it were always disappointed that parts they liked got left out.

    I’ll be avoiding the books before the next movies come out.

  14. Actually one movie that surpassed my expectations was constantine- While I did not read the comic books, I thought the movie was going to be another mediocre comic book film but I ended up really liking it. Now- did it live up to the books? I can’t say- Did it live up to my expectations of a comic book film? For me- it’s better than most that have come out in the past couple of years.

    PS: Did anyone else find the spider-mobile in that clip looked an awful lot like the Oscar-Myer Wiener mobile?

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