The book-turned-movie Ender’s Game is what made me first ponder this subject, and thanks to the theater release of dystopian YA series, Divergent, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Perhaps a change in medium can be enlivening to some books, but it is also true that there are just some beloved stories that we would hate to make it to the big screen. As much as I wish I could compile a comprehensive list, I haven’t read every book worth reading. I will, however, endeavor to make a few observations.
5. Films We Couldn’t Stop: Some of our favorites were already made into terrible films, so we should have a moment of silence for them.
- Ella Enchanted (2004) – This Anne Hathaway romp bears so little resemblance to its respective book that, while I was watching it, I actually forgot it was based on the charming Gail Carson Levine story. The sound effects for the creatures are distracting, the musical numbers so unnecessary, and the alterations to the plot confusing and painful.
- Inkheart (2008) – You would think filmmakers would pause before attempting to turn a book about the power of books into a movie. They didn’t. We wept.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) – I may get flak for this one, as some people thought it wasn’t so bad. But, as noted by some die-hard fans of the book, the narration style of Hitchhiker’s Guide is hard, if not impossible, to replicate in film. The free-flowing storytelling style that we like in novels has a bad habit of translating into plot holes in cinema.
4. Books That Aren’t Quite What We Remember: In our younger days we sometimes read books that weren’t actually the best thing ever—despite the fact that at the time we sure thought so.
- The Sweep Series – Do we really need another film franchise with an oh-so-average girl discovering she’s actually super magical and so she goes off to twine her destiny with a super hot coven leader? Many people seem to enjoy these books, but call me skeptical.
- Trickster’s Choice, Trickster’s Queen – Upon reflection, a book series in which a European-esque outsider goes in and helps lead a native uprising against colonizers is a bit awkward, no matter how many gods you have floating around.
- Dragonriders of Pern series – Aside from the fact that the series is sprawling and filled with dragons that would have to be meticulously created by sleep-deprived animators, the male/female sexual politics of the dragonriders is sometimes a bit problematic.
3. But That’s So Wrong!: Sometimes certain magical styles and creatures are too much for the silver screen.
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles – When your protagonist works for a dragon, you know it’s going to be hard to adapt. Add to that a grumpy gargoyle, a Frying Pan of Doom, and magic system that’s like pulling invisible strings and you should just quit while you’re ahead.
- Sabriel of the the Old Kingdom series – A series of enchanted bells to put the dead back in their place has got to be one of the best magic systems ever, but trying to capture the sound of those bells? Probably impossible. And, as cool as Mogget was, how would we ever be able to agree on what he looks like?
- The Redwall series – I was tempted to put this in the next category, but realistically I think it would be an impossible feat to make movies out of these. The animated animals would be toeing the “uncanny valley” line and how could we devote time to those feasts? Also, every British, or vaguely British sounding, actor would be cast as a hares, mice, and badgers and we’d end up with Alan Rickman discussing defense against weasels with Liam Neeson, and then where would we be?
2. But Only If It’s Animated: The key to capturing our imaginations is sometimes through a medium that retains its edge of unreal.
- Unicorns of Balinor – To date, the only unicorns that have looked good onscreen have been in The Last Unicorn and the new My Little Pony series. So, animation might be the way to go for this story about a horse-loving girl dropped into a land of fighting unicorns. And at least we know the My Little Pony crowd would watch it.
- The Pit Dragon Chronicles – How to Train Your Dragon may have beat this one to punch, but it also proves that if filmmakers want people to accept dragons they should keep their touch light and fun. So, on second thought, don’t option this series.
- The Chronicles of Chrestomanci – As Miyazaki’s version of Howl’s Moving Castle showed us, the awesome worlds of Howl and Chrestomanci might be within reach for a talented animator. These stories, with their time-jumping and broad cast of characters, would be a challenge to adapt into a film or films. But I might be willing to let Studio Ghibli give it a try.
1. No, a Thousand Times No: Despite the fact that Hollywood’s wheels are turning, sometimes we would just rather imagine it ourselves.
- The Artemis Fowl series – Forget the battle of who would play sneaky, boy genius, Artemis, who on earth would we cast to play Holly Short? This creative series boasts human and fairy characters of all sizes, multiple crazy locations, magic in many forms, and a whole secret fairy civilization. Finding a team that could envision all of this well enough that we would abandon the versions we have in our minds would be like finding the tiniest of needles in the proverbial haystack.
- Good Omens – Similarly, everyone has a different vision of this sharp apocalyptic tale. Like Hitchhiker’s Guide, Good Omens also relies on a whimsical narration style that might seem out of place in a film version. And not only would someone have to perfectly cast a book-collecting angel, a flash demon, and the Four Horsemen, but they would also have to find a 1926 Bentley in perfect condition.
I left off a few I wanted to address, and I am sure I missed some of your favorites. What other books should never, ever be made into films?
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