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View Full Version : Bad movie adaptations of great SF fiction



blacbird
02-14-2011, 12:52 PM
Just a curiosity. I watched the most recent movie of The War of the Worlds the other night, and wasn't terribly offended, mainly because I expected really really bad, and only got mediocre, with some good stuff (Tim Robbins, Dakota Fanning, good and not over-the-top special effects).

But that got me thinking about general aspects of movies made from great SF books, and in particular which struck me as really reallly reallllllllly bad. Nomination standards are that the novel or story involved has to be good, and the movie based on it ruinously bad. So Starship Troopers doesn't qualify, being realllllllllly bad in both media. My most immediate nominee:

I, Robot (Isaac Asimov), with Will Smith

Others?

SirOtter
02-14-2011, 01:16 PM
The film version of Heinlein's The Puppet Masters was pretty horrific. It was so bad, I'm the only person I know who saw it.

Torgo
02-14-2011, 03:13 PM
Poor old Phil Dick has had a couple of bad movies made from his short stories, notably Screamers and the awful, awful Nic Cage vehicle Next. Impostor isn't very good either. (I actually kind of enjoyed Paycheck; sue me.)

Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot stories got turned into the rubbish Will Smith vehicle of the same name. I have to disqualify the utterly nauseating Bicentennial Man on the grounds that the story is nauseating as well (but at least you don't have to look at Robin Williams.)

I haven't seen I Am Legend but am willing to bet it's not a patch on the book.

The very worst, though? My vote goes to the most recent adaptation of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I know the book practically off by heart as a result of spending many, many hours in the back of my parents' car as a child listening to the audiobook, so I was really looking forward to it; but it appeared to have been made by people who didn't realise the book was supposed to be funny. I have had parasitic infections that were more enjoyable to sit through.

Priene
02-14-2011, 03:36 PM
Dune springs to mind. Tom Cruise's fatherhood issues in The War of the Worlds had me wanting to give him a slap. Oh, several Planet of the Apes films have been dreck, especially the Tim Burton remake. I was fond of Pierre Boulle's novel as a nipper.

mirandashell
02-14-2011, 03:42 PM
I reckon John Wyndham has suffered the most. A couple of really bad versions of Midwich Cuckoos. There's a dreadful version of Day of the Triffids from the 1950s, and I mean really dreadful. One of the worst films I've ever seen.

And the last BBC adaptation of Triffids was proper dreck as well.

Torgo
02-14-2011, 03:45 PM
Dune springs to mind.

Lots and lots of good things about that (Lynch) movie, but overall it isn't very good, is it.

darkprincealain
02-14-2011, 05:30 PM
I reckon John Wyndham has suffered the most. A couple of really bad versions of Midwich Cuckoos.

The one with Kirstie Alley is the one I nominate. Not because of her, but because everyone else is so awful and the writing is just atrocious.

Calla Lily
02-14-2011, 05:36 PM
I actually love the 1950s Day of the Triffids. Then again, I love (seriously) really bad horror and SF. I've seen the British TV version and read the book, and yes, the 1950s movie is nothing like it--but Wyndham depresses the heck out of me. :)

I Am Legend was indeed terrible--but the Vincent Price version (The Last Man on Earth) wasn't too bad, and it was much more faithful to the story.

mirandashell
02-14-2011, 05:46 PM
Really? Let's me and you never ever go to the movies together! LOL!

Calla Lily
02-14-2011, 05:59 PM
But I love Doctor Who. Does that make up for it a little bit? :)

mirandashell
02-14-2011, 06:08 PM
Well...... maybe a little bit!

DavidZahir
02-14-2011, 06:12 PM
Starship Troopers. What drek. And the idea which was the impetus just got ignored.

Earthsea. Since I love those books it was heart-breaking to watch.

The Postman. Oddly enough, Brin himself liked the film. I did not because to me it was just poorly made and keeping what for Brin was most important wasn't enough to redeem the thing.

writein
02-14-2011, 07:56 PM
Definitely Dune, Id love to see this done right.

Zoombie
02-14-2011, 09:17 PM
Hey, I liked Screamers...AND Starship Troopers.

And yes, I read both the story and the book.

Now, if we're talking about truly terrible sci-fi adaptations, I'd like to bring up I, Robot a second time. Not only did they adapt Caves of Steel (a robot supposedly murders a human, a detective tries to solve the crime), but they mutilated it by removing the robot side-kick.

You know, the one who proves that racism ISN'T right? Cause the movie is basically, "That one psychotic racist conspiracy theorist? Yeah, he was right the WHOLE TIME!"

Torgo
02-14-2011, 10:00 PM
Hey, I liked Screamers...AND Starship Troopers.


OK, Screamers isn't that bad, just a little dour and low-budget. I really enjoyed Troopers and I haven't read the book - it is supposed to be a hilarious coal-black satire, isn't it?

Zoombie
02-14-2011, 10:06 PM
Starship Troopers the book was very YAY, FACISM!

The movie was like YAY, FACISM! :sarcasm

AlexPiper
02-14-2011, 10:18 PM
I haven't seen I Am Legend but am willing to bet it's not a patch on the book.

It isn't. But no adaptation of I Am Legend ever has been, which is partly a commentary on filmmaking and partly a testament to how unbelievably good the original novel is, and how hard to live up to.

Though, credit where credit is due, the original ending (not the one in the theater release) of the recent film is at least in the same timezone as the original novel. That's unusual for an IAL adaptation. The ending they did go with, of course, is typical Hollywood fare.

On Wyndham, I think the best adaptation/use of the Midwich Cuckoos I've ever seen is actually a post-apocalyptic webcomic by Warren Ellis (http://www.freakangels.com/?p=23) that basically poses the question, "What would have happened if the Cuckoos won?" The characters aren't exactly the Cuckoos, but Ellis has been pretty straightforward about that being the inspiration for the story.

PrincessofPersia
02-14-2011, 10:22 PM
Though, credit where credit is due, the original ending (not the one in the theater release) of the recent film is at least in the same timezone as the original novel.

Barely. And they changed so much other crap, it was almost unwatchable for me. I won't be seeing it again.

Speaking of PKD bastards, let's not forget Paycheck.

Gravity
02-14-2011, 11:57 PM
Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Yes, the squid battle was memorable, and James Mason played an aptly tormented Captain Nemo. But don't forget it also had Kirk Douglas singing.

rugcat
02-15-2011, 12:11 AM
Earthsea. Since I love those books it was heart-breaking to watch.This would also have to get my vote. because the books are truly timeless and iconic. What they did to them wasn't just a matter of a poor job; it was deliberate butchery.

Ms. Le Guin write a short essay (http://www.slate.com/id/2111107/) about this, mild indeed considering the various ways her books were ruined.

AlexPiper
02-15-2011, 12:26 AM
Barely. And they changed so much other crap, it was almost unwatchable for me. I won't be seeing it again.

Well, yes. I didn't say it was a /good/ adaptation... just that the original ending that they cut managed to be somewhere in the same timezone as Matheson's original point. Victoria, BC, and chunks of Antarctica are in the same timezone, after all!

My point is that usually I Am Legend adaptations are somewhere across the International Date Line compared to the book. This one at least was in the right slice of the globe, albeit the wrong hemisphere. They get a couple points for effort, if not for anything else! ;)

Though of course they undid that much by cutting the ending I'm referring to, and replacing it with a Formula Hollywood Ending for the actual release...

JoNightshade
02-15-2011, 12:37 AM
Okay, so, I liked Starship Troopers and I, Robot. I read both Heinlein and Asimov voraciously as a child, although Troopers was one I somehow missed. Anyway, I thought the whole movie was a great sendup of Heinlein. I dunno about its accuracy, though.

I, Robot you had to treat as just totally divorced from the source material. Frankly, even though Asimov wrote an actual screenplay for the title, I think it would be horrible as a movie. I didn't go in feeling like it had to be Asimovian, and I really enjoyed it.

Can't think of anything I really loved as a book that was destroyed in the movies. I hate all the Dune movies, but guess what? I hate Dune, too.

MaryMumsy
02-15-2011, 02:11 AM
I don't watch too many sci-fi movies, but I did get dragged (almost kicking and screaming) to War of the Worlds. After about ten minutes I was wishing I had an indiglo watch so I could check the time. And chanting to myself: "are we there yet? are we there yet?". It was truly horrid.

MM

Zoombie
02-15-2011, 03:48 AM
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


<vomits>

Tiger
02-15-2011, 04:11 AM
Nobody mentioned the MFTV version of "Damnation Alley" or, how about "Riverworld?"

Tiger
02-15-2011, 04:15 AM
Does "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" count? I suppose it would. You'd have to pick a film version.

Torgo
02-15-2011, 04:17 AM
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


<vomits>

MY EYES THE GOGGLES THEY DO NOTHING

Tiger
02-15-2011, 04:20 AM
Speaking of Mr. Hyde. Since when is Mr. Hyde a 10' musclebound apeman? Stevenson described him as just a little cuss.

Torgo
02-15-2011, 04:21 AM
Speaking of Mr. Hyde. Since when is Mr. Hyde a 10' musclebound apeman? Stevenson described him as just a little cuss.

Read the comics! They're brilliant.

AlexPiper
02-15-2011, 04:22 AM
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

*sits in the corner, rocking back and forth, traumatized*

Never made a movie of that... it wasn't real... never made it... just a bad dream...

Tiger
02-15-2011, 04:37 AM
Read the comics! They're brilliant.

Sorry... Stopped reading comicbooks right after Storm melted Loki's uru hammer gift with a lightning bolt...

blacbird
02-15-2011, 05:29 AM
The recent adaptation of The Time Machine sucked, IMO. The 1960ish George Pal version was by no means perfect, but it was better. Odd that these are the only two movie versions of Wells' classic, as far as I know. And it's such a ripping good story, seems ideal for a faithful and very good movie.

Calla Lily
02-15-2011, 06:32 AM
It's not an adaptation of the book, but I recommend Time after Time with Malcolm McDowell *not* playing a psycho. (True!) It has flaws and is dated, but still quite enjoyable.

I realize this is a violation of the OP. *grovels*

I also detested LXG. I didn't like the comics much, either, though. Nasty.

Zoombie
02-15-2011, 09:37 AM
Sorry... Stopped reading comicbooks right after Storm melted Loki's uru hammer gift with a lightning bolt...

No. Seriously. Read the graphic novels right now.

MissMacchiato
02-15-2011, 09:48 AM
... Hitch Hiker's Guide to the galaxy, anyone? What the hell did it ever do to be massacred in that way?

Manuel Royal
02-15-2011, 04:38 PM
Nobody mentioned the MFTV version of "Damnation Alley" or, how about "Riverworld?"Absolutely. Damnation Alley would still make a hell of a movie, if somebody wanted to film the novel properly.

And the Riverworld books (well, the first two) are fantastic. The Sci-Fi/SyFy Channel managed to screw them up not once, but twice, several years apart.

Isaac Asimov's story "Nightfall" is generally considered one of the greatest science fiction stories ever. In 1988 a movie version came out, and it was like a bad drug trip. There was another version in 2000, which also sucked. Why? It would be so easy to adapt the story as written.

More recently, I was reading Steven Gould's book Jumper. Liked it a lot, and as I was reading I thought, "Wow, this could very easily be adapted into an excellent movie." Then a movie did come out, and it sucked. (And somehow required three screenwriters to make a crappy distortion of a good novel written by one person.)

Why do they change things that don't need changed? That's what all these examples have in common. It'd be different if the changes made the story work better as a movie, but they don't. Sheesh.

(By the way, Steven Gould's novel Wildside could be a kickass movie too, but now I'm afraid somebody'll do a crappy adaptation.)

Manuel Royal
02-15-2011, 04:42 PM
The recent adaptation of The Time Machine sucked, IMO. The 1960ish George Pal version was by no means perfect, but it was better. Odd that these are the only two movie versions of Wells' classic, as far as I know. And it's such a ripping good story, seems ideal for a faithful and very good movie.True. With modern special effects, you could do a wonderful adaptation. All it needs is a good script.

SirOtter
02-15-2011, 08:40 PM
Does "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" count? I suppose it would. You'd have to pick a film version.

Not sure why you'd say so, since there are at least three excellent versions of J&H. Of course, the last good one was made in 1940, so it is true nothing of much worth has been done with the old boys in 70 years, but still.

SirOtter
02-15-2011, 08:47 PM
It's not an adaptation of the book, but I recommend Time after Time with Malcolm McDowell *not* playing a psycho. (True!) It has flaws and is dated, but still quite enjoyable.

If you ever find a movie without flaws, let us know. ;) Well, apart from Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle. As for 'dated', I despise that word in this context. It is of its time.

SirOtter
02-15-2011, 08:57 PM
True. With modern special effects, you could do a wonderful adaptation. All it needs is a good script.

Your second statement gets to the nub of the matter. There's a common thought these days that special effects solve all problems. The trouble is, no one seems to know how to construct a decent script for this type of film anymore, something no amount of CGI excess can remedy. In fact, the current state of special effects may make the situation worse. There's the temptation to change the story around and put crap in without regard to whether or not it fits, simply to indulge in more CGI pyrotechnics. George Pal had the best special effects of his day available to him, and used it judiciously, in service to the story instead of the other way around. That's why his Time Machine (along with War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide) remains a classic, and will long after most recent attempts to film the great SF stories never will be.

dolores haze
02-15-2011, 09:11 PM
I recently re-watched the 1970's adaption of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Funny - I loved it as a kid. As an adult I found it quite awful.

Tiger
02-15-2011, 09:20 PM
Not sure why you'd say so, since there are at least three excellent versions of J&H. Of course, the last good one was made in 1940, so it is true nothing of much worth has been done with the old boys in 70 years, but still.

Good films perhaps. But, I was thinking more about its adaptation to film. When I read the novella, it didn't seem to match what I remember of the film versions

Amadan
02-15-2011, 09:21 PM
My point is that usually I Am Legend adaptations are somewhere across the International Date Line compared to the book. This one at least was in the right slice of the globe, albeit the wrong hemisphere. They get a couple points for effort, if not for anything else! ;)

Though of course they undid that much by cutting the ending I'm referring to, and replacing it with a Formula Hollywood Ending for the actual release...

I haven't seen the original ending, only the one released to theaters, and that one utterly butchered everything that the original story was about.

The Vincent Price version was much more faithful to the book.

(But never watch the Charlton Heston version, The Omega Man, sober.)


I'm a heretic because I actually thought Starship Troopers, while not a good movie, was more faithful to the book than many people give it credit for. People mostly notice the most superficial difference -- that they spent all their FX budget on the bugs instead of the powered armor, so they lost the essence of the Mobile Infantry. Which was disappointing, but I thought the political and militaristic themes were, while played as somewhat over-the-top satire, still pretty much as Heinlein wrote them.

(I'm not one of those people who thinks Starship Troopers endorses fascism, btw. And no, I'm not a Heinlein fanboy -- I like a lot of his stuff, but he got weird and pervy later in his career, and I wish all the libertarians who worship at the twin altars of Heinlein and Rand would go live in their libertarian fantasy-world and leave this one.)

Dune -- movie made absolutely no sense unless you read the book. I actually think the SciFi Channel miniseries was not too bad.

Does James Bond count? It's kind of sci-fi, especially all the 70s and 80s crap with the super-gadgets. Those movies had literally nothing to do with the original stories. Casino Royale was the first Bond movie in years that resembled the book it was based on. Then came Quantum of Solace, which once again borrowed the name of a Fleming story and nothing else.

Calla Lily
02-15-2011, 10:41 PM
Oh, Lord, I'd forgotten The Omega Man. That movie should've come with complimentary eyebleach. Why Heston seemed to think that the world wanted to see his sweaty, nekkid, flabby chest over and over and over is beyond comprehension.


Speaking of nekkid chests, was Zardoz a book before it was a movie? That was so awful, watching it was like rubbernecking at a trainwreck... you couldn't look away.

DavidZahir
02-16-2011, 12:45 AM
The thing about Starship Troopers is, Heinlein intended it in many ways as a social thought experiment. In essence it tried to portray a society in which the right to vote was dependent upon serving a minimum of two years in some kind of Federal Service--including but not exclusive to the military. He also made the point that once someone turned eighteen the only reason they could be turned down was if it could be shown they did not understand the oath of service.

Other than that, society was portrayed as rather like our own. A mandatory high school class on citizenship. Trial by jury. Elections. Capital punishment. The only thing that really stood out was the use of flogging as punishment.

Now, you may disapprove of this notion. You may be doubtful of whether it would work. You may disagree with his portrayal of a working society with civil liberties intact yet where the franchise must be earned. More, you may think he fails to examine the underside of his fictional society. Well and good. But no matter what you think of his ideas, the novel was about those ideas and they were nowhere in the movie.

Zoombie
02-16-2011, 01:07 AM
Speaking of nekkid chests, was Zardoz a book before it was a movie? That was so awful, watching it was like rubbernecking at a trainwreck... you couldn't look away.

No, but weirdly enough, the book was...

Well, it was not TEH BEST BOOK EVERSS but at least it explained things.

And it came out after the movie. And was written by John Boorman.

eyeblink
02-16-2011, 01:28 AM
Okay, so, I liked Starship Troopers and I, Robot. I read both Heinlein and Asimov voraciously as a child, although Troopers was one I somehow missed. Anyway, I thought the whole movie was a great sendup of Heinlein. I dunno about its accuracy, though.

I spent a lot of time on film newsgroups in the late 90s/early 00s and was there when Starship Troopers came out - there seemed to be a big transatlantic divide over that one. It's satire, and it completely subverts the novel it's based on, which is par for the course for its director.

Two horrible versions of The Midwich Cuckoos? I haven't seen the John Carpenter version, but the 60s version (Village of the Damned) is very good.

The David Lynch Dune falls into the interesting-failure category for me.

childeroland
02-16-2011, 04:15 AM
The BBC adaptation of Gormenghast. Not really bad, but very meh.

bip
02-16-2011, 04:47 AM
The film version of Heinlein's The Puppet Masters was pretty horrific. It was so bad, I'm the only person I know who saw it.

You aren't the only one who saw it! I lived in Fresno at the time, and since Fresno City Hall was used as the spaceship, many Fresnans subjected themselves to the film. I remember it was bad, but it must not have been too traumatic because I don't remember anything other than some sort of eggs in the City Hall (er, uh, "space ship") - and I'm not even sure if that's from the right movie, lol.

Tiger
02-16-2011, 04:58 AM
No. Seriously. Read the graphic novels right now.

I'm glad there are still graphic novels... :)