Monday, April 25, 2011

Mania - 10 Films That Had Nothing To Do With Their Source Material

Today's article deals with films that were adapted from book that ended up looking nothing like the book they were based on. Some were good, some were bad, and this is a topic I probably could have squeezed multiple articles out of.

Reposted after the jump.

Adaptations are the closest thing to a safe bet in Hollywood. You find something that’s already popular, chuck some money and some stars at it, and you have a much better chance of getting a return on your money. Except movies like Sin City or The DaVinci Code are the exception rather than the rule. Screenwriters change story ideas. Films get adapted for attached stars. Directors come in with visions and re-imaginings. Pretty soon, the only thing the movie shares with the book was the title. Sometimes this ends poorly. Sometimes a modern classic is made. We’ve noted some notable successes and failures below. We know there are ones we’ve missed. Discuss your favorite examples in the comments.

Blade Runner: Adapted from "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

One of the first pieces of trivia most sci-fi fans learn is that this film was adapted from a Philip K. Dick novel. Half of the novel retains the vague story of Deckard hunting androids. The other half is the story of an animal trainer who befriends one of the hunted androids. Due to the popularity of the film, the sequel writer, K.W. Jeter was forced to write novels that somehow tied in the divergent worlds of the film and the movie. Dick is no stranger to odd adaptation of his work. Total Recall was another movie that could be on this list as well.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Adapted from "On Stranger Tides"

Tim Powers writes novels that are an excellent mix of historical fiction and mind-bending fantasy. The producers of the franchise saw a lot of similar elements in this since the book has pirates, zombies, a main character named Jack. But if you look at the credits for the trailer, you can already see them hedging their bets by saying the film was “Inspired by” the book.

Lawnmower Man: Adapted from "The Lawnmower Man"

It is a safe bet to assume that since the original story was written in 1975, it had nothing to do with the moron becomes a god in cyberspace story in the film. The only thing the movie shares other than the title is a sequence involving a grisly murder via a flying lawnmower. King himself disavows any connection with the film. It was known as Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man during its theatrical release and King sued to have his name removed.

Bourne Trilogy: Adapted from "The Bourne Identity", "The Bourne Supremacy", "The Bourne Ultimatum"

The first film retains the vague story of the novel. Jason Bourne is hunted across Europe while trying to remember who he was and how he got to be a badass secret agent. Even though the other films retained the book titles they ventured off into much different territory. The Bourne books deal with David Webb being dragged back into the spy game while the cinematic Bourne never truly gets out.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Adapted from "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?"

This film was a landmark both in the interaction between cartoons and humans as well as a once-in-a-lifetime crossover between Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons. It launched Roger Rabbit as a star, but in the original novel, he was the victim of the murder rather than the prime suspect. The toons were also comic strip toons like Dick Tracy and Garfield that spoke in word balloons. The original novelist wrote a follow-up that cashed in on the success of the movie and did little to continue the original story.

Die Hard: Adapted from "Nothing Lasts Forever"

This script is a perfect example of the strange path movies take to get made. The novel was a sequel to The Detective, which became a Frank Sinatra movie in 1968. The novel was originally adapted to serve as a sequel to Commando, but Arnold decided he didn’t want to crawl around air ducts barefoot. So the script was retooled again as a bit of a spoof of the action movies at the time and a new action sub-genre was born. In the original novel, the detective is older, his daughter is the employee in peril, the terrorists are actually politically motivated and the skyscraper belongs to an oil company rather than a Japanese corporation.

I, Robot: Adapted from "I, Robot"

Fans of the classic Issac Asimov series were shocked that the story was becoming a standard Will Smith sci-fi actioner. The good news is that it is a decent sci-fi action movie. The bad news is that it has nothing to do with the original stories, which deal with a robot trying to adapt to living in a human society.

Super Mario Brothers: Adapted from "Super Mario Bros."

Videogame adaptations have yet to truly have a breakthrough hit that captures the game. But this misguided attempt, featuring Dennis Hopper as Bowser and most of the action taking place in the real world rather than the Mushroom Kingdom, strays from the bright and cheery feel of the game into a place that could only have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Masters of the Universe: Adapted from "Masters of the Universe"

A live -action film based on the He-Man toys seemed a bit redundant, considering they were sanitized versions of the string of barbarian fantasy movies that came in the wake of Conan the Barbarian. The filmmakers took a gamble by playing up the sci-fi element of the toys and trying a crossover into our world. The dice came up snake-eyes. Kids were confused, parents were bored and the franchise died until the rise of 80’s nostalgia brought it back to life.

Starship Troopers: Adapted from "Starship Troopers"

This adaptation of Robert Heinlien’s military sci-fi classic seems pretty straightforward on the surface even if you discount the lack of the power armor from the book. But under Paul Verhoeven’s subversive direction, it soon becomes clear the movie is a satire of gung-ho war movies, full of all the cliches and playing them as straight as possible. The propaganda breaks in the film serve a similar purpose to his excellent commercial parodies in Robocop. They give the audience a chance to let out all the laughter they’ve been holding in during the rest of the movie.