7 Biggest Adaptation Disappointments We Cringed Over

When a beloved book turns into a film, there may be a lot of disappointments in store. Read on to learn about the worst book to movie adaptations.

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Still fron "Percy Jackson on the left and still from "World War Z' on the right.

When it comes to adapting a popular novel, there’s a significant amount of pressure placed on the director by more than just Hollywood execs. Readers love the novels, which is why they were adapted, meaning they have certain expectations as to what the story is supposed to look like. While movie adaptations are rarely word-for-word reincarnations, they should still be able to do the stories and the fans justice. Unfortunately, that is not always what ends up scrolling across the silver screen. It’s not only due to expectations being out of reach, but the adaptation itself might not have even been able to tell a good story in and of itself. These are some of the book-to-movie adaptations that massively missed the mark.

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

It can be ambitious to adapt an entire book series into one film, but the people behind The Dark Tower decided it could be done. The attempt didn’t pay off. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower book series is about a man’s long journey toward a tower and all of the physical and mental obstacles along the way. The series also combines some of King’s other novels to create a complex multiverse.

Still from "The Dark Tower" with the main characters staring at each other menacingly.

Obviously, the film would not have time to adapt every element of the book series, but it pieced together a variety of storylines from the different books. It has the same basic plot but with significant event changes. Critics and book fans alike found the movie to be messy and the plot really uninteresting compared to the novels. The film’s story wasn’t attention-grabbing either, which led to a long, drawn-out wait to finish it. The widespread negative reviews demonstrate the problems that can occur when attempting to put plots from eight big books into one little film.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is loved by millions of fans. Therefore, there were a lot of expectations for how this mythological series about the son of Poseidon would come to life. Unfortunately, the movies did not live up to expectations.

Still from "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" with the three main characters standing in front of a dirty car looking confident.

For starters, the films aged the characters from younger children to teenagers. There were also complaints that the films didn’t have a full understanding of the novels, such as changing personalities. Films were only made for the first two novels, but this was intended to be a five-film series. However, the lack of financial success and people’s disappointment led to the quick ending of the adaptations. Recently, a television series was released by Disney+ in an attempt to bring the modern Greek myths to life. While not perfect, it has received a lot better reviews compared to the original films.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The fantasy novel Artemis Fowl should have looked magical when it came to life on film. This story of a fairy kidnapped by the titular character and the mystical journey to save her was an instant hit when it came out. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the film.

Still from "Artemis Fowl" with four characters, two in suits and two looking like monsters, staring in the distance.

There are a lot of changes made from book to film that leave the film with a confusing story with bad characterization that didn’t entertain critics or the public. There was also criticism of the effects, as they did not create enough of the magic that people were looking for. These poorly done elements, combined with the confusing plot and less-than-relatable characters, made for a film that left much to be desired.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

When people read a novel as a child, they are often more attached to the story due to their fond memories. That was part of the challenge of adapting Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This story about a boy who discovers an orphanage filled with children with strange powers was quite popular in the young adult genre. Many children feel like they grew up with this book. Expectations were exponentially high for the film adaptation.

Still from "MIss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" with a dignified woman holding a pocket watch and a teenage boy looking at a young girl.

As a film, this adaptation received mixed reviews due to being a bit messy and rushed. However, as an adaptation of a novel, people found this film to have too many differences from its source material, with a story that was nowhere near as satisfying as the original. The film may have done just okay on its own, but it being an adaptation is what made the film a disappointment in many people’s eyes.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Classic novels can be fairly difficult to adapt, as the stories are so ingrained in society. The 1995 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter did not treat the source material well at all. This 19th-century novel of a woman shamed by her society was turned into an absolute flop of a film.

Still from "The Scarlet Letter" with a woman tied up and gagged and a man staring off with a hand on her shoulder.

It lost money and received abysmal reviews criticizing the movie’s awful storytelling and large deviation from the novel. It’s so bad that people found this normally serious story unintentionally funny. It’s considered one of the worst films ever made and was nominated for seven Razzie awards. The book has had long-lasting power because people found it to be a classic, but the film is one that people wanted to forget right after they saw it.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Sometimes, a film adaptation misses the message of its source material. That was the case for the film adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper. The book tells the story of a girl who was tired of donating all of her organs to her sick sister, so she decided to sue her parents. For the most part, the film adapted the book’s story fairly well, as it could pack in a lot of the emotions. However, the problem comes in the film’s ending.

Still from "My Sister's Keeper" with two young sisters, one with a bandanna around her bald head, sitting on a blanket on the grass.

Spoilers for those who do not know the story: in the novel, the healthy sister ends up dying after being hit by a car, and her organs are then donated to her sister. In the film, the sick sister dies after the healthy sister stops helping her. The film’s ending disappointed many fans of the novel as they felt it sent out the wrong idea of the story and what it was supposed to be about. The book’s ending gave more nuance and was far less predictable. Nevertheless, the film chose a less interesting ending.

World War Z by Max Brooks

One would think that the story of a zombie apocalypse would be more exciting when told in a film. However, that might not be the case when there is no substantial story to back it up. That was the problem with the film adaptation of World War Z.

Still from "World War Z" with a nervous man standing with his scared family with disaster and chaos in the background.

This novel centers around a sudden zombie apocalypse breaking out in society and how different people react to this horror. When the novel became a movie, that plot was changed slightly. The film is about one man who is trying to help everyone by finding a solution and fighting the zombie armies. Fans of the novel found the direction the film took to be anti-climactic and did not have the intrigue found in the novel. While the film did well financially, it did not live up to the novel for many fans, and the film’s story did not satisfy anyone’s wishes for elements of an adaptation.

When it comes to adapting a popular book to the screen, complaints are unavoidable. There will always be fans who do not like the new way that their favorite story is being told. However, there are plenty of adaptations that have done a terrific job with what they were working with. Unfortunately, as shown above, that’s not always the case. These are the types of adaptations that upset people the most, tell a dull story, and become a stain on the novel’s legacy.

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