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As we come to the end of the year, it is always a lot of fun to see which of our favorite books made it to the big screen and how they panned out. However, one major setback of 2020 was that with the pandemic, we lost out on a lot of the adaptations we were supposed to get. Luckily we still got enough to satisfy our bookish cravings (and to make these lists) so while we wait patiently for more adaptations to come in 2021, let’s take a look back at the five best and five worst of 2020.
the five best
5. The Call of the Wild
Part of me wanted to put this on the “five worst” list, because of how far away from Jack London’s original tone and voice this movie strays, but my heart seems to always hold true with Disney. This was never a book that should have been picked up by Disney, but if you can remove yourself from being a literary purist and look at the movie with fresh eyes, it’s actually quite enjoyable. The CGI Buck can easily melt your heart; plus, we get to see this adorable pup next to the legendary Harrison Ford.
Original: The Call of the Wild by Jack London
4. The Witches
The Witches came under fire upon its release due to the portrayal of the witches’ hands, so it can’t break top three on our list, but its accuracy to the Roald Dahl classic still lands it a spot in the top five. In addition to the faithfulness to the 1983 book, the casting was also done excellently. Stanley Tucci has never disappointed me in a role, and this is no exception. Anne Hathaway seemed to channel her inner Miranda Priestly, and Octavia Spencer’s warmth radiates off the screen.
Original: The Witches by Roald Dahl
3. The Kissing Booth 2
To address the elephant in the room: yes, the first one was definitely better. On the other hand, though, we can’t deny that the sequel gives us everything we could have hoped to get out of it. The Kissing Booth 2 is a quirky, happy rom-com that might not accurately portray college but it does accurately portray the difficulty in picking one. Plus, how could I not include a Jacob Elordi movie on the top 5 list?
Original: The Kissing Booth 2: Going the Distance by Beth Reekles
Before I can say anything else, let me just say this: Bill Nighy. I could not image anybody else playing Emma’s father, the crazy Mr. Woodhouse. I have liked Bill Nighy since Love Actually, I have loved him since About Time, and now I love him even more from being perfectly casted in a Jane Austen adaptation. Besides him, though, the casting was perfect all around and the movie itself portrayed the complicated world of Jane Austen love stories excellently.
Original: Emma by Jane Austen
1. Invisible Man
Normally I am not a huge fan of modernizing classic tales, but this adaptation completely blew me out of my seat. It was the last movie I saw in theaters before everything got shut down and I cannot put into words how happy I am that I got to experience it in that setting. My heart was pounding the entire time, there were just a few healthy plot twists for the movie to maintain a firm grasp on my attention, and I always love seeing Elizabeth Moss being a hardcore, “don’t mess with me,” leading actress.
Original: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
the five worst
For me, it’s hard to watch another adaptation of Doctor Dolittle when we just had the Eddie Murphy ones from the late nineties/early 2000s. Critics didn’t love it, but I grew up with those movies, so Robert Downey Jr. had some large shoes to fill nonetheless. Despite the star-studded cast, it just fell flat. The CGI animals didn’t look great and at times they were nearly as creepy as the cast in Cats. The storyline was also messy and unentertaining, only fit for an incredibly young audience that needs constant stimulation.
Original: Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
4. Artemis Fowl
Unfortunately, Artemis Fowl is another children’s book gone wrong when it comes to its screen adaptation. Artemis Fowl was worse than Dolittle, though, because Kenneth Branah and his team tried to cram two books into one movie. Why is Josh Gad narrating every single thing in the movie (and I mean things you can and should already understand to be happening, and do not at all need a narrator to point out to you). The casting did not match up with the characters well, but the plot itself is a mess anyway so at that point it doesn’t matter.
Original: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
This is another movie where I actually was not sure if I loved it enough to put it on the top five list or hated it enough to put it on the bottom five one instead. However, I will always find myself biased towards previous screen adaptations that I’ve loved already for years. The best-selling novel was brought to the big screen in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock and would garner him the only Oscar he would ever receive, despite his timeless and legendary portfolio. I enjoyed the most-recent adaptation (and I especially enjoyed Armie Hammer/Armie Hammer with Lily James), but who in their right mind ever thought they could do better than Hitchcock?
Original: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
2. The Turning
This adaptation was honestly just bad. There are no other words for it. If you don’t know anything about the Henry James gothic classic, maybe you can find it to be a somewhat decent horror film, but even so it leaves much to disappoint. Liberties were taken too far to create a new and different narrative than that of The Turn of the Screw. The ending was also completely botched; supposed to be left open to interpretation but instead left me feeling like I wasted my time. All I had to show for the hour and forty minutes I spent watching it was one lousy headache.
Original: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
1. Wonder Woman 1984
I admit, this is a stretch to be included on the adaptation list, since it is a movie that was simply inspired by comic books and the storyline has very little to do with the comics themselves. However, there were a few things that made it from the comic books to the big screen; some of which went well and some of which did not. One that did not bode well is the explanation of the Golden Eagle armor, despite the fact I surprisingly like its origin story better in the movie. I believe the opening scene of Diana as a child was supposed to link to why she could wear the armor later on, but that’s my best bet given the fact the scene never came back into conversation. Realistically, that scene could have been eliminated entirely and the movie would have been better off. The duration of the movie is so unnecessarily long and if the opening doesn’t explain anything anyway, then what is the point in keeping it? Besides the pointless and dragged out opening and the failed explanation for how the armor came to be in Diana’s possession, the overall story was just stupid. Sure, it was entertaining and I was happy to see Gal Gadot back as Wonder Woman (and with Chris Pine by her side, somehow no longer dead). However, I had higher expectations for the sequel I have been waiting three years for.
Original: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
FEATURED IMAGES VIA IMDB
Twenty-four year old Anya Taylor-Joy is quickly climbing the ranks in the acting world. Having begun in the horror genre, with films like Split, and then swerving into period pieces such as Emma, she's now found herself in the powerful female lead role as Beth Harmon in the Netflix original, The Queen's Gambit. And this power-house actress and winner of the BAFTA Rising Star Award is also just as passionate about books as the rest of us.
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