Tuesday, January 28, 2014

10 movies that totally ignored or undermined their subject matter

We all love Hollywood, right? Hell! I know I do!

But what about when Hollywood takes your favourite book, game or comic, strips it apart and rebuilds it as something not even remotely close to the source material? That can really hurt. Below I will be taking a look at 10 movie adaptations that totally undermined their own source material, and then went gallivanting of into the sunset as if nothing bad had just happened.


Firstly, it's pretty hard to look past this movie when Brad Pitt is rocking a Hillbilly mullet, but it's even harder to truly enjoy a movie that disregards pretty much everything about the source it came from.

For those of you who don't know, World War Z is a modern classic, and an established book in the zombie fiction world. Max Brooks, the author, has made a name for himself as one of the best modern zombie fiction masters. The book (for those of you who haven't read it- and if you haven't read it why are you here?) is basically a collection of fictional letters, diary entries and interviews telling the stories of various survivors of the worldwide war against, you know, the zombies- hence the name 'World War Z'. But you know what? Hollywood took that idea, decided it wouldn't work, and instead of creating an original zombie plotline, they stole the title and made whatever the movie was supposed to be.

In a way, World War Z (The Movie) works. It's not exactly the worst movie that ever existed, and it has some truly tense moments. It's a pretty terrifying example of what can happen when just one little thing goes wrong. It's also probably a fair comment that the book, despite being a truly awesome read, probably wouldn't translate that well as a movie, but does that make it OK? Max Brooks was so upset that he disowned the movie, claiming it had as much relevance to his book as a goat has to a crocodile. (I made that up, but I can imagine he said something similar). If Hollywood absolutely, positively, with a cherry on top HAD to make this movie, couldn't they have given it a different name? After all, that is pretty much the basis of my entire argument.


So you're Frank Darabont, a man who has gotten most of his fame from directing two fantastic Stephen King adaptations- The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. So what do you do next? Handle a remake of Carrie? Maybe The Shining needs a reboot? Oh, wait. Nobody's ever made a movie of King's short story The Mist yet! Let's do that!

Again, this movie isn't actually that bad. In fact, Darabont is a good director, and his love of Stephen King movies means he normally handles the subject matter attentively, but this one completely disregarded the actual book's ending. I mean, you're basically dealing with a story about a portal to another dimension being opened and monsters from another world arriving on Earth, so it's probably important not to take it too seriously, but even so this movie should have ended in the way the book did.

Because godammit the ending to the movie version is totally depressing. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't watched the movie, but it was totally unexpected, probably a slight overreaction from a father who had given everything to keep his son safe up until that point, and almost certainly more depressing than we needed. It hasn't exactly been a pleasant movie from the start, much like the novella it's based on, but at least King tried to give us a bleak, yet hopeful, ending.

The movie plucked the ending away from us, took a big steaming dump on the plot, and decided to throw in a shock ending that certainly achieved its aim in shocking us as an audience. Stephen King, the man himself, said that he preferred the movie's ending and wondered why he hadn't written it himself, but in reality he's probably rolling in his swimming pool full of money and doesn't really give a shit either way.


If you haven't seen this movie, then congratulations on having an intact emotional outlook on life. Also, you're probably already thinking that this sounds like a pretty ridiculous concept for a movie, especially one that isn't animated. Unfortunately, the big studios of the 80s and 90s clearly didn't feel the same, which is why, like Victor Frankenstein, they allowed a monstrosity such as this to be born into the world. Firstly, it was apparently a 'wise' idea to disregard everything the Super Mario brothers games stood for, instead throwing them into the 'real' world, in a dystopian future where Coopa isn't a turtle but is actually Dennis Hopper.

That wasn't the only bad thing about the movie, but it was by far the most notable moment in a movie that was packed full of disappointment. It must have felt something like unwrapping your christmas present only to find out you've been given a time bomb as your one and only gift.

Secondly, it was apparently totally 'cool' to have John Leguizamo starring as Luigi, and Bob 'cockney' Hoskins starring as an Italian plumber, whose only resemblance to the actual character is that he's slightly fat and slightly short.

Frankly, I don't think anything else has to be said about this movie, because just acknowledging that it exists is making my eyes bleed, so let's just leave it there.

Also, the movie's tagline is "This ain't no game." The promoters were right about that- it was much, much more painful.


I was ecstatic for this. I loved the Doom games, and for years I'd been saying that they were almost perfect to be made into a movie. And then one day, innocently watching some movie that had no relevance whatsoever to demon slaying, I see the trailer for a movie called 'Doom' pop up on the screen. It's got The Rock in it! It's got Karl Urban, who was pretty cool in the LOTR movies! It's got Rosamund Pyke looking incredibly flat-chested. LET'S GO AND WATCH IT!

Again, this movie wasn't actually terrible. For a game adaptation, it was notable by the fact it didn't completely suck. It just didn't feel anything like Doom. Sure, it has some monsters in it, and there is an arseload of shooting in it, but that's where the familiarity ends. The plotline is set on Mars, like the game, but it doesn't have anything about gateways to Hell being opened. Instead, it has some pseudo-scientific plotline about missing chromosomes. This was done because, even in the 21st century, we're all apparently too fragile to deal with the concept of Hell or so the studios tell us. Instead, we got men in rubber suits (which we probably would have got anyway, even if it had been involving Hell beasts) and a first person shooter scene which is actually pretty impressive. However, they then had to go and end it on a fight between Rocky boy and Karly boy, which was unnecessary and a little bit homo-erotic, especially with all the crotch slamming that happens.

Last time I checked, a fast and frantic, strafing gun adventure such as Doom didn't end in a one-on-one fight between two overly macho men. Admittedly, it's been a few years since I properly completed the game, but I still think I can remember how it ended. The movie is an enjoyable romp, and The Rock chews up the scenes he is in as if he hasn't eaten for a decade, but it shouldn't have been called 'Doom'.


I don't even know why I watched this movie. From the moment the omnishambles director Uwe Boll was attached, I should have feared the worst. But I love the old arcade games, and there was very little else more fun than shooting zombies apart with a light pistol. I had to give the movie a chance, even if Uwe Boll's stupid, smiling face was urging me not to.

Sadly, this wasn't the one moment when Boll got it spot on, because he NEVER has those moments. In a way, it started quite well. The movie had that slightly campy, old school way about it, as did the games, and it at least seemed like it would have zombies in it. It was all looking quite good. And then the movie got going and OMG WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING?!?!? People ninja kicking zombies. A woman in an overly patriotic stars and stripes catsuit using her martial arts skills on hordes of the undead. And the zombies can talk.

Yes, the zombies can talk. They're undead, shambling corpses, or at least they're supposed to be, and here they are in the movie having a goddamn conversation about how much they want to eat their victims. It's like The Walking Dead's slower moments, but bizarrely adverse. The worst part is that the 'house' of the title appears on the screen for about two minutes, and pretty much all of the drama takes place on a tropical island, far removed from the isolated 'house' of the original game. Admittedly, the house in the game was a mansion, not a run down shack, but Uwe Boll couldn't make a good movie if he was given a budget the size of a small country, so I have no sympathy for him.


In an attempt to turn the Halloween series into a 'franchise' that could essentially live up to any plotline every October, the producers decided that number three would wave goodbye to their main slasher icon Michael Myers and his scary mask, and replace him with Tom 'Selleck lookalike' Atkins and his equally scary moustache. In this Halloween movie, the only masks on site are Halloween ones, being sold by a mysterious company. When a child puts on the mask, it causes their head to 'melt' and somehow turn into maggots and rats. We haven't worked out how that part happens, yet, but it sure is supposed to be terrifying. And probably, back then, it was truly terrifying, but the movie does not hold up well to scrutiny and now well, now, it just looks like somebody cracked their skull open on their petting zoo.

It was a pretty noble effort, actually. Clearly the team behind it were trying to break away from Michael Myers, even though he was the only reason the movies were successful in the first place. Clearly Mr Atkins was supposed to be the face of the 'new' Halloween saga. Fortunately for both us, and people with acute phobias of facial hair, it never went further than this. It if had at least been a commendable movie, you could have forgiven them. But if you're trying to establish a brand new horror concept, then making a movie about rubber masks that emulsify toddler's faces is probably a little too obscure. By Halloween 4, Michael Myers was back, the third movie was swept under the carpet like a dead mouse, and nobody even dared to mention that time when Tom Atkins punched a man through some cardboard boxes- a scene that looked a lot more death-defying than it likely was.


Before you all get the stakes and the pitchforks to run me off of the internet, just let me present my argument to you.

Yes, LOTR is one of the best movie trilogies to ever exist. Peter Jackson truly had a love for his source material and beautifully crafted a movie that felt as epic as the book it was based on. Yes, those battle scene were truly awesome. Yes, Andy Serkis as Gollum was a pretty inspired performance, especially when he caught a fish in that freezing lake and nearly died.

But the ending of the trilogy is a huge, massive cop out.

In the Tolkien books, it doesn't end well at all. Nobody makes it out of the war with a massive grin on their face- not even a grizzled, scarred grimace of acceptance and loss.

Because in the book the Shire falls and literally thousands of Hobbits are brutally murdered.

It's true, Frodo, don't look so surprised!

I'll give you time to read that sentence, take it all in, and regain your consciousness after that coma you understandably slipped into. Feeling better now? Good. Then I'll continue!

If you've read the books, you'll already know this, but for the rest of you- it's true. Sam and Frodo finished their mission, their heads filled with thoughts of how many Hobbit babes they'll be fending off, only to find out that the forces of Mordor have totally conquered the Shire. Sure, Middle Earth may be saved, the One Ring may be destroyed and the forces of man will most likely still emerge as victors, but the two borderline gay hobbits have lost everyone they ever loved. Not to mention that their homeland has been conquered by a bunch of unwashed, smelly orcs/goblins/Uruk-Hai.

Peter Jackson clearly felt that this ending was a little to bleak for Hollywood, and probably quite really, but don't let it change the facts- the LOTR movies undermined the ending of an otherwise pretty loyal adaptation.


How many of us have wanted to step on a bug? Most of us. But how many of us have wanted to get a horribly oversized rifle, don some body armour and wage all out war on a whole planet of them? Probably not so many of us. But that's what happens in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, but the bugs are twice the size of the humans and pretty freakin' scary.

The book, written by acclaimed sci fi author Robert Heinlein, also has humans going to war with oversized bugs. However, whereas Verhoeven was using the whole war as a comment against Fascism and Totalitarianism, Heinlein uses it as an excuse to give mankind massive mecha droids and blaster cannons. In the movie, we see that in order to become a citizen, and therefore have a right to vote, to have babies or do anything worthwhile in society, an individual has to give time to the Mobile Infantry. This is also true in the book but it seems slightly more fair when the mobile infantry are actually people in bloody massive robo-walkers launching rocket volleys at some ill-prepared giant insects.

Of course, it's all deliberate. It's all part of both writer and director's aims to get a message across.

Heinlein said, shortly after the release of the movie, that although he disliked the change of tone of the movie, he understood it and even thought it was a welcome adaptation. Paul Verhoeven was respectful in his response, too by admitting that he hadn't even finished the book his movie was based on.


Obviously, the first inconsistency you're going to pick up on is Mel Gibson's 'Scottish' accent. Once you get past that, if you can get past that, you'll find yourself watching a pretty good historical epic. But it's full of lies!

William Wallace wasn't even the leader of the Scottish rebellion against the English, for a start. He was pretty much the equivalent to a general. A leader of the armies, sure, but still answerable to Robert the Bruce, who was far from being the coward that he is shown to be in the movie. In fact, the only reason that Willy-boy Wallace became so infamous was mainly due to him being batshit insane, more likely to cut the head off his own soldier as he was to attempt to murder the king of England. Alongside shacking up with the king's missus, Wallace has time to recruit a whole army, pull a moony at an entire English army, and then lead them to relative victory. The movie shows them having a pretty glorious time of it before finally succumbing, whilst still fighting admirably. But in reality they ran away.

Not straight away, admittedly. They turned up to the battle with the best intentions. But once the English archers started, which probably looked like witchcraft to the Scots, it was the equivalent of an ant going to war against an atomic bomb. The Scots didn't last very long, and they soon fled back from where they had come from, their bums never having once emerged from under their kilts. It's once thing to undermine a book or a game, but history? History? Is nothing sacred?

I blame Mel Gibson. Because why not?

So who made it to number one? Wait till later, patient readers, and all shall be revealed!
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