The process of turning a great book into a great movie is fraught with peril. You will never make everyone happy, while also being at the mercy of a story that is beloved in its own right and its own medium. Here are some adaptations that not only made us want to burn down Hollywood as an industry, but also, with the right people behind it, deserve another go.
The Dark Tower
I wake up in the night screaming, shivering from the cold sweat, and I know what I always try and forget: the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower sucks. I’m one of those Stephen King fans. You know them, the people who raise their eyebrow and crash through your opinion of The Shining or The Stand and say with terrifying eye-contact, “But The Dark Tower is his magnum opus.” I had been dreaming of an adaptation for years, ignoring the presence of Ron Howard and just wanting some version of the story to reach the big screen. Then a finger of that damn monkey’s paw closed and I got the abomination that was 2017’s The Dark Tower. To say that this series needs a better adaptation is like saying a burning building needs a fucking hose, but it’s obvious because it’s true. Here is my pitch: properly adapt the first novel, clear out the real world shit and save that for later, keep Idris Elba, and give it to a director that excels in action. Roland Deschain is the Gunslinger, so watch some early John Woo and don’t give us that Hollywood nonsense action that uses CGI effects to make it worse. I’m tired of waking up cold and wet.
Kenneth Branagh came gunning straight for my childhood with this dreadful adaptation of the stories that made my pre-adolescent years. The thing that makes it so bloody irritating, more than anything, is knowing how brilliantly these books could turn into films in the right hands: there’s a cinematic swagger to Eoin Colfer’s writing and action, and so many of his stories are made for the pot-boiling action thriller genre. The first change? Artemis needs to be the villain of the first movie. No mollycoddling; the best thing about these books, and what makes them so appealing to evil little shitbags like young me, is how nasty their leading man is.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn is a miracle in this poor excuse of an adaptation of the Truman Capote novel it’s based on. Without her to fall in love with, idolise, or both, this would be a complete shit show. Her icon status is the movie’s greatest strength but the adaptation’s greatest weakness. In the book, Holly Golightly is a party girl who is, let’s face it, a mess of a person. Her neighbour, who is a big strapping nobody in the movie, is Capote’s self-insert in the book, is fascinated by Holly instead of horny for her. The movie is too clean in its characterisation, too restrained by the idea that audiences of the time would be alienated by Hepburn if she was more true to the novel, though they may have a point there. Because of Hepburn, any new adaptation would be screwed for having the temerity to exist, but just think what Greta Gerwig could do with the the chance to really dig in to these characters and this time in New York. She beautifully updated Little Women without losing an ounce of what made it great in the first place, this would be a piece of cake. Oh, and that awful Asian stereotype yellow-face nightmare? That’s first thing to go.
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By Lou MacGregor and Kevin Boyle