In Defense: Bad Book-To-Movie Adaptations

When the big screen meets, or even exceeds, the readers’ expectations, it’s almost magical. But what about when the movie is… not so great.

Adaptations Fandom Opinions Pop Culture Young Adult

For a bookworm, almost nothing is as satisfying as a smooth book-to-movie transition. Reading about your favorite characters and animating them in your own head can set high expectations for the film that seeks to do the same. So, when the big screen meets, or even exceeds, the readers’ expectations, it’s almost magical. But what about when the movie is… not so great.



What to do about the Percy Jackson, Divergent, Mortal Instruments, and yes, Twilight films. I will die on this blue-grey filtered hill. What makes them so bad? And what to do as a reader that held such high expectations, only to be ultimately let down? For the sake of the argument, I’ll be referencing the pitiful YA novel adaptations. Why tween novel adaptations are seemingly doomed to fail is a question for another time.




Take Twilight, with all of its melodramatic, “it’s not a phase mom” energy. Although a smash hit around the time of its release, the movies presented odd dialogue, awkward pauses, and way, way too many star-crossed lover staring contests. Don’t even get me started about the subtly glossed over fact that one of the main characters sided with the Confederacy. However, Twilight arguably gave us a shared cultural experience, marked by the many memes and shared ridicule of the film’s desire to be taken far too seriously.


The same goes for the other aforementioned adaptations. The Percy Jackson movies, while a near dumpster fire compared to the beloved novels, was enjoyed in the moment by so many avid readers, and non-readers, of the series. At the time, the tween fandom behind the series had no idea how awful the movie would turn out to be when examined with eyes belonging to someone that finished puberty. Yet, in the moment, they brought so much shared joy to the fanbase that it’s poor execution almost seems insignificant by comparison, for what is the use of an excellent movie that doesn’t reach the target audience?




But doesn’t an excellent adaptation, say the Harry Potter franchise, do the same thing? Of course it does, but nothing brings together an army of nerds like the immortalization of an adaptation so glaringly bad. Not everyone enjoys the Harry Potter movies, but almost everyone can agree on a bad adaptation when they see it, I guarantee.


A bad movie adaptation gives the reader an odd sense of hope that one day, one glorious day, an actually tolerable film might be made. When the books aren’t expertly preserved on the big screen, it leaves the perfect image of the characters preserved in the reader’s mind, unmarred by casting directors that harbor a completely different vision. Fans can bring them to life in their own way, without having to conform to the vision outlined by the films. There’s no actor to modify the pristine picture painted in the reader’s mind’s eye, no actor to commit some social atrocity that then alters the way you see the very franchise. A bad adaptation allows you to completely disregard those chosen for the film, leaving you the option to dismiss them with a swift “that’s not how I pictured them.”




At a base level, some things are just so painfully, wretchedly bad, that you enjoy watching them just for that alone. Twilight, the film franchise I just ragged on, is a guilt pleasure of mine. Some people love rewatching the adaptations of their favorite young adult novels and relive the dedication they had to the fictional universe. Sometimes even the worst adaptations offer the comfort we desire from them. The fact that the film is so bad makes it even better to watch — “can you believe how awful this is” — than a decent one.


So don’t be ashamed to cherish the worst of the worst book-to-movie adaptations. Watch your cringe-inducing, oversaturated, tween fantasies come to life, and laugh in the face of those who judge you because, secretly, you know that they love it just as much as you do.


FEATURED IMAGE CREDITS: IMDb, rotten tomatoes, bgeeky blog