Thursday, February 25, 2010

Major movie disappointment

My eleven-year-old daughter had been immensely excited -- jump-up-and-down excited -- to see the film version of The Lightning Thief, because she adores the Percy Jackson series. Ever since we saw the first teaser trailer months ago, she was talking about how she couldn't wait for the movie to come out. So her expectations were fairly high.

Well, we finally went to see it last weekend. I read the book some time ago, but even though it wasn't terribly fresh in my mind, I could see there were some fairly enormous differences between the book and the movie. I wasn't particularly thrilled with some of the changes I noticed. But I've been through this so many times - only rarely does a movie hold up well to the book in my experience, so I guess I'm used to it. But this feeling of betrayal and disappointment is new to my daughter, and I guess she wasn't expecting it. She wasn't just disappointed. She was furious.

"They cut out Mr. D! Mr. D! What is Camp Halfblood without Mr. D?" she exclaimed. They also cut out Percy's nemesis, Ares' daughter Clarisse and her cronies, which meant no toilet water scene, something I gather she'd been looking forward to seeing on the big screen.

"They cut out all the best parts!" she said with disgust as we were walking back to the car. "And they put in their own blabber. It was awful!" I am still laughing inside about that - she hit the nail on the head. How many movies based on books would be vastly improved had they not added their "own blabber"?

When we got home, she started telling her father, who had wisely opted out of this experience, all about the movie. Tears actually came to her eyes as she tried to describe the breadth and depth of her disappointment in the movie. How wonderful, I thought, that she loves a book so very much that she feels this passionate about the way the movie tells the story. But I also felt so sorry for her disappointment.

I know it's unreasonable to expect that a film recreate exactly the story told in the book - but it certainly can recreate the spirit of the book, which I felt the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the Harry Potter movies and, most recently, The Fantastic Mr. Fox honestly attempted to do. I didn't hate the film - it was quite entertaining. Uma Thurman made a very charming Medusa, for one thing. Some departures from the plot of the novel are baffling to me. For example (minor spoiler), the big showdown at the end of the book is between Percy and Ares, the god of war. So naturally the reader is alarmed for Percy's welfare - he's going up against a god, after all, who specializes in combat. In the movie, though, he's up against the son of Hermes. Hmmm...son of Poseidon, one of the three most powerful Greek gods, against the son of Hermes, a minor deity in comparison? Should we even bother to watch this? Not quite the same, is it?

What about you? Have you seen the movie? Did you applaud the action/adventure fun or, like my daughter, were you disgusted with the added blabber? Do you have a favorite film adaptation of a favorite book? Or one that left you feeling angry and betrayed? Or maybe even a film that you enjoyed more than the book? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Your daughter had the exact same reaction that my husband and I had after the movie. We yelled in the car all the way home expressing outrage and the frustration of how BAD the movie was. It was like they combined Annabeth and Clarisse to make the Annabeth on the big screen. The characters they cut out? SO STUPID these are characters pivotal to the rest of the series! What do they expect to do now??

    Gah. I was so happy we didn't have to pay to see the movie because we used gift cards, but I still want my money back.

  2. Your poor daughter!! Bad film adaptations of beloved books can be crushing. My sympathies. :/

  3. I was thinking of taking my 15-year-old son to the movie. He loved the books many years ago when they first came out. Perhaps I'll wait and watch it on DVD. You're not the only one who's reported a disappointment.

    I love your blog! And I was so glad to meet you today, and your presentation on graphic novels was fabulous -- and made me resolve to read more graphic novels.

    Most of all, it was fun to meet another librarian-blogger and thus know automatically there's something of the kindred spirit about you!

  4. I hated it too... Not just that they changed it, but that they changed it to such awful, boring stuff. (To clarify: the parts that weren't awful were boring.) They cut everything special about the characters and concocted a dumb plot to put in the place of an interesting one, all for no apparent reason at all.

  5. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm dying to read the book, many kids have recommended it to me, saying if I like HP, I'll like this. I am sorry though about A's disappointment, she should write a letter to the studio, since she is the target audience. Maybe they will fix the second movie?

  6. That is so funny ("their own blabber!") and I totally sympathize. One of my biggest book-to-film disappointments was Practical Magic. They turned a subtle, elegant story into a Hollywood-ized "chick flick" with simplified ideas of witchcraft and cliches galore. Sigh.

    What about the flip side of this? When seeing a movie (either good or so-so) leads you to the book it was based on - and you fall in love with it? That happened to me with Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin.

  7. I'd not heard of the books until the movie came out. I loved the movie because of the mythological references and characters, but now I'll have to read the books to see what I've been missing.

  8. Oooh, ouch. I have been there. I am pretty extreme when it comes to not watching movies period (too lazy, mostly) but especially movies based on books I've liked. I agree with your assessment of LotR and HP -- both true to the spirit of the books. I couldn't *believe* I liked the LotR movies, but I did. I also enjoyed Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, although I know I might not be in the majority on that one, and more recently Where the Wild Things Are. But not only is there a bitter disappointment when a movie based on a book sucks, but I can't get the director's vision out of my head once seen. Which nullifies re-reads for me, which makes me mad.

  9. I haven't read the book, but I am hoping to once my son finishes it. I didn't mind the movie, but then again I didn't have any expectations.

  10. Cat - I was wondering if you'd seen it, since you've clearly enjoyed the books so much. You are right - what DO they expect to do without those important characters?

    Jenny - Thanks! We've all been through it, haven't we?

    Sondy - It was great to meet you, too, and I'm glad you enjoyed the presentation. It was fun! And the best part, of course, is meeting a fellow book-blogging librarian. Yay!

    Fatalis - I agree. Such pointless changes that really undermined the point of the book - like having them sneak off from camp, instead of being sent on a quest like in the book (which in my mind ups the tension, since Percy is not feeling ready at all, and to have it a formal quest really puts the pressure on). Gah!

    VA Gal - I'll be interested to hear what you think of the books. There would be a lot to fix - I'm not even sure how they could continue on without doing a lot of backtracking - or maybe they intend to keep the title of the book but change everything else so they can put in cool special effects?

    Devinoni - Thanks for reminding me about Practical Magic - I have been meaning to read that ever since you told me how disappointed you were in the movie. I love the flip side of this - that's great that you found G.R.R. Martin through that movie. I would love to hear more stories like that!

    Jakque - I think that seeing the film first is definitely the way to go. The book is similar but really packs some substantial differences. If you enjoyed the movie, I think you'll love the books!

    Kiirstin - I also liked the Narnia movies, too - forgot to mention that. That's awful that they nullify rereading for you - yikes! I think the first big disappointment is definitely the worst. Now I bet she'll go in with a healthy dose of skepticism, which might buffer her a little bit next time. :-)

    Marg - I think I would have enjoyed the movie much more had I not read the book first. I'll be interested to hear what you think when you've read the book - how the reverse order changes your experience.

  11. I really think it depends on the director and the script their given. If the directors haven't read the book, its hard to know what was taken out of the book that readers turned moviegoers would find essential.

    I have not read the books, so the movie might be good to me. I'm sorry that she had to learn how disappointing the transition to movie from book can be...and I think the same can be said for movies turned into books (aka Insomnia or Last Song)!

    On a completely unrelated note, I hope you will consider joining my National Poetry Month blog tour in April. Here are the details:

  12. Serena - I agree. I think if you haven't read the book, you'd probably enjoy the film much more. Thanks for telling me about the poetry month blog tour - I'll be by to check it out!


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