10 Book-to-Movie Adaptations That Completely Lost the Plot

10 Book-to-Movie Adaptations That Completely Lost the Plot
Image credit: Legion-Media, globallookpress, EuropaCorp

These are the book-to-movie adaptations that took one too many liberties. You know the kind, the ones that make you question whether the director actually read the same book you did.

1. Eragon (2006)

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The first offender on our list is the infamous film adaptation of Eragon, the beloved fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini. Fans eagerly anticipated the story of a farm boy-turned-dragon rider on the big screen, but their expectations were mercilessly crushed. With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of a dismal 16%, the film was criticized for its cliche storyline, one-dimensional characters, and heavy reliance on CGI. It fell flat at the box office too, earning just $75 million domestically against a $100 million budget.

2. The Golden Compass (2007)

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While the adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass boasted a star-studded cast, including Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and impressive visual effects, it failed to capture the book's philosophical and religious undertones. This resulted in an overly simplified plot that lacked the depth of the original narrative.

With a mediocre Rotten Tomatoes rating of 42%, the film's lackluster reception was a disappointment for fans. It did manage a decent box office gross of $372 million, but it failed to win any major awards. The rest of the trilogy has never been adapted, leaving fans in a permanent cliffhanger limbo.

3. The Giver (2014)

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Lois Lowry's dystopian novel The Giver captivated readers with its thought-provoking themes and compelling characters. The film adaptation, however, gave us a watered-down version of the story that traded the book's subtlety and nuance for Hollywood cliches.

Despite a stellar cast, including Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, and a respectable box office earning of $67 million, the film has a disappointing 35% on Rotten Tomatoes. In an interview, Lowry admitted she wasn't fully satisfied with the adaptation, hinting at behind-the-scenes disagreements about the film's direction. This adaptation is a clear case of less being more, and the plot took the brunt of the impact.

4. The Cat in the Hat (2003)

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Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat is a childhood classic loved by generations. Its film adaptation, however, is an entirely different story. It's hard to know where to begin with this one, from the crude humor and adult innuendos to the bizarre plot deviations, this film completely missed the charm and whimsy of the original book.

With a dismal Rotten Tomatoes rating of 9%, the film was a box office flop, earning just $101 million against a $109 million budget. The film was such a disaster that Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, declared that she would never allow another live-action adaptation of her late husband's work. Maybe it's for the best.

5. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

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If you're a fan of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, then you know all about the infamous film adaptations. The movies strayed so far from the source material that they left fans scratching their heads in confusion. From major plot changes to a much older cast, the adaptations were criticized for losing the heart and humor of the books.

The first film, The Lightning Thief, has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 49% and earned $226 million at the box office, but its sequel fared even worse. Riordan himself was so disappointed that he wrote an open letter detailing his dissatisfaction with the adaptations. Maybe the upcoming Disney+ series will finally do these characters justice.

6. The Circle (2017)

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The Circle, a film adaptation of Dave Eggers' provocative novel, revolving around a young woman's experiences at a powerful tech company, had the potential to become a riveting social commentary. Despite a promising cast with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, the film devolved into a series of disjointed scenes and narrative gaps.

Its Rotten Tomatoes rating languishes at a measly 15%. Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay, admitted in an interview that translating the book's cerebral and dialogue-heavy content into a visual medium was challenging. The film only pulled in $20.5 million at the box office, making it a financial letdown as well.

7. A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

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Next on the list is A Wrinkle in Time, the much-anticipated adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's classic sci-fi novel. With an illustrious cast and the talented Ava DuVernay at the helm, hopes were high. Unfortunately, the film ended up being a dazzling but disjointed spectacle. Critics panned the movie for its convoluted plot and lack of character development, resulting in a disappointing 42% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

The movie did draw attention for its progressive casting and managed to snag a few minor award nominations, but with a worldwide gross of $132 million against a $130 million budget, it failed to impress at the box office.

8. The 5th Wave (2016)

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The 5th Wave, based on Rick Yancey's thrilling dystopian novel, should have been a slam dunk. Alien invasions, a resilient heroine, a struggle for survival – what could go wrong? As it turns out, quite a lot. The film version devolved into a cliché-ridden YA romance, straying from the book's original narrative.

Chloë Grace Moretz did her best with the material, but even her performance couldn't save this sinking ship. The film currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and while it made a modest $109 million at the box office, it was widely viewed as a missed opportunity.

9. Inferno (2016)

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The Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown has enjoyed tremendous success, but the third movie adaptation, Inferno, seriously lost the plot. The film stripped away many of the novel's exciting twists, and in a surprising move, completely altered the book's apocalyptic ending.

This, combined with a confusing narrative, led to a weak 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even Tom Hanks couldn't rescue the film from its lukewarm box office earnings of $220 million against a $75 million budget. It received no major awards or nominations, a clear indicator of its failure to resonate with audiences and critics alike.

10. Artemis Fowl (2020)

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This film adaptation of Eoin Colfer's popular children's book was long-awaited, but sadly, it turned out to be a disaster. The movie made the baffling choice to merge the first two books, which resulted in a chaotic and incoherent plot. It currently holds an abysmal 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst-reviewed films of 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing its release onto Disney+, the film's box office impact was minimal. Colfer himself reportedly seemed taken aback by the movie's changes.