Popular books that bombed as dreadful movies

The Golden Compass (2007)

Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy is an extremely popular fantasy novel series. As such, when it was announced that his books would be turned into movies, there was a ton of excitement from fans. “The Golden Compass” featured big names like Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and also polar bears in armor. While the film made money, by the standards of a big, epic potential blockbuster it was a flop and a disappointment, and critics gave it mixed reviews as well.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Despite being a book about a murdered girl, “The Lovely Bones” was a huge bestseller. It seemed inevitable that it would get turned into a film, and it wasn’t just any adaptation. Peter Jackson, the man behind the “Lord of the Rings” movies, directed the project. Stanley Tucci did get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but the movie did not live up to the popularity of the book, getting shrugged off and only being a marginal success financially.

Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

There have been a few adaptations of “Gulliver’s Travels,” which makes sense given that the book was written in the 1700s and has become an iconic piece of literature. We can’t speak to all the takes on the story of a man traveling through different worlds, but the one starring Jack Black was a massive flop. Critics savaged it, and the movie debuted at No. 8 in the box office. Black also got nominated for Razzy but lost to Ashton Kutcher.

I Am Number Four (2011)

We’ve got one more YA adaptation for you. It’s the typical story. You take a popular YA sci-fi or fantasy series and try and turn it into a hit film franchise. “I Am Number Four” has a weird title, and critics hated it. “I Am Number Four” was never No. 1 at the box office, as it debuted second, which is a disappointment for a film like this. Once again, a potential film franchise ended after the first movie.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Due to the dystopian YA boon, including films like “The Hunger Games” series, suddenly there were YA series being turned into potential movie franchises left and right. That’s how we got three “Maze Runner” movies. The attempt to turn the six “Mortal Instruments” books into a movie series didn’t go quite like the “The Hunger Games.” The first film, “City of Bones” was a lackluster offering, and plans for a sequel were canceled. So much for all the other books in that series.

The Giver (2014)

Kids have been reading “The Giver” in school for years at this point. It’s a staple of middle-school English classes. As such, when it finally got turned into a movie it seemed like a great idea. Plus, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep were in it! However, “The Giver” barely made a dent in theaters, seemingly being forgotten the second it was released. Maybe too many people didn’t like having to read the book for school?

Paper Towns (2015)

The adaptation of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” was hugely successful, so the film industry decided to try its luck again by adapting an early book from the YA author. Unlike “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Paper Towns” was just sort of a bland mess. It was a low-budget movie, so it made money, but nobody, other than some teens who love any tragic romance story, seemed to really like it. “Paper Towns” has a 56 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and on Metacritic.

The Girl on the Train (2016)

In short, the people behind “The Girl on the Train” were really hoping to recapture the runaway success of “Gone Girl.” They found a pulpy thriller book that was super successful and then tried to turn the beach read into a hit movie. It was almost like an assembly line project. It made money but it wasn’t a hit, and it didn’t get anywhere near the success of “Gone Girl.” Plus, critics didn’t really like it at all. Given the expectation, this qualifies as a disappointment, especially since it had an air of cynicism around it.

The Dark Tower (2017)

There have been A LOT of Stephen King adaptations. There have been successful ones, failures and also “The Shining,” which is considered an iconic movie even if King himself didn’t like it. “The Dark Tower” is a sprawling, somewhat insane book series and trying to turn it into a movie was a daunting task. It didn’t work out because apparently you can’t shove a ton of stuff into one 95-minute movie. The film adaptation landed with a thud, only making $113.2 million in worldwide box office numbers.

Bird Box (2018)

The author’s depiction in the novel of blindness imposed by the blindfolds that keep the characters safe from the creatures that turn them suicidally insane translated impeccably to the horror genre’s fundamental trope of keeping viewers in the dark. Meanwhile, the author’s use of flashbacks in the novel helped add to the film chaotic and disjointed feel.


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