It’s a bit nail-biting, isn’t it, when one of your favorite YA novels is made into a movie? On the one hand, you’re thrilled to see your favorite characters on the big screen. On the other hand, you know that things could go terribly wrong and the novel that you loved could easily be butchered by the filmmakers.
In recent years, it seems that every hit young adult novel has been turned into a movie. Some of those movies, like Harry Potter and Hunger Games, have been, at least in my opinion, nice supplements to their books. Others… not so much.
Listed in order from “bad” to “unwatchable,” here are the five worst film adaptations of young adult novels.
5. The Breaking Dawn movies.
It’s not that the Breaking Dawn films were individually all that bad. (If there’s anything positive you could say about the entire Twilight series, that would be it — “They really weren’t all that bad.”) What irked me about the two Breaking Dawn films is that they split the book into two movies, which was nothing more than a money-grab. The film franchise pulled the popular child’s excuse, “Well, Harry Potter did it!” Yes, Harry Potter split book seven into two films, but the seventh Potter book was, what, 800 pages long? It would’ve been almost impossible to do without two books. Breaking Dawn, on the other hand, had no such excuse for being made into two movies. (And despite the fact that we all love J-Law, you have to also roll your eyes at the fact that Hunger Games split the last book into two movies, too.)
4. Vampire Academy
I haven’t seen this movie. I can’t bear to. Every time I consider seeing it, I watch the official trailer (above) to remind myself why I don’t want to see it. I love Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books, and I love the spin-off series, Bloodlines, even more. Great character development, fascinating world-building, and, with the exception of the first book in the series, fast-moving plots. But the movie version earned a whopping one star from Rotten Tomatoes, and you get the feeling in reading reviews that many viewers would’ve given it zero stars if that had been an option. If I were Richelle Mead, I’d be face-palming over the movie. As one reviewer said, “Rarely have I felt such disconnect between material and the actors tasked with performing it as I did with Mark Waters’ Vampire Academy.”
3. The Chronicles of Narnia franchise.
Excuse me, Disney, could you please destroy my childhood just a bit more, please? The best that can be said of this movie franchise is that the first movie wasn’t all that bad. From there, unfortunately, the series only went downhill. The first movie was kind of, “Meh.” The ones after that were much more, “Oh, brother.”
2. The Golden Compass
Every now and then, a film franchise comes along in which the first movie in the series is so bad that even the studio agrees that the subsequent movies shouldn’t be made. The Golden Compass was one of those — which is too bad, because the book series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, is one of my all-time favorite young adult series. As one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer commented: “I realize that when you make a book into a movie you cannot include every single detail, but it seems like Weitz purposely tried to take all of the magic out of the story.” It seems like the filmmakers tried to substitute CGI for storytelling. Don’t let it turn you off from the book series, though!
1. Ender’s Game
Ender’s Game is possibly the best YA book that has been made into the worst possible YA film of all time. To be fair, Ender’s Game was never going to be an easy book to adapt to film. So much of the story is about Ender’s psychological struggle, which is largely internal and therefore hard to display via dialog and action sequences. It’s also a book that deals with big issues, forcing readers to question whether the end justifies the means, especially when the innocence of children is at stake. Somehow, none of this makes it to the screen, and Ender’s Game ends up being mostly one long alien shooter video game. It’s as if the filmmaker saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and said, “Yeah! That was such an amazing movie, let’s make another one in the same tone-deaf style!”
What Do You Think? Are These Fair?
Am I just being a Negative Nancy here? Should I have balanced this post with the “5 Best Film Adaptations of YA Novels”? Or do you agree with me that some of these young adult movies are practically unwatchable? Do you have your own ideas about which film adaptations of YA novels qualify as “the worst”? Let me know what you think through the comments section below.