Blog Entry 8: Curating a Bad Film Festival

Book to Film: What Could Go Wrong?

The concept for my film festival is to celebrate and watch films from the 2000s that were originally adapted from books. More specifically, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a variety of movies that, while having a great base to rely on, failed spectacularly to do their original form justice. On the first day, we will begin with a showing of Allegiant. The next picture will be The Goldfinch. After a brief intermission, the last film will be Eragon. On the second day, we will begin with a showing of A Wrinkle in Time (2018), followed immediately by The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones. To finish out the festival, we will be watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Allegiant was the third installment of the Young Adult series Divergent; was directed by Robert Schwentke, and starred Shailene Woodley (Tris), and Theo James (Four/Tobias). This last book in the series was actually originally supposed to be split into two films, but because of the poor reception to Allegiant, the final film was canceled. Synopsis: After the revelations of a world beyond their utopia, Tris must escape with Four and the rest of the rebel group Allegiant to cross the borders and discover the truth of the other world around them. I chose to include this movie because, quite frankly, it was terrible. Besides the obvious money-grab of a decision to split the last section into two films, the movie itself was cheesy and almost hard to follow. It seemed they had lost the plot of what they were trying to accomplish, and had no idea how to get it back. The characters’ actions are predictable and full of stereotypes, and Shailene Woodley gives only a moderate performance. 

The Goldfinch was directed by John Crowley, and is based on the 2013 Pulitzer Winning Novel written by Donna Tartt. Synopsis: Theo, played by Oakes Fegley, witnesses a terrorist attack while in the MOMA at a young age, causing him to lose his mother. In a rush, he steals ‘The Goldfinch’, a painting that introduces him to a world of crime. We then watch Theo grow up, continuing drug habits, scamming customers at his antique business, and working to get ‘The Goldfinch’ painting back- which he had previously lost years before. I included this film because, in my opinion, it should not have been made into a movie at all. The book itself is quite long and overly detailed, and doesn’t have a strong plot, which can be hard to portray in film. And this is certainly the case with this movie. Without all the added fluff, the film seems hollow and soulless, and erases a lot of the necessary character development and detail we get from the book. The dialogue is awkward, and while the framing and design are memorable, it was not enough to save this film. 

Eragon was directed by Stefen Fangmeier, and is, according to Wikipedia, “loosely” based on the 2002 novel of the same name. Synopsis: When a farm boy named Eragon finds a blue stone sent by the princess of Alagaesia, he realizes it is a dragon egg. When the dragon Saphira is born, Eragon’s mentor trains him to fulfill an ancient prophecy in which he sets his people free from the evil king Galbatorix. Similarly to Allegiant, this film had been part of a three movie plan, but because of the complete failure, it turned out to be, they were canceled. The acting and dialogue were some of the main issues of the movie, with audiences claiming it felt stiff and lifeless. Even those who weren’t fans of the original books felt it was lacking character. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, was the unfaithfulness to the books themselves. For example, Eragon’s love interest in the film never acts romantically towards him in any sort of way, and the evil king tries to kill the protagonist instead of recruiting them to work for him, like in the books. It just doesn’t make sense to adapt a book into a film if you’re not going to follow some of the most basic plot points and character arcs. 

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) was directed by Ava DuVernay, and was based on the 1962 novel written by Madeleine L’Engle. Synopsis: After the disappearance of her scientist father, Meg and her brother Charles are visited by three magical beings who claim to know where he is. Charles, Meg, and her friend join these three beings on a journey through space in order to find him. On paper, this film truly had so much going for it. But even a star studded cast, and some beautiful cinematography and set design do little to save it. The transitions between acts are awkward and clunky and might give you whiplash, and the cast only makes the plot seem less cohesive as a whole. The so-called stakes in the film don’t seem urgent, which just leaves the audience feeling lost and unattached. 

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones was directed by Harald Zwart, and was yet another example of a failed franchise. Synopsis: When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she comes from a line of warriors who protect her world from demons. She joins forces with other warriors like her and heads into an alternate dimension called the Shadow World in a desperate attempt to save her mother. The main problem with this film was the pacing. With a running time of over two hours, which was unheard of in the early 2000s, many sequences felt rushed while others seemed to drag on for far too long. Lengthy exposition became prioritized over other more important factors. The City of Bones also failed to stick to the source material, another fatal mistake as we have seen in the previous movies. 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was directed by Chris Columbus, and was based on the successful Young Adult series written by Rick Riordan. Synopsis: Teenager Percy Jackson realizes he is a demigod and his biological father is Poseidon, and is sent to Camp Half-Blood, with other kids like him. Not long after, he gets thrown into preventing a war between the Olympians after he is framed for stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt, and has 14 days to return it. Despite the success of the books, this movie was a huge disappointment for the fans and even the author. A lack of detail and a failure to stay with the plot made this movie a complete let down. Major changes made to the characters ruin some of the biggest reveals- like the character of Luke’s secret traitorous plans- and make their stories seem rushed. A lot of the plot changes also made the story more confusing, and removed a lot of the humor and heart that the books are full of. 

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