Best-selling books that became big-screen flops


20th Century Fox

The Gladers traverse the Scorch in the movie adaptation of James Dashner’s novel “The Scorch Trials.” This book to movie adaptation is a great example of excellent novels that were made into disappointing films.

Ian Fertig, Staff Writer

Book to movie adaptations have always been a hit-or-miss category of cinema, with misses being much more common. Coming up are the two most tragic book-to-movie failures in recent years.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Miramax Books / 20th Century Fox

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians book pentalogy has been adored by fans worldwide since the first book was released in 2005. The series was on the New York Times Best-seller List for 223 weeks as of Oct. 2011. For many of today’s high school students, the series represents a large part of their lives in elementary and middle school. Naturally, this substantial fan base clamored for a movie adaptation of the first book, and, in 2010, their wish was granted. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

“The Lightning Thief,” the first book in the series, tells the story of Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy thrown into a world of gods, monsters, and a dangerous prophecy foretelling the end of the world. “The Lightning Thief” movie tells a similar story, except the details have been twisted past the point of recognition. Many important events, characters, and monsters in the book have been completely omitted, changed, or ruined by the film.

As for the characters that made it into the film, each was watered down to fit some stereotype. Percy’s humorous lines from the book are exchanged for serious and stereotypical action movie one-liners. Instead of simply being Percy’s friend who gets annoyed by his goofy, uninformed questions, Annabeth Chase is nothing more than a female love interest. Percy’s satyr friend, Grover, who had been shy, awkward, and generally nervous in the book, becomes outgoing and heavily interested  in women to create cheap humor for the film. Even the main villain, Luke, had all of his depth stripped away so that he could be more stereotypically evil.

Many important events, characters, and monsters in the book have been completely omitted, changed, or ruined by the film.”

— Staff Writer Ian Fertig

Perhaps the most disappointing changes, however, were all the events that were added, left out, and changed for the movie. The circumstances regarding Annabeth and Percy’s meeting and Percy’s arrival at Camp Half-Blood are changed so that Percy and Annabeth appear to be rivals at the start of the film. This was most likely done so that when the movie rushed a Percy/Annabeth romance, it would be in contrast with their rivalry from the beginning of the movie and somehow be more satisfying.

Other events that were left out include: the fight against Echidna and her Chimera, every important event relating to Ares, the fight against Procrustes at the waterbed store, multiple fights against the three Furies, and the encounter with Cerberus at the gates to the Underworld.

At its core, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is full of profound messages and themes. The series teaches the value of family, friendship, and most importantly, being human. The Olympian gods act with selfishness and hubris while mortals are set apart by their compassion and heart. The pieces of the story that gave it heart were removed and replaced by action movie clichés people have seen a thousand times before. The only message that can be taken away from the “Lightning Thief” film is that being an average action-movie hero can help you save the world.

After all the changes, “The Lightning Thief” became everything Fox 2000 Pictures needed it to be — a cheesy, stereotype-infested family action cash grab. What could have been a beautiful homage to the source material and the start of a great movie series wound up being a colossal disappointment.

The Scorch Trials

Dell Publishing / 20th Century Fox

“The Maze Runner” books are a best-selling series of science-fiction dystopian novels that many of today’s high schoolers read growing up. The series now includes the original trilogy and two prequel novels. Two movies based on the first two novels have been created, and after the way the second movie ended up, fans aren’t hoping for a third.

“The Maze Runner,” the first book released in the series, was published in 2009 and adapted into a movie in 2014. All-in-all, this movie was able to do justice to the source material and roughly follow the same plot, with only minor differences. The ending to “The Maze Runner” film and “The Maze Runner” book were almost the exact same, so fans were excited for the film adaptation of the sequel novel, “The Scorch Trials.” Sadly, “The Scorch Trials” film took all the good work done in “The Maze Runner” and squandered it completely.

Picking up after the events of the first film, “The Scorch Trials” had every opportunity to follow the events of the book and still include creative and artistic differences that would have made it enjoyable. The cast from the first movie consisted of great actors who performed well as on-screen versions of the book’s characters. This cast returned unchanged for the sequel film. The movie’s budget of $61 million gave plenty of opportunity for beautiful, special, and practical effects as well. Everything should have gone fine.

So what went wrong? Very shortly into the film, the plot of the book was discarded in exchange for a simpler, less original one. The differences start small but within the first thirty minutes of the film it feels like the movie’s director never read the book at all. That’s what ruins this film for fans of the original story as the original story is nowhere to be seen.

‘The Scorch Trials’ film took all the good work done in ‘The Maze Runner’ and squandered it completely.”

— Staff Writer Ian Fertig

In “The Scorch Trials” book, the survivors after the events in “The Maze Runner” are unknowingly still under the control of the villainous organization WICKED. At the beginning of the book, they are told they all have been infected with a disease known as “The Flare,” which causes its victims to slowly go insane and become extremely dangerous. To cure themselves, they must travel across the Scorch and reach the cure. Little do they know, WICKED has designed this as a test, just like the maze from “The Maze Runner.”

At the start of the movie, the villainous organization WCKD (still pronounced wicked) has the Gladers in a facility that they have been told is a safe haven. This is where the similarities end and the entire plot goes off the rails. The Gladers discover that the people protecting them are in fact still WCKD, so they escape the facility and arrive in the Scorch. For the rest of the film, they evade WCKD soldiers and fight victims of the Flare, who have been reduced to essentially zombies. They search for a resistance movement known as the Red Arm, find it, and fight WCKD in an unsatisfying final battle.

Watching this movie, fans of the book are progressively more and more disappointed as it becomes clear the book’s plot was discarded entirely. However, the worst insult comes at the end of the film, after the final fight. Spoiler Alert: WCKD is not entirely defeated and escapes, taking a Glader hostage with them in their retreat. Thomas then finishes off the film with perhaps the saddest hero monologue in the history of cinema, vowing to defeat WCKD and rescue his friend. Roll credits.

On its own, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” was hard to watch due to the unnecessary differences from the story. However, the ending speech just twists the knife. After that speech, fans know the entire film, which was based off of perhaps the best book in the series, exists only to make a profit and set up for a third film.

That’s the problem with these lazy adaptations of popular books — they want to make a profit so bad they’re willing to discard the best aspects of the source material. Unknowing fans flock to the theater and watch them, giving these film companies the profit they desperately craved.