Worst film/tv/game novelizations?
July 11, 2014 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Help me find examples of film, TV, or video game novelizations that are not necessarily bad writing, but which completely alter or otherwise undermine the storyline, characterizations, and themes in the parent material.

There's already an Ask for novelizations that improve upon the source material. I'm looking for books that grossly do the opposite -- incorrect character descriptions, changed plot, significantly changed themes, etc.

My go-to book is the Planescape: Torment novelization, that not only gets the descriptions of major characters wrong, but completely undermines the game's themes at every opportunity.

Bonus points if the book is for a movie, as that's easier to compare/contrast against.
posted by Wossname to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The movie version of The City of Ember spoiled the delightfully creepy premise of the entire story by revealing in the first five minutes what the book slowly revealed over nearly 300 pages (namely, the reason the world outside the city was pitch-black). I thought it was an extremely odd (and poor) choice on the filmmakers' part.
posted by something something at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Doom novels had several notable differences from the games. Most significantly, the demons were some kind of alien creation and not literally demons from hell.

On preview: Damn you codacorolla!
posted by Diskeater at 11:21 AM on July 11, 2014

The Bourne Identity film series vs. the Ludlum novels. Completely different storylines after the first film, and the films do away with the main twist in the books about what the "identity" literally was.
posted by AndrewInDC at 11:24 AM on July 11, 2014

Two books that I love, that were made into absolutely horrible movies which are completely different from the original book.

First Blood is an incredibly powerful book, which raises deep questions about xenophobia in small towns and post traumatic stress problems among soldiers. First Blood, the movie, is a Hollywood shock thriller in which PTSD becomes an heroic lifestyle.

Death Wish is another amazing book, which examines the societal problems created by vigilantism. Death Wish, the movie, is another shock thriller, in which the viligante becomes a hero.
posted by Flood at 11:27 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not to thread-sit, but I'm looking moreso for examples where the movie/TV show/game came first, and then an "official novelization" was produced.

For the other way around, it's much easier to find examples of good books turned into completely different films.
posted by Wossname at 11:28 AM on July 11, 2014

The Snyder Watchmen adaptation is a notable example, because despite containing many scenes that are basically shot by shot recreations of sections from the comic, it nevertheless took a source that parodied the fetishizing of extreme violence in comics and proceeded to...you know, fetishize extreme violence without a lick of self-awareness.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:31 AM on July 11, 2014

Cartoonist Ryan North did a blog that explains in exhaustive detail how bad the Back to the Future novelization is.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:41 AM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Baldur's Gate novels, based on the incredible video game RPG of the same name, shit all over the plot, subplots and characters of the games. I made the mistake of buying these pieces of shit and reading them all the way through.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2014

You may be interested in the The Book Was Better podcast, which talks about movies and their tie-in novelizations. I am absolutely sure that they have covered books which would fit your criteria of changing the themes/characters/etc of the original movie, though they almost always cover movies that were already terrible.

Also, the podcast is hilarious.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I, too, came here specifically to mention Ryan North's B to the F blog. Start chronologically! You can also get it in in ebook form which is over 400 pages on a Kindle.

Of all the exhaustive summaries of bad novelizations I've ever read, this is by far the best.
posted by whitecedar at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Arguably 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Novelized at the same time, roughly, as the movie, the book itself does more for Dave Bowman than the movie. While there are arguments to be made about whether or not Clarke's (with Kubrick, but he did not get co-authorship) novelization is better or worse than Kubrick's movie, no one argues that the film is a masterpiece. The novel is not remembered as such.
posted by oflinkey at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2014

I remember Piers Anthony's novelization of Total Recall bring awful, with some bizarre alien ant race or something at the end. This is a good start: http://blogs.amctv.com/movie-blog/2007/10/piers-anthonys/
posted by purenitrous at 4:42 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cheating probably but there have been several outlandish Comic Book adaptations of movies that went off the rails, including a gritty 90s GI Joe comic, the long running goofy Buffy comics, the Clerks comics which actually were pretty on-brand, and the non-canon Star Wars comics, which were totally awesome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2014

ROBOCOP the novelization missed all the satire and fun of the movie. But then again, so did the recent remake of ROBOCOP.
posted by Gucky at 8:21 PM on July 11, 2014

Mass Effect: Deception is kind of notorious for being extra terrible. It's the fourth companion novel to the games, and the first one not written by Drew Karpyshyn, who was a lead writer on the games.

It made tons of lore errors, and had some... weird characterization choices. The publisher at one point apologized and promised to fix the errors in future editions.
posted by lovecrafty at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2014

While not a bad read, the novelization of Grease has several significant differences from the movie. The narrator/main character in the book is Sonny (one of the T-birds), who was a fairly minor character in the movie. There are several events in the book that aren't in the movie and there's quite a bit of backstory at the beginning.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:04 PM on July 11, 2014

Highly entertaining discussion of the Rocky II novelization in a recent episode of Book Fight! (podcast)
posted by book 'em dano at 1:30 AM on July 12, 2014

I liked the Doom novels, even though they took a lot of liberty with the source material. (What can I say? I was thirteen.) Around the same time, I read Jeff Rovin's Mortal Kombat, and even then I was mystified by how warped the story was--maybe because I was a bigger fan of MK than Doom and felt offended on its behalf.
posted by xenization at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2014

« Older Coding Bootcamps and Career-Switching and...   |   Healthy Ways to Physically Express Negative... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.