5 Hollywood Movies That Got Turned Into Stupid, Stupid Books
"The book was better than the movie" might be the official rallying cry of the elitist snob, but nobody can argue that it holds true for movie novelizations. These literary shrugs have cashed in on almost every blockbuster in the history of Hollywood, and while the better ones simply offer a boring retelling of a cool movie, the worst try to expand the story and completely screw it up in the process. Like how ...
The Face/Off Novel Embarrasses The Hell Out Of Sean Archer
Face/Off explores the wild antics that might result from slapping Nic Cage's fleshy face onto John Travolta's fleshier body, and vice versa. But even a movie that crazy still has some boundaries. The novelization? Not so much.
After FBI agent Sean Archer dons the face of terrorist Castor Troy, he has to practice his personality as well. Which is unfortunate for Archer, as the novel decides that he isn't a tough crime-fighter, but an 11-year-old dork who has a real problem adapting to Troy's adult lifestyle. Archer, who "never drank liquor" and only sipped wine "on special occasions," can't cope with even a single shot of mescal, as "one drink of it made him woozy, two made him drunk."
Meanwhile, learning how to smoke is an even bigger disaster, as "smoke gave him headaches" and Archer "simply puffed on the cigarettes" until somebody "showed him how to inhale" -- which of course "weakened Archer and made him want to vomit." Archer is made out to be such a man-baby that he can't even cope with having chest hair, whining over how it's "itchy" and it keeps getting caught in his zipper.
But while Archer has to practice putting on clothes like a big boy and napping without crying, Castor Troy effortlessly slips into his role -- and we mean that too literally for comfort. While the movie takes great lengths to assure us that Troy never manages to trick Archer's wife into sleeping with him (because that would be, y'know, rape), the novel wants us to know that not only do Troy and Eve Archer totally bang, but that she loooooooves it:
Castor tapped into Eve's sexual hunger, which seemed insatiable. By fully concentrating on her needs and pleasures, he brought her to the point where she reciprocated for him and found herself a newly devout worshipper at the altar of his sex. Later still, after they slept for a while spoon fashion, he woke her, began anew, then sent her back to sleep, happy and exhausted.
Sick and tired of her typically flaccid, smooth-chested loser of a husband, Mrs. Archer achieves a sexual awakening thanks to the "gorgeous animal trapped in her husband" (i.e. Castor Troy), what with his "surprising horsepower" and how his "churning tongue and strong fingers entered her and made her shiver in ecstasy." And it's much harder to watch the ending of Face/Off knowing Archer's wife will never be sexually satisfied with her husband again after a few nights sleeping "spoon fashion" with a man sporting natural chest hair and a tongue so powerful it can make butter.
But Archer does get his revenge on Troy ... by going to the house of Troy's mother and letting her dunk "her fingers in some white goo" so she can "massage his toes." This is exactly the kind of lose-lose power play we'd expect from him.
The Dark Knight Novelization Oversimplifies Harvey Dent
The Dark Knight isn't the story of Batman, or even the Joker, but of Harvey Dent, the defender Gotham wants. You know, one who doesn't wear a jockstrap over his Halloween outfit. But by the end of the movie, the Joker has taken this upright citizen and turned him into a man driven so deep into bitter insanity that he's willing to shoot a child in the face.
But according to Dennis O'Neil, author of the Dark Knight novelization (yes, even a movie based on seven decades' worth of comics can't escape this cash-in curse), that's all a bit too thematically complex. Instead, O'Neil spends part of the novel crafting a ridiculous backstory for Dent to better explain his fall from grace, and in the process turns Two-Face into a one-dimensional character.
In the novel, Dent's dad Harry was a "raging drunk" and "smasher of furniture" who beat his mother on the "shoulders or across her belly" with his police baton. His cop buddies wouldn't stop the abuse even when "her eyes were black" or "her mouth scabbed," because the book implies she was a former prostitute, and thus "probably deserved everything Harry gave her." Then one fateful day, Dent received his tragic antihero starter's pack when he finds:
... his mother with a knotted sheet around her neck, eyes open, feet dangling hanging from a ceiling light fixture, and his father, gun in hand, lying on the floor beneath her, the wood under his hair soaked with blood.
But the thing that traumatized Kid Dent the most (somehow more than discovering his parents' corpses) was the lack of clues. Throughout his life, Dent would obsess about how the event truly transpired, constantly asking himself:
Did Mother kill Father, then hang herself? Or was it the other way around -- he killed her, them himself? But if so, why did he hang her instead of just shooting her.
And that, dear readers, is why Dent became a lawyer (not because he did well on the SATs like a normal person). Because "law offered stability and structure, not only for Harvey Dent the citizen, but for Harvey Dent the orphan." Oh, and Harvey's iconic double-headed coin, the one he got from his dad? In this version, that was the coin Pa Dent used to decide whether or not to beat his wife on any given night. What a fun memento!
But in the book's desperate attempt to make all the Dent pieces fit together nicely, it removes the true essence of the character. Dent is supposed to be a regular man who steps up, making Batman question whether you really need a tragic backstory, $10 billion, and a cave to be a hero. Worst of all, the changes make it so that Book Dent isn't a good guy turned bad, but just another emotionally scarred man a few runs of bad luck away from breaking down. Just like every other supervillain.
The Grease Novel Tries To Clumsily Incorporate The Songs
Of all the genres of movie novelizations, none make less sense than Musical, The Novel. After all, how do you turn a string of songs barely held together by a story into a gripping literary journey? The Grease novelization offers the answer: You don't.
Grease the novel, based on Grease the movie, based on Grease the stage play (based on Grease the cocktail napkin), surprisingly has no songs whatsoever. Written from the perspective of Sonny, a tertiary character nobody remembers, author Ron De Christoforo figured it'd make more narrative sense to write down all the songs as either awkward dialogue or weirdo narration. So whereas in the movie, we end with the classic "You're The One That I Want" ...
... in the book, we get this short, sad bastardization:
Sandy strode over to him and hooked her arm around his waist and pinched his ass.
"Baby, you're the one that I want!" Danny said.
"Sandy!" Danny yelled throwing his arms around her. "I got chills ... I'm tremblin' a lot. I'm nervous and hot ... SANDY!!! I'm all choked up!"
Meanwhile, "Beauty School Dropout," a trippy daydream seemingly set inside a pearly white hairdryer where a suave crooner negs Pinky into oblivion, changes from this ...
... to this:
Teen Angel really rubbed it in. I mean he said "Beauty School dropout, Beauty School dropout" over and over again. He knew I flunked my midterms and that I even failed shampoo!
Well he went on like this and pretty soon I started to get pissed but I didn't have nowhere else to go and I didn't know how to get out of the dream. So I was stuck ... listening to this stuff.
Other songs are luckier, spared this ignominious fate by being cut out altogether. A dire necessity, because if all these magical musical numbers were actually spoken aloud in a normal tone of voice, most of the cast would've been institutionalized long before graduating.
Everybody In The Rambo: First Blood Part II Novel Emotes Through Their Genitals
Whereas most book tie-ins are written by hacks looking for an easy paycheck, the novelization of Rambo: First Blood Part II was written by none other than the author of the book the original Rambo was based on, David Morell. And as a proper author, Morell wasn't satisfied with following the movie's plot and writing "pew pew pew" for 200 pages, but instead chose to focus on fleshing out the movie. You know, giving it some pathos. But how do you squeeze emotion out of stoic warriors with gritted teeth? You reach out to a man's most vulnerable part.
According to the Gospel of Morell, men like Rambo only know how to show emotion through the heaving and bulging of their genitals. When our hero first sneaks into the enemy camp and is almost caught by a spotlight, "Rambo's scrotum shrank," though it's not clear whether this is out of fear or a natural reflex to give himself a smaller profile for increased stealth.
And that's not the only emoting the Ramballs do in the novel. In one of the movie's most famous scenes, when Rambo is tortured by Russian soldiers, audiences only see a steely-eyed patriot enduring electrocution. But the book takes a trip down south to note that despite his stoic face, readers should be aware of Rambo's "scrotum tensing against his abdomen," in what you might call a tactical retreat.
But while Rambo has a problem with testicular gesticulation, his enemies' problem is premature ejaculation. When a Vietnamese soldier tasked with protecting the motherland from Rambo's junk encounters a nice girl on a bike, she is such a "penis arousing woman" that the sight of her "made him almost ejaculate in his uniform." Fortunately, through the sort of iron willpower only a true warrior can achieve, his romantic reaction is reduced to a mere "stain at the crotch of his pants." And speaking of shocks to the system, when Rambo's Soviet nemesis, Lieutenant Colonel Podovsky, gets a taste of his own electrotherapy, the shocks "made his penis become erect. And ejaculate." There are far worse ways to go in a Rambo movie.
Mike Meyers Gets A Supernaturally Perverted Origin Story In The Halloween Novelization
Original Halloween director John Carpenter was furious that rebooter Rob Zombie "took away the mystique of the story by explaining too much." But it's not fair to put all the blame on the esteemed Mr. Zombie. After all, he was merely following the lead set by the original Halloween novelization.
In the Halloween paperback, Richard Curtis (who wrote under the pseudonym "Curtis Richard," to give a taste of his creative talents) didn't just give Mike Meyers an origin story, but also made him a pervert. At the beginning, the reader is transported all the way back to Ancient Ireland, where a disabled boy named Enda is rejected by the woman of his dreams because he isn't a "lad worthy of that wench's pretty hole." So Enda makes the only move a rejected creep has left: He brutally stabs his love in the boob during their autumnal celebrations. As punishment, the evil Enda is executed and cursed by shamans to "roam the earth till the end of time, reliving thy foul deed and thy foul punishment," which apparently means reincarnating into other lonely pervs and getting to continue murdering beautiful teenagers.
A few millennia later, a tween named Michael Myers catches spends his days creeping on his 15-year-old sister. This is enough to invoke the incel-spirit of Enda, and Michael eventually murders his sister by (you guessed it) shoving "a knife into her right breast." And while the rest of the book plays out like the movie, the tone is forever altered because Curtis spends the better part of a prologue and four chapters fantasizing about teen girls' breasts. And for his sins, all of us now have to forever roam the Earth remembering that Michael Meyers isn't some soulless avatar of human cruelty, but rather the victim some sort of horny neckbeard leprechaun.
For more, check out Did You Know Die Hard Was A (Terrible) Book?
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