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Misleading Movies Based on Classic Literature

October 17, 2011

Previews of the new movie version of The Three Musketeers make it look like they’ve turned it into a John Wu /Matrix type of action movie.  By doing this, the filmmakers seem to be going out of their way to  make The Three Musketeers cool. 

The thing is, The Three Musketeers doesn’t need Matrix/John Wu style fight scenes to be cool.  The Three Musketeers are already cool.  The Three Musketeers were the world’s first cool guys. 

The Three Musketeers were cool before cool had been invented. 

The Three Musketeers were so cool that the Rat Pack based themselves on the Three Musketeers. 

Chuck Norris (and before him Steve McQueen) learned everything he knows about cool from the Three Musketeers. 

Quentin Tarantino lifted all of his cool dialogue in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (“D’Artagnan, do you know what they call French fries in the New World?”) from The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers had breakfast in a bastion at La Rochelle, for God’s sake!  Nothing anybody can do from now until the end of time can be cooler than capturing a bastion and then having breakfast in it during a siege.  


Cool guys don’t fight like they’re in John Wu movies; guys who want to be cool fight like they’re in John Wu movies. 


Anybody who sees this latest version of The Three Musketeers and is inspired to read the novel will probably be disappointed in the classic.  What’s the point of making a movie based on a classic novel if there’s no attempt to be anything like the classic novel?  The filmmakers could have made a period piece movie about French political intrigue and given it a title that wasn’t The Three Musketeers.

 I forgot.  The Three Musketeers are so cool that they can still sell tickets to a (probably) bad remake. 

Wow!  Looking back, this tirade makes it sound like I care way more than I do. 


The following is a list of other movies that took waaaayyyy too many liberties with the classic novels that they’re based on, so much so that there are very few similarities.  It’s not a complete list.  It’s merely based on my own limited experience. 


The War of the Worlds 

Tom Cruise is not in the novel, and we never get an up and close personal view of the aliens like he did in the most recent movie.  H.G. Wells tends to be deep, and even his science fiction novels were very theme heavy.  To be fair, no modern film maker is going to set War of the Worlds back in the early 1900’s, but it could be awesome if they did! 

BEST TRICK EVER (to play on teenagers)!

  1. Tell kids about the Orson Welles radio program based on The War of the Worlds and explain how a bunch of listeners thought the radio program was real and started panicking.
  2. Listen to the kids as they make fun of people who panicked (probably calling them “dumb” or stupid”).
  3. A few minutes later tell the same kids that you just heard Justin Bieber is going out with Rebecca Black.
  4. Watch the kids as they react with disgust, disdain (or whatever probable negative reaction they have).
  5. Explain to the kids that they just fell for a vicious rumor without verifying it (just as the radio listeners automatically believed what they heard on a radio program).
  6. Laugh at the kids as they completely miss the connection. 


The Frankenstein monster in the novel is far scarier than the movies’ Frankensteins, but it’s tough to understand that because of Mary Shelley’s writing style.  And whenever somebody tries to make a version of Frankenstein that is close to the novel, the audience always gets mad, and the movie tanks.  Sorry, Mary Shelley, but Frankenstein’s monster has a flat head with a bunch of staples in it.  And he’s not very introspective. 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney animated version) 

This has to be one of the most bizarre animated movies I’ve seen, with a happy ending (What?).  I’d love to see what Disney would do with Othello, or Oedipus Rex, or Antigone.  Victor Hugo is not for little kids. 

The Last of the Mohicans 

I can watch the last hour of this movie, and it always seems new.  I can read the novel over and over again, and it always seems new… but for a different reason. 

The movie doesn’t take that many liberties for Hollywood, but the movie is far more watchable than the movie is readable.  Therefore, somebody trying to read the book after viewing the movie might toss the novel away in disgust.  Not that I know (or am) anybody who’s done that. 

Hollywood, I dare you to make a movie based on The Prairie.  I double dog dare you. 

I, Robot 

Yet another movie where Will Smith says, “Ah, Hell no!”  But at least none of his kids were in it. 

Sherlock Holmes 

The movie was very entertaining, but c’mon.  Was that really Sherlock Holmes?  I’m looking forward to Robert Downey Jr. in the Americanized version of David Copperfield

Speaking of Robert Downey Jr…. 

Iron Man 

Yeah, Iron Man is a comic book and not a classic (Maybe some of those Tales of Suspense comics were classic, but the Captain America stories were usually way better, except for that two-issue Iron Man vs. Submariner fight that  crossed over into Tales to Astonish and…. Never mind).   The point is that the first Iron Man movie was one of the BEST SUPERHERO MOVIES EVER, but Iron Man has almost always been a sucky comic book.  Anybody reading an Iron Man comic book after seeing the first movie had to be disappointed. 



The reason it’s not on the list is that Troy wasn’t that good of a movie (but had a few great scenes) so it didn’t make a lasting impression on anyone (except those who liked a seeing shirtless Brad Pitt with long hair).  Also, it wasn’t called The Iliad


My closing thoughts were kind of boring (I was trying to praise the merits of reading classic literature, but it sounded insincere). 

I suddenly feel like watching The Thin Man.

  1. I definitely get what you mean here about movies that diverge wildly in tone or plot from the source material. In some cases this bothers me, but in the case of The Three Musketeers I’m willing to just go with it and rate the movie on its own merits. I think The Three Musketeers in particular has reached “King Arthur” or “Robin Hood” status, where every film-maker has their own take on it. It’s a bit of an oddity, since unlike those stories there is is a singular original story (whereas even Le Mort D’arthur is derived from earlier stories), but it does seem like the idea of the Three Musketeers has long since surpassed the original novels.

  2. “The filmmakers could have made a period piece movie about French political intrigue and given it a title that wasn’t The Three Musketeers.” Thank you! I refuse to watch this movie because not only have I read The Three Musketeers, but the two books that followed. I read them a bit young so I don’t remember everything and according to my mom I missed many an innuendo, but seeing movie adaptations of books I enjoyed that don’t match up not only ruins what might otherwise have been a good movie in itself, I go on a rant, much like your own. Slightly off topic, Ella Enchanted, is one of those movies.


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