As tomorrow’s big Netflix release, the second go-around at adapting A Series of Unfortunate Events, proves, adaptations of beloved source material are not easy to make.
Books and film, like all arts, have a special relationship. The turn of the century saw a massive increase in adaptations of epic fantasy and science-fiction, particularly for the coveted youth market, thanks mostly to two big franchises – Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Both legitimized fantasy as big-budget spectacle and prestige entertainment, when done with care. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the years since are littered with attempts at replicating the magic of those films, including the original Unfortunate Events movie, which is first up on our list (as an ambitious-but-flawed failure).
Now, in the age of Peak TV, adapting these massive sagas are possible on television too. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones both kicked open doors to imitators in the same ways Potter and Rings did, in terms of scope and budget. Shows like MTV’s Shannara and Hulu’s upcoming The Handmaid’s Tale, both based on famous books, draw directly from this trend. It’s also given second life to properties that didn’t work as features, such as Unfortunate Events.
For this article, I focused on the biggest in YA and children’s literature, in honor of Unfortunate Events return to screens (I’ll be recapping a “book” aka two episodes a day starting tomorrow morning!), while focusing on the criteria to rank them by. When it comes to judging these stories – some classics, some decidedly not – I kept in mind whether the films a) received a sequel b) made money at the box-office and c) were critically acclaimed.
- Honorary success mentions: Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Stardust, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
- Honorary failure mentions: Bridge to Terabithia, Charlotte’s Web, The Host
Click Next to scroll through all the failures and successes.