As the premier motion-capture actor in the world, Andy Serkis, who memorably played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, may seem like an ideal choice to adapt George Orwell's classic 1945 allegory Animal Farm, in which the author uses a series of talking animals to weave a grim story about the nature of power. His recent statements on the project, though, have many literary purists worried. "We're keeping it fable-istic and [aimed at] a family audience. We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion," Serkis told The Hollywood Reporter, in a statement that's sure to dismay fans of Orwell's biting satire. If the new Animal Farm does deviate from its Orwellian source material, it'll be in the company of many other films that have done the same, as Hollywood has routinely reinterpreted books to suit its own purposes. Here, Animal Farm and six other films that betray their source material:
1. Animal Farm (release date to be determined)
Serkis also tells The Hollywood Reporter: The film "is going to be emotionally centered in a way that I don't think has been seen before. The point of view that we take will be slightly different to how it is normally portrayed and the characters — we are examining this in a new light."
2. The Three Musketeers (2011)
There have been many adaptations of Alexandre Dumas' 1844 classic The Three Musketeers, but the most recent version — starring Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, and Milla Jovovich, and released, inevitably, in 3-D — takes more liberties than usual with its source material. The movie opens with "a 17th century scuba diving ninja and climaxes with a 17th century air battle," reports Roger Moore at The Orlando Sentinel — two Hollywood-friendly plot points Alexandre Dumas neglected to include in his original story.
3. Gulliver's Travels (2010)
Animal Farm isn't the only satire to lose its edge on the way to the big screen. In 2010, Jonathan Swift's 1726 satire on human nature was very, very loosely adapted into Gulliver's Travels, a 3-D, modernized, big-budget spin on the story. Jack Black stars as Lemuel Gulliver, a shipwrecked man who eventually convinces two warring nations of miniature people to put down their arms by reciting the lyrics to Edwin Starr's "War." "A murderously unfunny rethink of the groundbreaking literary satire," says Steven Rea at the Philidelphia Inquirer.
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Victor Hugo's 1831 classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which includes flogging, hanging, and starvation, is a less-than-obvious choice for an animated children's musical. But Disney tried anyway, with a 1996 version that included a trio of wisecracking gargoyles. The film "is surely one of Disney's ugliest and least imaginative efforts," says Jonathan Rosenbaum at The Chicago Reader, with a "glib happy ending" in place of the novel's grim denouement.
5. The Scarlet Letter (1995)
Nathaniel Hawthorne's sober morality tale The Scarlet Letter, long the bane of high-schoolers across the nation, has a famously tragic ending — which is why the ending of the 1995 adaptation starring Demi Moore and Gary Oldman, which sees the main characters rescued by a tribe of Native Americans, came as such a shock. The credits' acknowledgment that the film has been "freely adapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne" is "one of the understatements of the year," Todd McCarthy at Variety, said in his review.
6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess' 1962 novella is cited by many critics as proof that films can actually improve on their literary source material. Burgess' original story included a final chapter in which his violent protagonist recognizes the error of his ways and vows to change. The "lasting influence and social significance" of Kubrick's darker, edgier ending, which omits the narrator's moral shift, might even make A Clockwork Orange Kubrick's "greatest film," says Phil Villarreal at the Arizona Daily Star.
7. Animal Farm (1954)
To any George Orwell fans dismayed by the news of Andy Serkis' neutered adaptation: You're not alone. A 1954 animated version produced by British studio Halas and Batchelor also suppresses the original novella's biting satire, instead opting for an ending in which the animals band together to overthrow the cruel dictator Napoleon. Howard Beckerman, the author of a book called Animation: The Complete Story, later commented that the new upbeat ending "came out of the animator's wish to succeed with the audience."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- 8 secrets to steal from power networkers
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- How to make classic pulled pork
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- This week I learned the moon might be littered with dinosaur fossils, and more
Subscribe to the Week