by J.F. Sargent
Remaking a movie is a tall order, and transitioning a story from another medium to film is even tougher. So it’s no surprise that details frequently get changed to accomodate a new era of filmmaker or the different “beats” associated with a feature-length movie.
It becomes a problem, however, when one of the things cut to accomodate an extra action scene turns out to be vitally important to the plot, leaving the movie with a scene or detail that only makes sense if you’re familiar with the original.
7. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Snape’s Patronus Means Nothing
Working on the film adaptation of Harry Potter before the books were finished created the pretty obvious problem of not knowing exactly what to include – a problem exacerbated by the fact that JK Rowling was clearly making it all up as she went along. Nowhere is the issue more apparent than at the climax of The Deathly Hallows Part 2, where everyone in the audience who read the books was crying uncontrollably and everyone who hadn’t was poking them and asking, in a suitably polite movie-theatre whisper, what the hell was going on.
The scene shows Snape revealing, for the first time, his Patronus: a doe. The book had at this point casually explained that love for someone else can alter a person’s patronus – Tonks’ patronus is a wolf, symbolizing her love for Remus Lupin, who is a werewolf. When we see Snape’s Patronus as a doe, we suddenly realize that he was in love with Lily Potter, Harry’s mother – which explains virtually everything he’s done up to this point. Kinda. If you squint.
But in the movie, we never see Tonks’ patronus, or learn in any other way that a Patronus reflects love at all, making this scene entirely incomprehensible unless you knew what it meant anyway.
6. There’s Actually an Explanation for the Dog Costume In The Shining
Possibly the most iconic “what the hell?” moments in cinema is the quick shot of a dude in a dog costume in The Shining. In comes out of absolute nowhere, and is never explained – and when you’re dealing with a famously detailed filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick, this seems really out of place. Since he went so far as demand that props be a specific color for black and white movies or that a space toilet have actual working instructions, the idea that he just threw up his hands and said “a dude in a dog costume sure would be weird, eh? Let’s go with that!” doesn’t seem plausible.
And it’s not, because that’s not what happened.
In Stephen King’s original book, the dog costume is carefully explained: His name is Harry, and he’s a sex-slave in a homosexual sadomasochistic relationship. He’s actually brought to one of the hotel’s dance parties and forced to behave like a dog the whole time for the amusement of his “master.” So… now you know that.
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: Subspace
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World had a lot of scenes that didn’t really rely on any kind of real-world logic. Most of what we see and enjoy on the screen is based on video game power ups, making it a kind of movie-length inside joke. But one thing that stood out as being different was the bit where Ramona teleports Scott and herself back to her home after their first date. It doesn’t appear to be a reference to any specific video game rules and it’s never explained – just like the earlier scene when Scott somehow knows that Ramona is going to be appearing at his door moments before she rings the doorbell. It’s hinted that there’s something going on that we don’t understand, but it’s never explained.
Unless, of course, you’ve read the comics, where you learn fairly early on that Ramona spends a lot of her professional time working in “Subspace,” which is a weird meta-universe she travels through in order to make her deliveries. A major detail left out of the story is that the particular subspace highway she works in travels directly through Scott’s brain, which is why he sees her in his dreams and a big part of why he’s in love with her. Because this never comes up, the movie actually loses a lot of the complexity and emotional ambiguity that made the comics interesting in the first place.
4. The Departed: Everyone Forgets About Dignam
A kind of subtly forgotten element in The Departed involves Sergeant Dignam, played by Mark Wahlberg. Along with Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) he’s one of the only two people to know that Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is actually an undercover cop and not really a mob enforcer. However, when Dignam is put on suspension and Queenan is killed, Costigan suddenly has no one to turn to, and is forced to face the events of the movie’s climax all —
— wait, what? Dignam isn’t dead, he’s on suspension. They didn’t make him turn his phone off or stop checking Facebook. Costigan could have totally turned to him for help.
Not everyone realizes that even though The Departed is heavily influenced by the dealings of an actual Boston-based crime family, the story itself is a remake of a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs (so, yeah, it’s not from a book), in which events play out almost exactly the same except Dignam (now named Yip) is killed along with Queenan (Wong), meaning this plot hole doesn’t exist in the original text.
Why the change? Can’t say for sure, but it probably has to do with the fact that an American version of the film needed an ending where Mark Wahlberg shoots someone.
3. Gandalf is a Dick to Gimli
This is definitely a weird scene unless you’ve read the books. You may remember that when the Fellowship is scaling Caradrhas (the snow-covered mountains), at one point Gimli gets fed up with all the pointless climbing and proclaims:
“We should go through the Mines of Moria. My cousin Balin would give us a royal welcome!”
To which Gandalf replies:
“No Gimli, I would not go through Moria unless I had no other choice.”
Which Gimli somehow shrugs off, despite the fact that Gandalf was just a massive dick to him. Imagine, for a second, that you’re driving through a with your friend to go play video games at your house, but you cruise right by your cousin’s house, which you suggest as a perfect alternative because your cousin has a sweet surround-sound system. But your friend says that he will only play video games at your cousin’s place if he had no other choice. Now imagine that there’s a horrible blizzard happening, which puts both your lives at risk, and instead of playing video games you’re saving the goddamn world.
Gandalf, in this scenes, comes off as either a massive tool or a total racist, and as you can imagine in the book, this scene is totally different (Fellowship of the Ring, “A Journey in the Dark”):
“Good Gimli!” said Gandalf. “You encourage me. We will seek the hidden doors together. And we will come through. In the ruins of the Dwarves, a dwarf’s head will be less easy to bewuilder than Elves or Men or Hobbits. Yet it will not be the first time that I have been to Moria. I sought there long for Thrain son of Thror after he was lost. I passed through, and I came out again alive!”
Which… doesn’t really line up with anything that happens in the movies at all. We guess they just didn’t want Gandalf to come off like as much of a dork as he does in that scene.
2. Clash of the Titans: Militant Atheism (Or Something?)
In the Clash of the Titans remake starring Sam Worthington, the biggest bit of “reimagining” came with the addition of what can be called “Militant Atheism.” Right from the beginning, the movie promises that in this version of Ancient Greece the common man “began to challenge and, eventually, rise up against” the Gods. As in, the omnipotent beings that determine all the fundamental truths of causality.
Not only does this make no sense, but it also… doesn’t make sense, but in a different way. Early in the movie Perseus is given a magic sword by his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson, who took a break between wolf-killing and foreigner punching to don some shiny plate armor for no apparent reason), but he refuses to use it because he’s on humanity’s side in this war since his adopted father died and he’s harboring a grudge about it for some reason. He and his little fellowship of dudes spend the whole movie talking about how great it is that “men did this” while they’re all killed by monsters that Perseus could dispatch with a flick of his wrist if he actually used his God Sword.
And the thing is, he actually does use his God Sword – on two separate occasions. First when he’s fighting Calibos and it gets too hard, and second when he’s fighting Hades because Hades is a supernatural being and can’t be killed by mortal things. Obviously.
In the original, this wasn’t a problem because there wasn’t the stupid militant atheism thing. The movie was just about Perseus fighting monsters, and he didn’t have any shoehorned point about religion.
1. Total Recall: Hauser Has No Reason To Get His Memory Erased
The original Total Recall is an icon of science fiction because it managed to explain so much, so thoroughly while still having a brilliantly open end that asked so many fundamental questions. The remake, on the other hand, only communicates two major points: 1) Kate Beckinsale is freaking awesome, and 2) there was no actual reason for Hauser to have his memory erased.
In the original, there’s a simple reason Hauser has to get Rekalled: the leader of the resistance, his sometimes-enemy, can read minds. So they had to wipe everything to make it possible for him to infiltrate their ranks. But in the remake, Mathias can’t read minds, he’s just Bill Nighy. So there’s no reason for Hauser to have his memory wiped, so the movie shouldn’t have even happened.
But Kate Beckinsale was awesome, so whatever.
Sargent has been drunkenly shouting his opinions at the internet ever since he set up a livejournal back in High School. A graduate of Hobart College with a Double-BA in Something Something 19th Century Fiction and Something Something Documentary Film, Sargent now lives in Seattle where he works as a part-time social worker and a full-time-plus-a-little-bit freelance writer. You can read more at his Twitter, his Blog, or check out his archive at the comedy website Cracked, where he’s also a Comedy Workshop Moderator.