Is there truly a fine line between creative liberties and complete ruin when adapting a book? It's understandable when the screenwriter adds his or her own subtle changes to the original source material, but when the only thing common between the book and the movie is the title, it's clear something has gone completely awry.
Such is the problem with Paranoia. Based on the 2004 novel written by Joseph Finder, Paranoia takes far too many liberties, including changing character motivations, tone, and the overall plot, as if to make the movie more appealing to the typical Twilight audience -- an ironic decision seeing that the typical Twilight audience has no interest in corporate espionage.
Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) and his friends have just bombed a chance presentation with mobile tech mogul Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), causing them to lose their jobs working for the giant's company. Figuring they have nothing left to lose, Adam blows an obscene amount of money from their project's discretionary fund on one last hurrah. Upon discovering the indiscretion, instead of throwing him in jail, Wyatt blackmails Adam into taking a job at competitor Eikon, which is owned by Wyatt's former employer and mentor Augustine "Jock" Goddard (Harrison Ford), in order to steal a new technology that revolutionize mobile devices. However, the deeper Adam goes, the more he realizes he's digging his own grave.
Director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) phones it in here. Luketic's wheelhouse usually consists of character-driven comedy, and, while change can be good, a thriller without thrills and characters without depth is not the way to go. Though the blame primarily rests on the shoulders of writers Jason Dean Hall (Spread) and Barry Levy (Vantage Point), Luketic certainly could've done more than what he did.
With the original novel being almost a decade old, updates were inevitable. But Paranoia shares virtually nothing with Joseph Finder's espionage page-turner. While Wyatt is still an evil puppet master in both incarnations, Adam, a streetwise, tech-wise slacker smart-ass in the novel, is now a whimpering self-proclaimed victim. Goddard, a twitchy, good-natured good ol' boy of a CEO, becomes white-bread and one-dimensional -- something Harrison Ford should never be. Everything that made the novel awesome is absent here, causing Paranoia to be a tremendous waste of time and talent.
FINAL VERDICT: When a movie critic says read a book instead, you know the movie is bad. Paranoia is that bad. Even with Oldman and Ford going head-to-head, the talent is wasted on this weak, bland adaptation of a wonderful novel. Bad adaptations happen, but Paranoia is inexcusable.