I’m the member of the RunPee family who LOVES the YA (young adult) Dystopian/Fantasy genre. Harry Potter is still an obsession for me (and I’m 50). I re-read The Hunger Games every year, and watch the franchise even more. I even think Twilight was decent, although The Host was better.
So, what’s the deal with this post-millennial spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to YA series? Do the studios really think every dystopian and fantasy series is worthy of the full big screen treatment? And if they do put out an origin story on spec, do they care about following through with the series? And what happens when the young actors age out of their roles?
Am I just barking down a well, here? Woof, woof — does anyone care ?
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I ask right now because I just watched The Darkest Minds (2018). It was…okay. Was it good enough to follow through to the end of the franchise? I’d probably say no. I’ve been burned a lot recently.
Here’s a list of YA series that will probably never see completion, for better or worse:
A Wrinkle In Time (2018) — This was just awful; totally incomprehensible. The company spent some money on it, but somewhere along the way it devolved into a hot mess. I don’t expect any of the sequels will be forthcoming.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) — There are so many childish books in this series that kind of sucked — I lost interest early on while reading them. How many of these books came out? I can’t say. I couldn’t be interested enough to watch any of them onscreen. Remarkably juvenile writing, IMO. (Looking it up, three movies of the 13 books actually made it to the theaters.)
Maze Runner (2014-2018) — I recently rewatched Maze Runner, and I have my opinion — it’s an okay version of an actually quite decent book. The sequel was middling, and the third film was frankly awful. Is there more to come? Do I care? This is ridiculous. Nothing made any sense in the 3rd film, and my Peetimes probably reflected this.
Divergent (2014-16) — I’m not sure how many books made it through to the screen. Three? Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant? All I have to say is that the first movie hewed close enough to the book to be worthwhile, and things fell apart quickly after that. I think I turned off Insurgent halfway through, and certainly didn’t bother with the third. Is there more? Do I care? (Note: Ascendant is supposed to follow soon as a TV series, but Shailene Woodley isn’t bothering to appear.)
The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-10) — This one hurts. As a child, waaaay before I picked up The Lord of the Rings (best book ever penned), this was my absolute favorite novel series in the world. In the universe! I believed if I had enough faith, when I died that I’d go to Narnia. I even had a special role — I was a forest nymph. My best friend and I made up stories about our lives in a magical meadow in Narnia…and as grownups, we re-met to hold our hands and hold our breath, trembling with excitement, and watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the big screen. And you know what? It was kind of lame. Prince Caspian was about the same, while my favorite book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was only a little bit better. Not better enough to save the series. If they ever do The Silver Chair, they’re going to have to hire newer, younger actors in a sort of soft reboot. Oh, well. I’ll always have The Lord of the Rings to rewatch.
The Golden Compass (2007) — to be honest, I tried to read the book and stopped pretty early in. I would love to give this series the full shake, but it seemed so…well, dark. It’s called His Dark Materials, so I guess that is to be expected. From the photos and the trailer, it looks really pretty, but it flew so far under the radar that I kind of can’t be bothered. One case where riding a super cool polar bear just isn’t enough.
I am Number Four (2011) — I did like this movie. I like the science fantasy aspects, and the story was well supported by both cast and narrative. Not enough to save it, however. Next.
Eragon (2006) — I didn’t bother with this one, so I’d love to hear if anyone enjoyed it. Dragons and fantasy sounds right up my alley, but all reviews say this was the pits, and there’s no news for keeping the saga going.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2010 and 2013) — These were pretty good! So why the silence? Good novels, decent films…and crickets. I would have stayed with this one. Bummer.
The Black Cauldron (1985) — Well, hmph. The Chronicles of Prydain is an underrated classic, and I’d love for some studio to try this again. The seven-novel YA series was my second youthful favorite adventure tale after the The Chronicles of Narnia, and since this one kickstarted so long ago, a reboot might do well. I mean, they did this one in the 80s! I doubt anyone has anything to hold against this poor attempt to get Taran’s saga going. Disney owns it, and they might be ready to option it again. Please, somebody give this excellent series a fair chance.
Vampire Academy (2014) — This sounds great on paper, sort of like a Harry Potter/Buffy match up. I’d watch that. Except somehow this was so bad I’d never even heard of it. Someone must have really screwed the pooch to mangle a really cool premise like this.
Ender’s Game (2013) — This one is truly a bad deal for us all. The book is magnificent. It was only a middling movie. You could watch it, and even sort of enjoy it, but Orson Scott Card’s literary masterpiece didn’t manage to move people in the theater. Maybe they can reboot it sometime and get the entire series done right. Or better yet, leave it be. Just re-read the novels.
The Mortal Instruments (2013) — Another one that slipped under my radar. There’s six books in this one, and people say the novels are fine. That doesn’t mean it translated well to the cinema, since it slid quietly into dust.
There’s more. I can delve further into the failed classics and promising franchises, but it’s frankly too depressing to keep going. Feel free to discuss what I missed and what I’m wrong about in the comments.
As for me, I’ll still keep the flame burning. I’m a believer in the genre, and I know there’s some good ones yet to emerge. Besides, someone has to watch these films and get the Peetimes for RunPee. 🙂
Movie Review – The Darkest Minds
Movie Review – A Wrinkle In Time
Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Movie Review – The Mockingjay, Part 2
Movie Review – Maze Runner, The Death Cure
Movie Review – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Movie Review – The Vampire Academy
Movie Review – Twilight Eclipse
Movie Review – Twilight New Moon
Movie Review – Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 2
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)
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Let me preface by saying you seem to have struck on a hot topic in my mind, as I found my response got way longer than anticipated, but hope you appreciate it, hehe, and thanks for your service as well.
HP got me going on a YA novel to movie pair and compare streak, the movies were fun but content clipped or oddly tweaked for time, and everyone agrees the final book needed editing that showed in the two part split.
Then there was Twilight which had hilari-bad charm in both formats before settling into acceptable forms, and then the movie ending was a bit better. In both cases, good for those authors getting lucky.
Hunger Games had a few gaping issues to keep the plot going, but i aplaud their choices in both formats for message and style, and the ending had multiple surprises that kept me guessing.
Divergent series was in a similar spirit, liked some of the messaging, and the movie ending to the series was a pleasant surprise compared to the book i suppose (yes they finished, and i think also Maze Runner, which i’ve never touched in any form).
I did read through all of “His Dark Materials” after watching “The Golden Compass” and it was a bit serious but no more so than the other dystopian stuff here, though I must agree with a friend that it went a bit overboard on the anti-organized christian political power messages to the point where even I thought they were beating a dead horse (metaphorically almost literally, sad scene) but I guess worth a read, and I strongly doubt that will get any sequel films or reboots any time soon.
You have my sympathies about Narnia, it seems we share opinions on that book to movie adaption, and yes there is always Lord of the Rings and Hobbits.
You forgot about another childhood series “The Dark is Rising” which I did read and will never touch the movie after reading the author’s lament that it was bought by wrong-wing christian group intent on white washing any celtic pagan magic in the time of oh no HP is leading the kids to witchcraft nonsense, sad.
On a similar note, I’ve not yet read Percy Jackson series, but I hear the books are great, the movies were a bit lazy, and the author had some hilariously scathing tweets, literally asked teachers interested in teaching about mythology to students to please never show the movies in class and literally watching the clock would be a better use of student time, haha, but hopefully they get a reboot after license swap.
I forgot about “I Am Number Four” but you similarly forgot about “The Third Wave” or whatever it was called, not read either. You’re right, they really are just tossing them out there.
Not seen or read “The Mortal Instruments” but tv adaption Shadowhunters is on par for expectations, is it just fx, romance, and pretty people at this point?
Meanwhile, if you’ve read this far, you get a treat, as you’re such a fan of HP, Twilight, and more clever series as well, I’d like to maybe introduce you to the genre of rational fan fiction, where the main character is supposed to be at least as smart as the reader and not do anything dumb just to make the plot go a particular way.
If you’d like to start like many did, hop into http://hpmor.com for online or ebook version or find it in your app store or http://hpmorpodcast.com for the audio version (production quality progresses quickly so get through the sorting at least) in a world where Petunia married a scientist and raised just Harry in a loving home.
It was through that podcast series that I learned of the similarly inspired Luminosity by Alicorn a Twilight rational fan fiction as well that is wildly amazingly different with a rational Bella figuring out interesting applications of power that get the wrong kind of attention, and its a shorter start into the genre as well found at http://luminous.elcenia.com in online and ebook format, oh the delicous mind twists, especially when we get to Elspeth’s coming of age story.
Anyway, that is all for now, enjoy.
Jill Florio Administrator
jMicheal, you wrote some really good notes, and thank you. I appreciate all the thinking you poured into this! I do love the genre, but i have high expectations.
I have a book copy of The Third Wave that I haven’t read yet – time to do so?
The Dark is Rising; I feel like you do.
You’re giving me some interesting places to follow and read – where should I start?
hi Jill, i just spotted your reply, and as for where to start…
i’d suggest the rational fanfic Luminous inspired by Twilight, since it is shorter and will give a good taste of possibilities.
then after you’ve devoured that (it is one of those hard to pause sort of paces, like omg what is coming next and how will it surprise me?) then hop into the longer hpmor.
to be fair though the first few hpmor chapters aren’t at the same quality as the rest of the series (it was a first time author posting it as they wrote over 5 years) so if you will be reading rather than listening (you could always go back and listen vs a reread as well)…
i would suggest looking up the hpmor daystar remix for an alternate polished written version of the starting chapters. https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9676374/1/Daystar-s-Remix-of-HPMOR
whichever format you choose, as is often mentioned, if you don’t like after you’ve gotten through the sorting hat, then it may not be for you… but if you like Luminous then you probably will like this, too.
oh and the hpmor podcast adaption has some community contributions but overall quite fun with music and some sound effects (disclosure i may be biased since i got a line in as i discovered this towards the end, hehe).
hope you enjoy it all, cheers 🙂
I loved”I am Number 4″ and so I picked up and read all the books, It should never have been a Movie. It should have been a TV series. With all the Marvel & DC comics coming to the small screen, this would be a good time to come out with a bunch of super powered alien teens who get stronger while together.
Jill Florio Administrator
LukeInDC – I haven’t read the #4 books, although it sounds like I should do so. It’s kind of a thing – should Marvel and DC focus more on movies or television shows? How can one decide which is right direction?
The Harry Potter series would have made a great TV show, but they were able to stay within the youthfulness of their actors, so it worked. The Spiderman movies within the MCU have to come along super frequently, bc Toby Holland has to stay young looking for the role, before eventually himself becoming a mature Avenger and mentor himself.