The search for the next great franchise never ends in Hollywood. Currently, the big fad is comic book movies, but book adaptations will always be library from which studios can adapt material. Everything changed for book adaptations in the early 2000s when Harry Potter took the world by storm with its massive success and trail blazed the path for future Young Adult books to be turned into movies. This set the tone for what is being reaped now.
The success came early, but that wasn’t enough to carry momentum. In 2016, this genre of adaptation is slowly fading without putting much resistance. Why is that? After reaching great levels of success, studios didn’t waste a second to get their hands on the rights of YA books that were blowing up in sales. But the way the movies were handled left much to be desired. We’re not saying many of the series mentioned were terrible adaptations, but they weren’t necessarily well-received by critics and by the looks of their box office gross, very few fans showed up to watch the movies. With the young adult craze seems to be officially over, all that can be done is look at the height of the success of this genre and examine where it went wrong.
Here are the 10 Signs That the Young Adult Craze Is Over.
10. Actors Are Afraid of Being Typecast in Roles
Once upon a time, being cast as a lead in a YA adaptation was a career changer. This role of a lifetime was supposed to spring vault an unknown’s star into the stratosphere and that’s exactly what happened. Beginning with the cast of Harry Potter and continuing with Twilight, these actors made enough money for a lifetime. But then things changed. The role of a lifetime began to seem more like an anchor than a blessing. Actors like Robert Pattinson or Daniel Radcliffe were finding it really hard to distance themselves from the character that catapulted them to superstardom.
While this may seem like a trivial problem to have, these roles aren’t always going to be around for actors. These franchises end, and when they do, what other work is out there? Kristen Stewart has all but escaped high profile projects, seeking asylum from the polarizing role she is known for as Bella Swan. Radcliffe and Pattinson haven’t fared too well outside of their respective franchises either. The only actor to truly break away from a role is Jennifer Lawrence, who at the age of 25 already has an Oscar to go along with another three nominations and helming The Hunger Games franchise. But then again, not everyone is Jennifer Lawrence.
9. Reach For Financial Gain By Studios’ Stunted Storytelling
Amidst the height of the YA adaptations, Harry Potter was bringing in hoards of millions. It was at this juncture that Warner Bros. decided to split the last Harry Potter film — Deathly Hallows — into two parts. The move made sense as the last book was 759 pages long and a proper adaptation would be easier with two films instead of one. The move worked, and the two entries in the series combined to gross more than $2 billion. What was more impressive was that both films earned critical praise and did a great job of translating the book into a big screen tale worth watching. But this began of trend of splitting finales in two parts and it ended up hurting those films rather than helping.
Twilight also succeeded with its two-part finale, but that marked the end of the success. Where Harry Potter and Twilight managed to create a story arc for each film in the two-part finale, not every adaptation lent itself to create a story worth telling in two films, and this made other finales anti-climactic. This was none more evident than with the financial and critical decline in The Hunger Games and Divergent franchises.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was criticized for its storyline, which was not really all that interesting and felt like a letdown. It was literally the propaganda war before the actual war, which was saved for the second chapter. By the time Part 2 hit theaters, anticipation was so low it ended up as the lowest grossing film in the series — not something often seen in the final entries in film series. Some books can be broken up into two parts, but other shouldn’t, especially when that decision is driven more by financial game and has nothing to do with storytelling.
8. Not Every Story Arc Translates Into Films
By now almost everyone is familiar with the tried and true formula of YA adaptations. Most focus on a Chosen One narrative, often with a fantasy world or dystopian society to serve as the background. Some of these stories are interesting and worth telling, but others simply aren’t. The primary reason being that, even in massive worlds like Harry Potter, not every story arc or piece of source material translates into film as seamlessly and fluidly as those previously mentioned.
Bringing an entire world to film is more challenging than most might think. Adapting a 300-800 page novel means a lot of material needs to be cut down, and often the material that’s cut is vital to understand the story and the characters the movie is trying to develop. It’s easier to understand the Capitol’s use of the Hunger Games or Bella’s affinity of Edward in one film than to try to cram in all the information about the five factions in Divergent on top of trying to drive a story. These problems bleed into the plot, which thusly end up confusing the viewer. It’s a fine line, but if the story isn’t easily understood in a two-hour window, then it probably shouldn’t be adapted in the first place. Or at least, not on the big screen.
7. TV is a Better Medium
Initially, the avenue to adapting adult books was primarily through films, but that has shifted as of late, towards television. Astutely examined by Screen Rant’s own Molly Freeman, the advantages to such process are endless. TV offers something movies can never offer: time. A season can range from 10 episodes up to over 20. That means you have way more time to develop storylines and flesh out characters in a way that can’t be done in a two-hour movie. Let’s face it, some of this material is confusing and isn’t easy to introduce quickly, and the television medium solves that.
After initially being adapted as a 2013 movie, The Mortal Instruments flopped and never spawned a franchise, but it recently encountered newfound success on TV. Shadowhunters is now running on Freeform, and doesn’t have to live in the shadows of mega franchises or have those expectations. Instead, it can focus on delivering a story. Currently. there are four shows based on YA adaptations: Shadowhunters, The 100 (The CW), The Shannara Chronicles (MTV) and The Magicians (SyFy). With the success plateauing on movies, look for more TV adaptations in the future, especially with new players like Netflix starting to take over the medium.
6. The Novelty is Gone
Book adaptations will always be a thing in Hollywood. Whether it’d be the next big franchise or bring a beloved mystery novel to the big screen, there is always room for new movies in theaters. This idea, though, does not apply to YA adaptations. Simply put, they follow the same tropes and can be closely associated with others with the genre. How many Chosen One stories can be told, or love triangles become interesting? This brings about the main issue with the declining interest in the young adult craze: the novelty is gone.
When Harry Potter and The Hunger Games exploded onto the scene; they were stories worth telling, offering fresh takes. They are stories that were melded into worlds of delirious magic and infuriating governmental games. It was new and exciting, and it was backed by great movies. But that novelty has worn off in the last decade or so, and seeing another YA adaptation just elicits a roll of the eyes from most nowadays. The tried and true motion of Hollywood abusing a formula until it is dead, beaten and hatefully despised ravaged this genre, and now it’s painfully limping along with the franchises that are still in progress. They missed the golden era by a couple of years.
5. Critical and Fan Favor Has Evaporated
The critical response to films is a very important aspect of their success. Sure, some films don’t need it (see: the Transformers franchise), but most rely on the good word of mouth to thrive financially. Twilight of course was a franchise that didn’t earn favorable reviews for any of its entries, but the dedicated fan base drove the film series to great success. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games were both well received (for the most part) and still hold up remarkably well years after the films ended. But those are the big YA franchises, and not every film can stand negative reviews. Twilight is the anomaly, and the proof is in the array of badly reviewed YA films in its wake.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones currently holds a 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That franchise is dead. No Divergent film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 40%. That franchise is fading quicker than it arrived. Taking a look at the multitude of YA movies – Beautiful Creatures, The 5th Wave, The Maze Runner, I Am Number Four – only one film gets out of the 40s in rating, and most are rated lower than 30%. If the movie isn’t well adapted, then the movie ends up losing the fans that have read the books. Nobody wants to pay money to see a bad film, and the paralleling decline in critical reception and box office decline isn’t a coincidence.
4. Book Sales Are Declining
The medium through which these stories first came to fruition was, of course, books. But in today’s technology-driven world, books sales aren’t what they used to be 15 years ago. According to CNBC, books sales declined $20 billion from 2011 to 2014. That’s a hefty number, and it was at the height of the YA adaptation craze. That number has only declined more in the subsequent years. This stat includes both physical and e-books, by the way.
With people reading less, then it is a natural correlation that interest or knowledge of these adaptations has declined over the past five years. The last Harry Potter book — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — sold 44 million copies worldwide in 2007, compared to Mockingjay selling 9 million copies in 2009. The entire Divergent book trilogy sold 11 million copies (2011-2013). That sheds light on the awareness a franchise like Harry Potter had raised through the written medium by the time the movie adaptations became billion-dollar blockbusters. Granted, not every franchise will be Harry Potter (selling 500 million copies in total), but the precipitous decline in book sales only highlights the reason why these adaptations fail to break out of the shadow Harry Potter set.
3. Genre Tropes Have Been Burned Out
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in 2001, fifteen years ago. It took years for other young adult books to be adapted, but when Twilight also found success in 2008, all bets were off. The three most popular YA adaptations — Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games — all feature Chosen One-style characters who are supposed to change the world. Whether it’d be defeating the Dark Lord, usurping a tyrannical government, or seeking the immortal life of a vampire, their storylines drove the plot. This is primarily set in a fantastical world or dystopian society in which they often have a mortal enemy driving the conflict. But eventually, this was done one too many times. What was fresh and exciting in 2001 and even 2012 is now utterly exhausted.
The tropes common to this genre didn’t change too much from series to series, thus wearing the out. There was nothing to truly push the genre in a different direction and readership and viewership began to slump. The lack of differentiation between the different movies hindered the longevity of the genre.
2. Genre Has Been Watered Down By Knock-offs
In the midst of the massive successes lay a cemetery of failures. Apart from the aforementioned hits, the misses ended up defining the genre. I Am Number Four, Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Host, The 5th Wave, Percy Jackson, Ender’s Game, The Giver – they all failed. Of the nine mentioned, seven were multiple book series and none managed to get all of the books in the series adapted for movies due to the failure of the first (or second) film.
The genre was littered with knock-offs that didn’t hold up well to the pioneers and successes. That isn’t conducive to innovating or breaking out of a mold. All the movies mentioned easily conformed to the themes previously established, and for a while some found success, but that had to come to an end eventually, and it did. Now all that’s left is a watered down genre that has a questionable reputation due to the sheer volume of failures.
1. Financial Success Has Declined
By now, this far down the list, it’s plainly divided that the once promising YA book adaptations were potential franchises. This is why studios started greenlighting such projects left and right. At this point, it’s also understood that the divide between the have and the have-nots is a big as the Grand Canyon, and it’s a steep fall many studios took. Somewhere along the line, when Harry Potter finished grossing billions and Twilight and The Hunger Games were making hundreds of millions of dollars, nearly all the other young adult movies were outright flopping. The reasons have been discussed in previous sections in this article, but this dried up the market for these kinds of films.
While the last two films in The Hunger Games franchise were successes, they were largely seen as letdowns. That makes Catching Fire – the highest grossing and most well-received movie in the series – the last truly great YA film. It grossed over $800 million and was lauded for its precise job of adapting the book into a great movie. But that was back in 2013, and the genre has been in decline ever since and with it the positive reviews and most importantly, the money.
It makes little sense for studios to gamble in a genre that is all but gone. The demand just isn’t there anymore. With the glory days in the rear mirror, YA adaptations have turned to other means to get adapted in a faithful way. All good things must come to an end. This is by no means a eulogy for all future young adult book adaptations, there may be a project down the line that can break the trend, but who knows if that can happen. In the meantime, studios are turning to other reliable means of producing successful films.
What do you guys think? Did we leave out a reason why you think young adult craze is seemingly over? Let us know in the comments.
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