When you hear the phrase "young adult movies" you either squirm from discomfort or get a mild giddiness inside you that you can barely hold together. But why is that?
Well, a lot of it has to do with who you are. A guy. A girl. A parent. A kid. Whoever you are will clearly affect how you view these - for the most part - successful movies. But another big factor here is the fact that these movies don't always fare as well as we all thought.
If you couldn't infer from the title, young adult movies have about a 50/50 shot of doing well in theaters. You're almost always guaranteed to see flocks of teenage girls flowing into the theaters like their lives depend on it. When they walk out, however, is going to decide whether or not their friends go see it afterward.
We've seen a number of young adult movies be extremely successful. Twilight. Hunger Games. Divergent. Harry Potter.
However, we've also seen enough do poorly. Vampire Academy. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Beautiful Creatures. Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events.
Now whether you hated those that did well or adored those that did poorly, the rest of the world disagrees with you. So why did these movies do so poorly or so well? What set them apart from each other?
We're going to look closely at two of these movies. The first is The Hunger Games. The second is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Both of which I've seen and read the books for.
In this corner we have the Young Adult Champion, coming in with three books and four movies, The Hunger Games!
The Hunger Games was a great book series and a great movie series. I loved every minute of reading the series and every second of watching the movies. Even the excruciatingly heart-wrenching deaths that we all had to witness.
I read The Hunger Games as the books were coming out. For me, that started in sixth grade and continued through to ninth grade. I still read the books today. I really liked the books because of the action.
I'm a black belt in karate. My favorite sport is probably football. And when I play monkey in the middle (yes, I still play it) it is full contact. No blood, no foul.
To say the least, I was ready for a change in my young life. I read Twilight (please don't judge me, it was a dark time) and I hated Bella. She was . . . boring. But not Katniss; no she made a change I needed to see in the Young Adult genre. I'm pretty sure almost everyone can agree with me.
Oh, and the love story. Well, I hardly saw it. It was background for me. I loved the action.
Now, whether or not you agree with me, almost anyone will concur saying that Hunger Games blows Twilight out of the water. But, both movies and books were successful. For me, Hunger Games was successful for the reasons above.
Other people liked seeing the change. Something we've never fully seen before in movies. The protagonist is a girl whose compassion, though buried under years of undernourishment and seething hatred, saved just about everyone she loved. By killing people.
Also, it provided a stark contrast to the dark days of the Twilight era.
The Hunger Games is also the first movie series where I've ever been able to say that the movie was better than the book. Specifically, the most recent one, Mockingjay Part I. When I learned they were splitting the book into two movies, I was skeptical. And then they did it. I didn't even know that much went on in the first half of the book. I had to pick my jaw up off of the theater floor and go to a doctor to get it surgically reattached.
And in this corner, the challenger, weighing in with 6 books and one movie released so far, City of Bones!
Now these were great books. I loved these books, possibly, as much as the Hunger Games. It brought in another aspect to the classic love triangle we saw way too much of. Specifically, incest.
Okay, that sounds way worse than it actually is. You . . . just read the books. You'll get it.
Moving on. The movie was horrid. It brought in elements from later books to rival with what's supposed to be going on in the first. Our protagonist, Clary, found one of her latent powers way too early. And if you were smart enough and payed enough attention, you'd see the reveals that weren't supposed to occur until way later in the series.
Simon became a character who only wants to be with Clary. Jace . . . there was actually nothing wrong with Jace. They did a good job with him. Alec, too. He was done well. But Isabelle was ruined. She's supposed to be this awesome, hilarious, flirtatious girl who is so strong and powerful she can take down demons with her electric whip. In the movie, she's just as angry and stiff as Alec. Oh, and background characters like Alec and Isabelle's parents and brother, Max, are never mentioned.
This movie did not do the books justice and still angers me two years later.
So why was Hunger Games a hit and City of Bones a miss?
No, it's not your fault, I promise. It's the studios fault.
You see, Lionsgate knew what they were doing with The Hunger Games. The series had a clear and distinctive audience. One very different from Twilight. Lionsgate has made numerous successful films. The Hunger Games is one of their most successful series'. Why? Because they knew their audience.
Like me and most of my friends who read the books, we loved it for the action. The love story was not the center and was not supposed to be. The "love" that was manifested by Katniss was out of survival. In the Games it was to get out alive with Peeta. Both times. Sure, there was a love there, but we all love people that we'd never in a million years marry. Her love for Gale was similar to this love she thought she had for Peeta. And honestly, it was strange. It didn't fully fit into the story. Because the books were not about her love. It was about her struggle to protect those who mattered.
Constantin Film didn't know enough about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Just like in Hunger Games, the love triangle took a back seat to the action. It was not supposed to be the focus of the books or the movies. But you know what the production crew thought (I actually don't know this, don't quote me) "Twilight did well. Let's base this off of that."
Man it was awful. Really, and truly. A series that I love about demons coming to earth and trying to destroy anything and everything was turned into a love story that had demons involved. It was gross.
This movie could've done so much better. They had a great cast. And a great thing going for them. They took a risk by doing something they thought virtually risk free.
Another issue was their marketing. I think I saw about three previews in total. Online and on television for this movie. How did they expect people to know it was happening without telling them? The world we live in now thrives in the here and the now. If you don't force feed the general public ideas they'd never thought of before, they won't ever think of it again.
So few people even knew what it was about. They didn't know if they wanted to see it. They didn't know how good it was going to be.
Lastly, the readers of the series are a mostly older audience. We started with the books in middle and high school and stuck with it since. It came out in 2007. If people started reading this in sixth grade and stuck with the series until today, they'd be 19. If they started in ninth grade, they'd be 22. That age range consists of college students. Not girls (or boys, sorry) looking for love in high school anymore. We're older and matured - to an extent. We don't want to watch the movie that was made for the series.
Why is this a problem still?
Well, we've all lumped Young Adult movies into one grouping. And we're not wrong, but we've wronged the people trying to make these into movies.
When trying to make City of Bones, Constantin Film looked to what came previously. The same goes for Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures.
When making Hunger Games, Lionsgate looked at the series itself and built a movie and entity to itself. The way it's supposed to be done. Though I have to admit it, Twilight did a great job with this.
It's safe and easy for people making movies to look at what came before and loosely basing things off of the source material. Look at Marvel. Tony isn't supposed to be a joking, lighthearted guy who can't seem to ever be fully serious. It works for some people, but it doesn't seem to be a success in the Young Adult genre.
All the companies have to do is remember why they're making the movie. Okay, yes, it's to make money, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that the books were a success. If they remember why they were a success, what the audience loved about the books and incorporate that into the movies, then the Young Adult genre might get less people to groan at it.