There was once the golden age of young adult cinema. You had Twilight, Hunger Games, and of course, the last few Harry Potter films, each breaking more records than the last. However you felt about those movies, even if you didn’t personally enjoy them, you had to admit that they were tremendous successes.
Recently though, YA films have been on a decline.
Every year a bunch of young adult novels get turned into film, and it’s sad to say, but most of them suck.
The question now is why that is.
In recent years we’ve had movies like The 5th Wave, which had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 15%. We had Vampire Academy (score of 14%), Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (score of 13%), and even the last Divergent movie, Allegiant Pt.1 (score of 12%). (By the way, I love how the scores just start counting down. That was not intentional and these are the real scores that you can look up yourself.)
Anyway, as you can see, YA hasn’t been doing too well lately and why is that? It’s not because YA books aren’t good, or deserving of being out on the big screen. In fact, just the opposite is true. YA films are bad because the books are so good.
The 5th Wave novel has a 4.09 score on Goodreads and has been read by other 300 thousand people. It was New York Times bestseller and won international praise. Same goes for all the other books from those adaptations. The Vampire Academy novels are a staple of YA rated by almost 500 thousand people on Goodreads. Same goes for The Mortal Instruments and all of Cassandra Clare’s books which are international sensations and that there is hardly a YA fan that hasn’t read at least one of her books.
So, how do great books translate into bad movies?
Well, that’s because I personally think that Hollywood pays little mind to the reading community.
Young adults, aged 12-24 make up around 18% of the population, and yet, made up 29% of all movie ticket sales in the U.S.A. in 2017 according to THIS site. So, when you add that to the popularity and demand of YA novels and their adaptation, Hollywood sees us a ready market, willing to pay anything to see our favorite stories put up on the big screen. It also means that they don’t hold those movies to the same standards as other because they already come with a built-in audience. Whatever happens, however much they suck, many of us will go and watch it, if only out of loyalty to the original content.
Once Hollywood saw how we flocked to the theatres to see out favorite adaptations they knew they had hit the jackpot, and what happened was that they started cranking out formulaic, poorly written adaptations. They saw what worked and they copied it without any consideration to the author’s hard work, or to the reader’s dedication.
A thing I’ve noticed in YA film adaptation is that they are all pretty much the same. And yes, many could argue that about the books upon which they are based, but there is something terribly worse about the films. While many novels carry the same themes, they each bring a new voice to the table. They all speak to us in different ways. These movies though…not so much. They are bland, and often times they are boring because no one takes the time to develop them the way the author did their novel.
Another thing, these movies are rushed. They don’t display the complexities of the characters and the plot tends to be oversimplified to the point that they lose any originality and depth that the novels had. We don’t see the development of the world. We don’t know the intricacies of the relations and themes, usually because they try to explain it all in 5 minutes, or they don’t explain it at all.
Also, the actors. Many times these actors have terrible chemistry and their relationship isn’t believable. Ok, so it’s true that a lot of YA has romance. But movies tend to put this at an even forefront than the novels, for example, The 5th Wave, in which romance is very minor and takes most of the book to develop yet is rushed and turned into a cringy love story in the film. To make matters worse, the actors just didn’t have the intensity that the characters did. Truth is, few actors seem to actually know the characters they portray. Still, this is the least of my concerns in the reasons why a lot of YA movies fail.
A thing to keep in mind here is that films and novels are different mediums. Therefore, the stories are bound to be different. For starters, novels can be as long as they like, while movies have a very small timeframe in which to display their story. So no, I do not ask that every detail in an adaptation remain the same. I do not even ask that films remain 100% loyal, as things are bound to be moved around to adapt to the new format. And heck,
What I do ask for is that filmmakers take the time to read the novels and see what the reader community is saying so we don’t end up with the disaster that was the Percy Jackson movie. On its own, it’s not too bad of a movie, I have to admit that. It’s not great, but it didn’t suck as much as City of Bones, so there is that. As an adaptation of one of the most successful and well-loved modern children’s books of all time, it was so bad that I wonder if the filmmakers had even read a summary of the book before they began.
What I ask is for Hollywood to respect the author. What I ask is for Hollywood to respect the readers. What I ask is for Hollywood to make quality adaptations!
So, where are we now? In this decline of YA there is nowhere to go but up. Is 2018 going to change the terrible reputation YA movies get? Will adaptations like The Hate U Give, The Darkest Minds, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and all the others that are to come out bring YA back on top? Already we have films like Love, Simon, and Ready Player One that are making way and succeeding tremendously. If they are any indication then there is hope for us yet! If only they can keep that up.
Now, what do you guys think about YA movie adaptations? Do you agree with me? If not, that’s fair too. Do think there is hope for YA? What YA film are you most excited for?
Let’s discuss down in the comments! I love to hear your thoughts!
And check out my previous post: The Cruel Prince – A Book Whose Sequel I Seriously Need Like Right Now (A Review)
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