Not so long ago, Twilight was some teeny, $37-million teen vamp film that only MTV seemed to care about with its weekly reportage of pale-faced kids looking angsty. Four years later, it’s a rabid phenomenon producing equal parts adoration and ire, a series that begins its retreat on November 16 when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part Two hits theaters. Interest never waned on the series – the almost $400 million gross of the first film increased to roughly $700 million on each sequel, and naturally, its exit is prompting a desperate need to fill the void and cater to this unique and obsessively loyal audience.
For years now, many have tried to steal their own little slice of Twilight's success. Vampires alone haven’t cut it, with films like Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter suffering the woes of vampiric malaise. Romancing a sexy guy with glowing hands didn’t cut it either, as I Am Number Four learned when the domestic box office couldn’t even cover the film’s production budget.
To capitalize on Bella Swan’s last breath, and find the next multi-film series, it takes more than fantasy mixed with overwrought romance to create a massive and loyal following, as Harry and Bella well know. Science fiction must mix with wish fulfillment, burrowing into the psyche and satisfying some hidden pocket of emptiness. When it does, the viewer will suspend much disbelief – even a werewolf teen boy falling in love with a vampire-human hybrid baby – and stay loyal ‘til the end.
As Hollywood options new young-adult series left, right and center, we’ve whittled the list down to 10 films that have a fighting chance of filling the hole left by Bella and Edward.
Plot: A future, dystopian Chicago is divided into five factions determined by traits – Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave/tough) and Abnegation (the selfless). After taking the customary aptitude test on her 16th birthday, Beatrice Prior enters a dangerous initiation process for a new faction that leads her to both a sexy and exasperating love interest and the discovery that their society teeters on the precipice of disaster.
The odds are certainly in favor of Veronica Roth’s popular series, if audiences can ignore (or embrace) the similarities to The Hunger Games. The book’s violence will offer some adaptation issues, but it is free of the younger-child violence present in Games. The story offers some real-life resonance (life choices and pressures to perform that face teens), and action for the romance-phobic. As an immediately strong character, Beatrice should be able to avoid any Bella Swan stigmas while still offering some steamy teen romance. Shailene Woodley, who wowed audiences in The Descendents, is set to star, which she will schedule alongside a stint as Mary Jane in Spider-Man, much like Jennifer Lawrence’s mix of Hunger Games and X-Men.
Plot: Ethan is a teen in a small South Carolina town who meets Lena, a new girl he dreamed of before meeting her. She’s a “Caster” – a person who uses magic, who will find out on her 16th birthday whether she’s Light or Dark. Ethan tries to figure out his connection to the mysterious girl while ensuring that she avoids a Dark fate.
When vampiric folklore has been exhausted, it’s time to move to witches. The Secret Circle might have failed to make it beyond one season, but Beautiful Creatures will try again with a very Twilight-esque story. As a story about witches and romance with a hugely angsty trailer, the film won’t appeal to a wider audience, but it does offer many of the elements that made Twilight a hit, while not copying the formula too closely. Lena looks a lot like Bella, but where the latter had everyone falling all over her, the former faces a town that wants her gone. With talent like Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson supporting newcomer leads, this could prove to have some depth under its melodramatic fantasy.
Plot: In another future Earth, humans have only barely survived two wars with an antlike alien species. To try and keep the human race alive, the most talented children are sent to a training school in space to prepare for a third attack, including tactical whiz and protagonist Ender Wiggin, an anomalous third child in a two-child world.
Chance: Pretty Good
Ender’s Game isn’t a romance, and it doesn’t focus on a female hero, which are the only things keeping it from being the best Twilight replacement. Summit grabbed this book up and it pushed the upcoming film’s release from this spring to November 2013 to fill the hole left by the end of the vampires. If the film manages to impress as much as the novel, it should appeal to both a wide audience and Twi-hards looking for some more high-stakes excitement, even if there’s no Team Boy. Viola Davis is, again, part of a super-skilled supporting cast including Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld. Asa Butterfield, of Hugo fame, will star.
Plot: Love, it turns out, isn’t the result of emotions, but “the deliria,” an affliction which scientists found a cure for, to keep life safe and happy. Ridding oneself of love and deliria has become a rite of passage kids take when they turn 18, but Nena, just a few months shy of her treatment, falls in love.
A film where a heroine falls in love and must fight societal expectations to keep her romance alive is just the sort of story to replace the vampire-human-werewolf angst triangle. If Fox 2000 manages to keep the melodrama in check, this could appeal to a larger audience, but will likely fare best with the romantics – an audience that will likely be increasingly hungry for some passion as the slumping end of Hunger Games wraps on the big screen. …that is, if the adaptation ever sees the light of day. Though it’s a popular choice for the dystopian romance readers, there hasn’t been word about the adaptation since the series was optioned.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS
Plot: While clubbing in New York City, seemingly normal, 15-year-old Clary Fray discovers the Shadowhunters – tattooed warriors striving to rid the world of demons. When a demon attacks her, however, Clary learns what was long hidden from her. She’s a Shadowhunter too, and must embrace a new life and the usual hot, but arrogant, love interest – Jace.
Chance: Very Good
Cassandra Clare’s novel moves the fantasy danger from small towns to the big city with a slayer-esque heroine, saucy love interests, and a whole lot of books asking for an adaptation (five have been published and a sixth is on the way). This is one of the most popular series currently being courted by Hollywood, which also gives it a nice fan base to start from, let alone its links to Twilight. Volturi member Jamie Campbell Bower plays Jace, and the film’s first teaser will screen with Breaking Dawn. Lily Collins will star, and the supporting cast includes Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kevin Zegers and Robert Sheehan. If done right, this might be the next decade-long fandom foray.
Plot: Sometime in the future the western United States became the Republic, a nation continually at war with its neighbor. June is a prodigy destined for military success who falls for Day, a slum-born criminal said to be her brother’s killer. They meet, they love, they uncover sinister truths about their country.
Star-crossed love returns with Marie Lu’s Legend. There’s a tough heroine, a boy she just can’t say no to, and a dangerous world that their love has to overcome. It’s got the bones for a popular series. It also helps that the cinematic adaptation is coming from the producers of Twilight. That said, the question will be whether Legend holds enough of its own draw. There are a ton of future-U.S. fantasy worlds getting optioned, no shortage of teen romances, and the plot is reminiscent of Revolution, without the electronic wonkiness. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) was tapped to direct the film last year, but he’s currently busy with the upcoming zombie teen flick Warm Bodies, and the adaptation is still in development.
Plot: In a post-apocalyptic world, society is split between the unblemished living in a health-protecting dome and the ravaged outside it, people who were fused to the objects they were touching when the disaster hit. Pressia lives outside, with a doll’s head for a hand, on the run from the militia who require every outer resident to be a soldier or a live target. Partridge is in the inside, claustrophobic and unsettled until he hears his mother might still be alive, and leaves the comfort of the Dome to find her, which leads him straight to Pressia.
Chance: Pretty Good
Its unique take on a post-apocalyptic world just might give Julianna Baggott’s series some big cinematic power. The story of children fighting in a world ravaged by the adults has some cultural relevance, which is boosted by the absolutely CGI frenzy the production would require. What makes the series a potential success, however, might also be its downfall. It will be a matter of how good the movie looks, and whether the audience can handle a dystopian romance where the leads aren’t perfect, unblemished heroes who always seem to have time for makeup and sexiness no matter how hairy the world is around them.
Plot: Born to a family of thieves, Katarina Bishop tries to escape the life by enrolling in an elite boarding school. Her plans are short-lived, however, when a mobster’s priceless art collection is stolen and her father is the prime suspect. Collecting a crew of teens to help her, she must steal the art back and save her family.
Science fiction/fantasy has dominated the young-adult blockbusters, but if handled right, Heist Society could take the audience into a new direction. Katarina has a love interest, Hale, and a world of intrigue, danger and lavishness that can serve the same audience in a new fancy package. The perk here is avoiding the dystopian/vampire fatigue completely by offering thrills without the otherworldly fantasy.
Plot: Ever is a psychic with all the nifty talents – reading minds, seeing auras, absorbing information with one touch – which also makes her the school outcast. When a new boy, Damen, transfers to her school, Ever falls hard because he’s not like the others – she can’t read his mind or see his aura.
Chance: Very Good
Once witches and vampires are exhausted, fantasy often moves over into the paranormal. (One just has to peek at Vampire Diaries scribe L.J. Smith’s early trilogies, which offered vampires, witches, vampires and witches, and then a group of teens with psychic powers.) This series, in particular, has a very Twilight-esque starting point.
The Immortals begins with a real-world high school, a stranger whose mind cannot be read, a romantic fascination with an immortal, and much romantic and historical turmoil to contend with over many years. An international bestselling series with a ton of books, it was –no surprise– optioned by Summit last year. Considering the series’ popularity, we’ll likely hear more about the adaptation once Bella leaves the theaters, though it will battle with Summit’s other teen properties.
The Plot: Earth has been invaded by alien spirits who take over your body and live out a peaceful life in a human host. Melanie is one of the few humans left, until she’s captured and possessed by Wanderer. Instead of succumbing to the possession, she mentally fights the invader, and floods the alien with so many memories of her human love, Jared, that they become unwilling allies to save him.
Chance: Very Good
If you want more Stephenie Meyerish success, then get the writer herself. The Host is the scribe’s next super-sappy fantasy, though her obsessive romance is now applied to a science-fiction landscape rather than the battleground of high school. That said, star Saoirse Ronan boasts Bella-brown locks, and gets to lust after the dashing Max Irons. Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time) adapted and directs the film, which hits screens this spring.
Is there a series of novels you think would fare better? Weigh in below.