Welcome to the YA Movie Countdown, our resident expert’s continued guide to young adult book-to-film adaptations.
Big-screen superheroes stole much of the San Diego Comic-Con spotlight, but now more than ever, young adult book-to-film adaptations aren’t far behind. Sadly The Maze Runner only made it to Nerd HQ, but Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Seventh Son, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire all enjoyed their own panels, interviews, press conferences, convention center floor giveaways and more.
Check out the highlights from each film’s Comic-Con run below.
Ender’s Game might have made the most significant impact of all. It opened the event with the Ender’s Game Fan Experience, held a full morning of interviews the next day, rolled into Hall H later that afternoon, had a presence at the Summit party that night and then continued to spread the word via giveaways at the Summit and Lionsgate booth inside the convention center.
The Ender’s Game Fan Experience was more of an Ender’s Game museum than experience. The Godzilla Encounter, on the other hand, was part museum but also had an immersive and interactive component that made it much more of an experience. Still, this Ender’s Game museum was quite the treat. They essentially re-created sets from the film using props and costumes and then let fans walk right through the setup and even touch certain pieces. You can experience the walk-through for yourself (without the touching, of course) by checking out our video coverage right here.
We were also fortunate enough to get to talk to writer-director Gavin Hood and young stars Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield, too. Even though Ender’s Game is considered young-adult material and the film will likely aim to have a wide appeal, don’t expect Hood to overlook any of Orson Scott Card’s weightier messages. Hood told us, “I love the fact that this novel, albeit about young people, is really about very adult themes.” Of course, on the outside, some of those themes are conveyed through what appears to be an innocent game that takes place in the Battle Room. Hood’s steady vision for those scenes helped Steinfeld and Butterfield jump into those moments despite the fact that they were surrounded by green screen. Steinfeld pointed out, “There were like five or six of us standing in front of a green screen, and he was able to get us all on the same page, seeing the same thing.” Check out our chats with Steinfeld and Butterfield, and Hood here and here.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into Hall H for the panel, but ComingSoon.net did and, according to its live blog, the audience was treated to a brand new trailer that focused on Ender’s rise in the International Fleet, with Harrison Ford’s Colonel Graff noting how Ender can end the alien threat and Ben Kingsley’s Mazer Rackham insisting that the boy isn’t ready, to which Graff replies, “You’re never ready. Only ready enough.”
Divergent also enjoyed a presence in Hall H, on the convention center floor and at the Summit party, but for us, the biggest treat was getting to chat with Shailene Woodley and Theo James, and then Maggie Q, Ben Lamb, Ansel Elgort and Mekhi Phifer. Really, in any genre it’s tough to avoid connections to past films, yet with YA book-to-film adaptations in particular, it seems as though folks are incessantly judging material based on whether it could be the next Twilight or The Hunger Games. Woodley isn’t having that. She pointed out, “This world that we live in and this industry that we are a part of just doesn’t make any sense, and to create expectations for your life or to think about something that hasn’t happened yet…,” and James concluded, “Nothing is something until it’s something.”
Elgort, who plays Beatrice’s brother Caleb in the film, stole our four-on-one interview. When asked what faction he’d choose he went with Amity because of his endearing new hobby. “I’ve been recently planting in my backyard," he said. Elgort upped the charm even more when we asked about his favorite part of SDCC and he told us, “I play War Hammer and I collect threeA Toys, so I'm gonna get a threeA toy today actually… it's limited edition. Only San Diego Comic-Con.” Not that Elgort necessarily wants to hear this, but that’s absolutely adorable and we hope he got his threeA toy. You can watch our interviews with the two groups for yourself right here and here.
No Ender’s Game panel of course meant no Divergent panel, but in Hypable’s live blog of the event, the site notes that they screened a string of moments of Beatrice in Dauntless, which included train jumping and fight scenes.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
As someone who’s been very skeptical about the Mortal Instruments adaptation, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but SDCC almost entirely changed my tune. Not only did Kevin Zegers, Jamie Campbell Bower and director Harald Zwart all come across as notably thoughtful in interviews, but then the footage shown in Hall H turned out to be an immensely successful and an impressive surprise.
While talking to Zwart for ShockYa.com, he wouldn’t divulge any details in terms of specific changes he and author Cassandra Clare made while adapting the book, but he did hint, “The third act of the movie takes place in a place where you’re familiar, you know? [With] Star Wars, it’d be awkward if the third act was not the Death Star but it was just somewhere random, totally somewhere else. That works in the book, but in the movie we had to kind of bring them back to the place where we spent all the movie time.”
Expect each actor to sell his or her character especially well, because as Zegers pointed out there are crossovers between cast members and characters. “Jamie’s the smart-ass, Lily’s like strong and cool, Robbie’s kind of a jokester, dicks around a lot, and I’m a little older so I’m a little more like, ‘Okay, come on. Let’s get it together.’” However, even though Bower does share some qualities with his Jace Wayland, he did need a Jace detox after wrapping production, and that consisted of “barley and a lot of surfing.” You can find the full interview with Zwart here, the one with Zegers here and the one with Bower right here.
Even after three highly enjoyable and convincing interviews, I still walked into Hall H a bit doubtful. However, mere seconds into the footage there was no denying that I could have been very wrong about this film all along. The material consisted of two scenes intercut: a moment with Jace and Clary in an alley, during which Clary questions Jace about the strange things she’s seeing; and one where Clary’s mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey), is brutally attacked by a pair of intruders. The drama between Bower and Collins was convincing enough, but where the material went above and beyond was with visuals.
First off, Headey takes a serious beating and gives one right back, too, smashing one of her attacker’s heads repeatedly using her refrigerator door. The hand-to-hand violence during the home-invasion snippets is raw and real, making you feel the danger. The scenes are artfully woven together through a phone call from Jocelyn to Clary, during which Jocelyn insists that Clary not return home. Obviously Clary disobeys and that’s when we get our first look at The Mortal Instruments otherworldly components.
When Clary gets home, her mother is gone and so are the intruders, but a Rottweiler is left behind. The dog attacks and Clary makes some smart, evasive choices. Then the Rottweiler transforms into something she seemingly has no chance of stopping, a Ravener. The Ravener is obviously a CG creation, yet it melds with the live-action components absolutely seamlessly. Plus, the creature has a number of notable features, one of which comes with a particularly memorable visual. After Clary torches the beast, it turns into a pile of mush that looks even more pathetic and defeated when a sole eyeball floats through the liquidlike remains.
This moment is above and beyond anything we’ve seen from The Mortal Instruments promotional campaign thus far.
Considering the Saturday Hall H lineup consisted of Warner Bros., Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and Marvel, there was no way I was going anywhere near that line. However, there were some interesting thoughts conveyed during the Seventh Son press conference.
Jeff Bridges cited a quote that inspired him to both join the project and guide him towards what he’d like to see it achieve: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
When recalling memories from the set, Ben Barnes remembered, “There was the day of the lightning strikes. We kept having to run and hide under the trees, but the trees were only two feet tall… every five minutes, they had these mountain guides who were like, ‘Everyone under the trees!’ So 200 people go and hide under these two-foot shrubberies, looking up like, ‘Please, don’t kill me, wrath of the weather!’” A little more seriously, Kit Harrington pointed out, “They group everything into fantasy or sci-fi, but within those genres, there’s other things. And this was different from anything I had done and it was a wonderful mixture between dark and light. It has the elements of the children’s novel in it and it also has the elements of what horrible acts can be done by humans, and I thought that was a really interesting mix to play with.”
On the footage front, FirstShowing.net reported that the Hall H crowd was treated to a five-minute sizzle reel loaded with action and creatures. The site specifically noted, “Looks much better than Snow White and the Huntsman. This is what Clash of the Titans should've been.”
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Yet again, no Seventh Son meant no Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but fortunately the highpoint of the Hall H panel -- the brand-new trailer -- was made available on the Web shortly after the event wrapped. And now the full Q&A is on YouTube, too!
After a full two minutes of introductions and cheering, the Q&A commenced. When asked about joining such a beloved franchise and meeting the high expectations, Jeffrey Wright ("Beetee") explained, “There was such a high level that we were stepping into, it could be viewed as intimidating, but I think in fact it made it easier because the groundwork had been laid and we just had to step in and step up.” Jena Malone ("Johanna Mason") added, “We were coming in as sort of the young blood, but there was kind of a lot of us. We actually kind of outnumbered them.” She also pointed out, “Where the last film left off, everything is flipped on its head. All the rules are off, so it kind of also felt nice for all of us to be in something new and different together.”
Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence shared an amusing memory about what Lawrence gracefully dubbed “the clip with the snot.” After going back and forth to ensure they didn’t reveal any spoilers, Lawrence explained, “There was a lot of slobber,” and then basically revealed the moment by pointing out, “It was a resuscitation.” Hutcherson continued, “There was a kiss and there was slobber, and slobbery strings got connected between our faces.” Lawrence then proudly proclaimed, “I’ll put it on YouTube or something because you gotta see it! But there’s all this snot coming out of my nose and when I go to kiss [him] it connects to his mouth.” Sexy, huh?
At one point, a fan from the audience asked Lawrence about jumping between big-budget films and smaller scale productions, to which Lawrence replied with a degree of restraint, “I think that there really can actually be something to be said for having too much money, and I think sometimes when you don’t have the means and you show up and you have to finish the day, you have no choice … and we shoot our movies like this. They’re very similar where we’re all kind of on the same page like we’re in this together to get this done. Sometimes with studio movies, it’s so big and so massive that so many things just kind of... But their food is a lot better and the trailers are bigger.”
As for the new Catching Fire trailer, odds are you’ll find it in Best and Worst Movie Trailers of the Week. For now, know this cut is pristine. It’s so moving and immersive and has such a powerful build that each step of the way you’re truly looking forward to what comes next. The material is dark, suspenseful and even a bit haunting, but by the time we hit the 75th Hunger Games, the regality and thrill returns until we get that moment when the victors are lifted up into the arena and the piece cuts to black at the absolute pinnacle of anticipation. This trailer offers so much, but the material is so magnetizing and well presented, it’s just not enough. The countdown until November 22 continues.
The Maze Runner
Again, The Maze Runner didn’t have an on-site presence, but it was right nearby for Nerd HQ. It seems the full Q&A is available on YouTube (see below). However, a short-and-sweet highlight piece is up and running and includes little bits with Dylan O’Brien, director Wes Ball, producer Wyck Godfrey, and author James Dasher.
One element that stands out is Dasher’s enthusiasm for the project. He seems absolutely thrilled with Ball’s work and if the creator of the Maze Runner world is this pleased with the film thus far, we’re likely to be, too. Also, with Nerd HQ basically in SDCC’s backyard, Ball showed up at the Summit party and I had the pleasure of talking with him about the film. The conversation was casual, so there’s no news to report, but the key thing I took from the chat is how happy Ball is with the experience. He couldn’t say enough about the studio, his cast, crew, etc., and it was genuine to the point that it was totally convincing. Ball is a great guy, and it sounds like he could have a great piece of cinema coming our way.
Until Next Year!
That’s all for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. A special thanks to all of you who participated in our YA at SDCC quiz and giveaway. It was a thrill to meet you all, and we hope to see you in San Diego again for the big show next year. However, should any YA properties crop up at NYCC, we’ll certainly be back in Comic-Con mode for that, too.
The YA Movie Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday.