Welcome to the YA Movie Countdown, our resident expert’s continuing guide to young adult book-to-film adaptations.
Young adult book-to-film adaptations have been in the spotlight for quite some time thanks to the colossal success of Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga, but if you look at the total number of new YA-to-film releases this year, 2013 marks an undeniable peak in the craze. But of course, that doesn’t mean every single one was a winner and that means they all won’t be coming through with us into the New Year.
Was it any good? Even though Jonathan Levine’s film doesn’t mimic the experience of reading the book, he manages to take Isaac Marion’s original material and turn it into something fresh, fun and big-screen appropriate by upping R’s wit and not taking the supernatural creature/human romance too seriously.
How it did: Levine’s unique, comedic twist proved to be a very appealing promotional component, reeling in a wider audience and making Warm Bodies the month’s sole YA-to-film hit. This one cost just $35 million to make, but wound up pulling in nearly $117 million worldwide.
Sequel status: A Warm Bodies prequel novella, The New Hunger, is currently available, but as of May Marion was still working on the novel sequel with hopes to finish it by mid to late 2014. The fact that Lionsgate and Summit have yet to announce a film sequel nearly 10 months after the first one hit makes it highly unlikely that they’ll forge forward with another movie, but if DVD and VOD sales maintain and Marion’s second book turns out to be a hit, that could absolutely warrant more R and Julie on-screen.
Was it any good? Unlike Warm Bodies, Beautiful Creatures takes its narrative so seriously that it winds up upping unintentional humor rather than drama. Oddly enough, even though the film is an overlong, two-hour-and-12-minute bore, it’s still light on compelling and convincing information, something that just doesn’t fly in a world where you’re supposed to believe in casters and all of this Dark and Light nonsense.
How it did: Even with big names like Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis as well as rising stars like Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert on the roster, Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures still tanked. Despite the book’s immense fan base, the film opened with an abysmal $7.6 million and only went on to take a total of $60 million worldwide, barely managing to match its production budget.
Sequel status: Even though Beautiful Creatures was supposed to be the start of a new, prolific YA-to-film franchise, that measly $7.6 million opening completely obliterated the chances of that.
Was it any good? Hah! Not only is The Host the worst young adult book-to-film adaptation of the year, but it’s also one of the worst films of the year, period. How dare the filmmakers cast someone like Saoirse Ronan and make her recite all that tacky dialogue to herself? Not only is the Melanie/Wanderer connection laughably bad, but the large majority of the performances are stale, the Souls are underdeveloped and nearly every action sequence is unexceptional, nonsensical or ends abruptly. It’s too bad the feature had to spoil that trailer.
How it did: Thankfully moviegoers heeded the warning and opted for G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Croods over The Host. The Host ran a $40 million production tab, but only managed to accumulate $48.2 million worldwide during its theatrical run.
Sequel status: Author Stephenie Meyer has mentioned plans to turn her book into a trilogy by penning The Seeker and then The Soul, but as far as a continuation of the film version goes, considering movie number one only managed to put $48.2 million in the bank, the odds of turning this one into a film franchise are slim to none. Cue sighs of relief.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
Was it any good? This one had some highlights, my favorite of which is Jamie Campbell Bower and an impressive sequence during which Clary battles a demon in her kitchen. But overall, the film is poorly structured and too chaotic to function as a believable representation of the Shadow Hunter world.
How it did: A late August release is rarely a good thing and, sure enough, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones only took $9.3 million in its first weekend out, coming in at number three behind box office veterans The Butler and We’re the Millers. Things only got worse after that. The film only managed to stay in theaters for seven weekends and wrapped its run with just $80.2 million worldwide.
Sequel status: Even though Constantin did halt production on the sequel soon after the first film’s disappointing debut, the company opted to give the book series another go, making plans to get The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes back into production in 2014. Considering City of Bones cost $60 million to make and only took in $80.2 million, the decision is absolutely baffling because even if Constantin does manage to bring down the budget, build a little more buzz and produce a better film, the fact that so few people caught the first one already severely limits the second’s audience.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW
Was it any good? With talent like Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in the lead, it’s no surprise that James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now is an especially moving and thoughtful experience. The duo brings Sutter and Aimee to life in a wholly natural fashion while Ponsoldt walks them through a dynamic, believable representation of a budding relationship.
How it did: This one only made it into 770 theaters, but it did manage to earn back the $3 million Andrew Lauren spent on the film, taking in a total of $6.9 million during its theatrical run – and that’s after A24 handed over seven figures for the North American rights after the film’s Sundance premiere where it earned Ponsoldt a grand jury prize nomination and Teller and Woodley a grand jury win. On top of that, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber scored an Independent Spirit Award nomination for the screenplay while Woodley locked one in for best actress.
Sequel status: Even though The Spectacular now is a solid adaptation, considering Tharp never penned a sequel and the material isn’t exactly franchise worthy, this one will likely remain a single, sweet gem worth revisiting.
Was it any good? After much talk and many attempts, Gavin Hood and co. actually managed to pull of the impossible and turn Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game into an effective film. Asa Butterfield is the ideal Ender, delivering a character that’s stoic and exceptionally knowing but never forgetting that deep down, he’s just a kid. Thanks to the big reveal, there’s no way for the film to match the experience of reading the book for the first time, but Hood still manages to turn it into a story worth reliving by transforming that grand finale shock into an ever-increasing sense of dread.
How it did: Ender’s Game’s $27 million opening total doesn’t make it a monumental hit, but it still marks a moderate start. However, unfortunately, Ender’s Game didn’t wind up having much staying power. After plummeting 62% making the move from weekend one to two, it continued to decline considerably and, as of last weekend, the film was only still screening in 608 theaters.
Sequel status: That $27 million domestic opening did suggest there was still potential to move forward with a sequel, but considering Ender’s Game only accumulated a total of $85 million worldwide since its initial release and required a $110 million production budget, another go-round is becoming less and less likely.
THE BOOK THIEF
Was it any good? This one didn’t get much love from critics, but personally, I found Brian Percival’s adaption of The Book Thief surprisingly successful. When you’re turning a book narrated by Death into a feature film, the odds are certainly against you, but even without that wildly unique and very telling driving force, Sophie Nelisse still manages to command the screen and plow through the narrative nailing all the necessary dramatic beats and ultimately earning the right to break your heart.
How it did: The Book Thief kicked off its run in four theaters with a solid $26,251 per theater average. Upon expanding to 1,234 locations, that number dropped to $3,942, but that total still marks a decent amount. The trouble is, when you consider the film’s supposed $35 million production budget, numbers like that just don’t cut it. On top of that, the film was likely made with intentions to conjure awards season hype, but after that soft critical and box office response, that campaign is going nowhere.
Sequel status: Considering there’s no second book and a film sequel is an absurd proposition from a financial standpoint, Liesel’s big-screen story will likely end here.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Was it any good? Even though Gary Ross’ exit raised some concern, Francis Lawrence took the reins of the Hunger Games film franchise and actually made it even better. Not only does Catching Fire rock exceptional performances and a nearly flawless script, but Lawrence took ever single additional penny he got from the first film’s success and put it back on-screen. Catching Fire shows why The Hunger Games deserves all the hype, fanaticism and profits.
How it did: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire absolutely demolished the box office, kicking off its run with a record-breaking $159.1 million and following that up with a $74.2 million weekend two total, making it the film with the fourth highest second weekend in history. Catching Fire currently has over $337 million in the domestic bank, about $33 million more than the first film at this point in its run.
Sequel status: We’ve got two more years of Hunger Games domination to look forward to. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is locked for a November 21, 2014 debut and then the series will conclude with the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 on November 20, 2015.
(Box office figures via Box Office Mojo)
The YA Movie Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday.
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