Last week saw the second attempt to launch a franchise based on a successful series of young adult novels. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on The Mortal Instruments series of five novels (with a sixth on the way) written by Cassandra Clare. Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) plays Clary Fray a seemingly normal teenager who discovers she is a Shadowhunter, a sort of daemon hunter. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with less (intentional) comedy. The other movie earlier in the year Beautiful Creatures is based on The Caster Chronicles: Alden Ehrenreich plays Ethan a seemingly normal high school student ( is this sounding similar?) who has a recurring dream about Lena played by Alice Englert (daughter of Jane Campion), a girl he has never met, until she turns up as the new kid at school. Both films are fun and entertaining movies with a suitably gothic tone. However they are also sadly unremarkable and unoriginal. Beautiful Creatures failed to find an audience making a sequel unlikely. On the other hand the confidence in Mortal Instrruments is such that City of Ashes the second Mortal Instruments film is already in pre-production. Shooting is due to start next month with a release next summer. This got me thinking about similar themed books that have been adapted into movies. Some have done better and more successful than others:
Harry Potter (2001-2011): The undisputed champion of the book to film adaptation in recent years has been Harry Potter having grossed nearly $8billion from its 8 films (based on 7 books). The success of the films comes partly from the great casting and the faithful (so I am told) adaptation from J. K. Rowling‘s books. But it goes further than that, a film should be its own entity and survive on its own merits not requiring the viewer to have read the books. This helps the audience grow over and above the fans of the novel. I didn’t see any of the films until 2011 but watched them all in a short space of time and have to admit I enjoyed them.
Chronicles of Narnia (2005-2010): Based on C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series of books and produced by Walden Media in association with first Disney then Fox. Three of the seven novels: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) have been adapted into films so far. Faithful to the source novels and like the source novels, the movies are distractingly preachy but good entertaining fun. Commercially successful grossing over $1.5billion, the first is amongst the top 50 all time highest grossing movies. It appears the series has stalled with complications since Walden Media’s exclusive rights have lapsed.
The Golden Compass (2007): Was an unfortunate mess of a movie. Well cast and beautifully shot but completely ruining Philip Pullman’s fantastic story. If reports are correct it was nothing short of a clusterfuck for New Line Cinema. One of their most expensive films ever with a budget estimated at around $180million, it took around $70million at the US box-office. New Line then sold the worldwide rights to cover the production costs, it went on to take over £300million. In one way it is sad that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is unlikely to be adapted into a film anytime soon, on the other hand I am glad the series stopped before they made things any worse.
The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012): Coming second only to Harry Potter in the book adaptation box-office, The Twilight Saga had its detractors who were almost as vocal as its fans. It also had its ups and downs artistically; Eclipse (2010) directed by David Slade representing the high point and New Moon (2009) directed by Chris Weitz the low point. The first film directed by Catherine Hardwicke was arguably the most important as its success secured the budget for the ongoing saga. Love them or hate them, you can’t argue with nearly $3.5billion from 5 films (based on 4 books). Not great films but completely inoffensive, I really can’t see why people get so worked up about them.
Tomorrow when the War Began (2010 – ?): Based on the first of a series of seven Australian novels that have a striking resemblance to Red Dawn. The first movie was well received in Australia but failed to find an audience in the rest of the world. Two sequels have been suggested but are yet to materialise.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians (2010 – ?): Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) are based on the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series of books by Rick Riordan. An updating of Greek mythology, Percy is a demigod, and son of Poseidon (based on his exploits in defeating various monsters, he appears to be based on Perseus, son of Zeus). The first film was a financial success but the second has only just managed to make back its budget making an adaptation of The Titan’s Curse less likely.
I am Number Four (2011): Based on the first of four (to date) novels about alien children hiding out on earth from a second alien race who took over their home world. Finding a good balance between sci-fi action and high school drama the movie is entertaining if disposable. The cast is quite good but Timothy Olyphant is criminally underused and Teresa Palmer’s ‘number six’ is a more interesting character than Alex Pettyfer’s ‘number four’. Made on a relatively small budget (the money was all spent on producer Michael Bay‘s robot hitting exercise) for this type of movie it made a reasonable profit. A sequel was announced but then shelved.
The Hunger Games (2012-2015): Thanks largely to the perfect casting of Jennifer Lawrence the Hunger Games was a huge success. Grossing nearly $700million and becoming the best selling DVD/Blu-ray of 2012 a sequel was guaranteed. The first sequel Catching Fire is scheduled for release later this year with the final book Mockingjay split into two parts, Part 1 will be released in November 2014 with part two twelve months later. My only concern the second and third books were much weaker than the first creating a real challenge for the script writers.
So what’s next?
Seventh Son: Based on the first (there are twelve so far) of Joseph Delaney’s children’s dark fantasy novel series The Wardstone Chronicles. The highlights of the casting are Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Scheduled for release next January (February in the UK) next year.
Vampire Academy: Based on a series of six young-adult paranormal romance novels by Richelle Mead. I haven’t heard of any of the principle cast but the supporting cast includes Olga Kurylenko, Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson. Scheduled to be released February next year.
Divergent: Unlike the other films mentioned, Divergent is based on the first of an intended trilogy. It has been adapted into a film before parts two and three have been published. It is the debut novel by American author Veronica Roth. The film version is directed by Neil Burger and has an interesting cast including: Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet and Maggie Q. it is scheduled for release next March next year.
I’m not sure we have seen ‘The Next’ Twilight or Harry Potter yet but The Hunger Games is looking like the best and the most successful.