The world has changed a lot in the past sixty years, but some things don’t change, from the time of James Dean’s Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause to today all teenagers seek social acceptance. At one time or another every teenager has felt different, alien, or just misunderstood, that is why it is no surprise that when adapting Young Adult novels filmmakers have gravitated towards films characters who really are different: Percy Jackson (2010 & 2013) (son of Zeus), Blood and Chocolate (2007) (werewolf), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), (Shadowhunter, a human with angelic powers), Beautiful Creatures (2013) (witch), I am Number Four (2011) (alien), Vampire Academy (2014) (vampire and dhampir). And while Bella in Twilight (2008 – 2012) is human her chosen boyfriend isn’t. This fits with the idea of someone who is accepted within a group wanting their chosen boyfriend/girlfriend to be accepted too.
Over time we come to accept the world and the people around us. It doesn’t take a geniuses to see the dystopia of other books/films as a metaphor for the world from a teenage prospective. Think: The Hunger Games (2012 – 2015), Tomorrow When the War Began (2010), How I Live Now (2013). But what is the next step? Films where there is both dystopian setting and a lead character who “different” in some way: Ender’s Game (2013), Divergent (2014), The Giver (2014). The latest film in this YA movie genre The Maze Runner (2014) is on the edge of this new sub-genre with a dystopian setting and a charters whose difference id the catalyst for the plot.
My thoughts on the genre are mixed; the crossover success to the mainstream proves the quality of some of the films, I have seen all the films mentioned above and enjoyed many of them, The Hunger Games being the standout. But it seems the genre is becoming diluted. When asked if I had seen Beautiful Creatures, it took me a few minutes to remember what is was and decipher it from The Mortal Instruments. I can remember the premise and a few of the scenes from Blood and Chocolate, I am Number Four and Tomorrow When the War Began but can’t actually remember the plot. To put this in context I can remember great details of films I have seen once twenty or more years ago. But back to those mixed thoughts, I like Dystopian movies, for example I love Mad Max, 12 Monkeys and Blade Runner, therefore I worry the genre will collapses under its own weight. Think of all the Vampire movies after Twilight and not only how few decent vampire movie have been made in recent years, but how many of them are actually horror films. I also worry that the genre is been taken away from more brutal films like Doomsday (2008) and Battle Royale (2000) (I’m sure the muted remake will be 12A) in favour of more teen friendly films.
But it isn’t just about teen movies taking over the genre, they are also stopping other films getting made. Where is this generations Back to the Future (1985) or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)? Where is the fun in teen movies? The simple answer, as teen movies appeal to adult audiences the fun is in the mainstream with films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow (both 2014), both of which have a 12A rating in an attempt to crossover to the teen market. There are some other types of films creeping through, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), that I loved and The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay (2014) that I haven’t seen. And that is a good thing, all films shouldn’t appeal to all people, it is righty that as a thirty-something man I am not interested films aimed at younger or female audience.
What will be the next trend of YA and teen movies? I have no idea, but am sure someone does, it is more than likely already in the pipeline.