Maybe a Different Strategy, Hollywood?

The other day, my sister-in-law emailed an article to me on young adult movie adaptations, and asked for my opinion. If you’re curious, you can read the article here. In case you don’t feel like doing that, the article discusses the fact that Ascendant, the fourth film in the Divergent series, will debut on TV, rather than in theaters. Why? Because . . .

The humbling of “Ascendant” mirrors the fate of the YA genre as a whole, which has been experiencing diminishing returns in recent years.

divergent-movie-2014-poster-imagesIn other words, the films have not made as much money in the U.S. as filmmakers would have liked, though they grossed over $700 million worldwide (which is nothing to sneeze at).

So what do I think about this? Well first, I take issue with the phrase YA genre, since YA—young adult—is a market, rather than a genre. There are several genres aimed at that market: science fiction, fantasy, contemporary realism, historical, romance—you name it.

But the article brought up an issue that should have been obvious from the get-go: milking two movie adaptations out of one book. Since the Harry Potter franchise did this to great success, other filmmakers wanted to cash in on that strategy. Note the words cash in. But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a 784-page book with more than enough material to cover two films. The filmmakers were very faithful to the source material, which was beloved by fans. Note the word beloved.

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The article brought up the less than stellar success of Part 2 of Mockingjay (a partial adaptation of the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy) and The Divergent Series: Allegiant (a partial adaptation of the third book of the Divergent trilogy). Mockingjay is a 391-page book by Suzanne Collins. Allegiant, written by Veronica Roth, has around 592 pages. Note: All of the page counts are based on the hardback versions, which I read. The fans were divided on Mockingjay. And many disappointed fans took to the internet to rant about Allegiant. So I don’t know why anyone is surprised that fans would be lukewarm about seeing two films adapted from a book they disliked.

7260188       Allegiant_DemiJacket_WetProofTest.indd

But, you say, movies are made to attract new fans. Each movie should be its own animal. Good point. But the article brought up still another issue: the sameness of the movies. If you hear about movie after movie adapted from a dystopian series involving plucky teens fighting back against an oppressive government while falling in love with each other, wouldn’t you think they all sounded the same if you knew nothing about the book series from which they sprang?

I’d hate for movies based on YA books to stop being adapted simply because some have tanked. Perhaps if filmmakers moved beyond choosing only one or two sub-genres to adapt or avoided stretching the plot of one book over two or three movies, they might discover gold.

This has nothing to do with the above, but is it my imagination, or does the trunk of this tree look like the sideview of a woman wearing dress with an empire waist (ala the Regency period) and holding her arms up?

Photo by L. Marie

Photo by L. Marie

Book covers from Goodreads. Divergent movie poster from artseavideos.wordpress.com.

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49 thoughts on “Maybe a Different Strategy, Hollywood?

  1. I think Hollywood has TV envy. Game of Thrones saw to that. Basically, if they can now stretch a ‘property’ into two, three or even four films,instead of one, they will. They don’t care about quality as they know the die hard fans will go and see them all anyway. It’ll about the money. Hopefully at some point they’ll all lose money and they’ll (the Executives) will stop being so lazy and find new stories- ones that will be seen in one sitting – or we may as well say goodbye to the cinema.
    Love the tree, and yes it does.:)

    • Totally agree with you. When the rights to a series are acquired, it’s hard to know how the series will turn out, especially if the first book is popular. But when the last book–the crucial book–drives fans to complain online, I don’t know why they think milking two movies out of it is the answer. I would love to see more standalone movies and fewer franchises.

  2. I think the two-parter ending trend is dying off quickly. Potter and Twilight (somehow) pulled it off, but then people looked at it as a cash grab. I remember ‘Maze Runner’ was going to have a 2 part ending, but changed it after ‘Divergent’ got heat for the idea. The problem really is greed and overextending the source material. Large books or those that have multiple climaxes have a better shot at this, but those tomes are rare now. Heck, look at the horror that was ‘The Hobbit’, which brings up another issue. Many times, these adaptations aren’t for fans of the books. It feels like it’s becoming more common for the movies to be aimed at those who have never shown an interest because the established audience is taken for granted. This is why massive changes might occur.

    To be honest, this happens everywhere. Look at comic book movies. You can’t stray very far from the Marvel formula, which is low stakes, big action, and witty humor. This is what people want from all superhero films. Yet, they’re also complaining that the formula is getting stale, which makes this a head-spinning mess. As a group, humans really don’t know what they want. It’s only when we’re thinking as an individual that we even have the capacity to put our requests into words.

    • Great points, Charles. I wanted to bring up The Hobbit, so I’m glad you did. Three movies milked out of one small book. Cash grab? Seems that way.

      The formula is everywhere. I can’t help thinking of the Fast & Furious franchise, which so many people love. No one complains about those. But they’re quick to complain about YA movies. I’ll be glad to see the end of the split-the-last-book-into-two-movies trend. It’s not working! I wanted it for Harry, because I so loved the books and the movies. I also loved The Hobbit (the book). But I was not a fan of stretching the plot way beyond the ability to sustain interest in three films.

      • And they added a lot to that one book as well. Some I believe came from appendixes and other sources, but then there was the elf thing. Tauriel and Legolas irked me so much that I still haven’t seen the third. I agree with cash grab, but I heard that Jackson was brought on to replace the director very late in the game. So he had to work with what he had.

        A lot of people complain about Fast & Furious. The odd thing with action movies is that they really do hit the same points and have done so since the 1980’s. Part of that is because the stunts and action scenes are the highlight instead of the story. YA is one that requires more of a plot and people expect that. F&F is a rather bizarre creature though. Somehow, it hasn’t taken over the genre to the same extent as other franchises (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), so you can still get car and heist films that follow other rules. YA seems to be the one that really shot itself in the foot. Superheroes a close second.

      • And they made up Tauriel for the movie. Yes, Jackson had to work with what he had. Perhaps in hindsight, maybe he would have made only two movies.

        I haven’t seen a single one of the Fast and Furious movies, but for some reason, they don’t bother me. So many people enjoy them. They fulfill an entertainment need. I don’t have a problem with that. Same with dystopian books and movies. The issue for me as someone who has read these series is that the books often were written so quickly (due to demand). Having spent money on those and being disappointed, there was no way I was going to pay more money to see a movie adaptation, since I didn’t love the source material.

        Sigh. You are so right about Game of Thrones! 😦

      • Two would have worked best. Odd that you rarely see a double. I’ve seen all of the F&F movies and they definitely move from believable heist to somebody has too big of a car and explosion budget.

        Now that you mention it, I heard a lot of people saying that Hunger Games and Divergent had disappointing endings in the books. Were they really that rushed?

      • The first Hunger Games book took about ten years to write. The third, about six months, due to the popularity of the books. Even the author mentioned that the book was not exactly the way she would have liked. Still, being she was a script writer herself, the book had cinematic quality.

        I think Divergent was a years in the making book too, though I don’t know how many years. But I know through her website that writing the ending was troublesome.

      • As a series author, I will admit that the first book always takes the longest to come up with. Part of it is laying the groundwork for future installments and world building. Once you get over that hurdle, the other stories come a lot quicker and smoother. Why did she have trouble with the ending?

      • Because fans were telling her their fears of what might happen. She wrestled with writing an ending that felt true to her vision, knowing that many of the fans would probably hate it. That’s the tough part of writing. How much do you listen to fans? How much do you listen to your own heart?

      • Been there and it does suck. I try to listen to my fans without changing the story from what I want. When I started ‘Legends of Windemere’, I planned a lot of the big events and character directions. At the beginning, I had requests for some characters to get more attention and that was okay. The headaches come when people try to demand certain relationships that would derail future plot points. It always seems to come down to the relationships.

      • Yeah, that’s tough territory. I still shudder when I hear the words “Team Gale” or “Team Peeta” or even “Team Edward.” When did fans start to think they could dictate to an author how the author should write a series? I didn’t like the ending to several trilogies. But I wasn’t about to write to the author and tell that person that he or she sucked simply because I did not like the endings.

      • Didn’t realize the first two had teams, but I managed to avoid most of that craze. I wish I had an answer to that question, but I’ve seen an increase in the ‘you work for me’ mentality with fans. Many believe that the author is writing specifically to them and sharing their wavelength. Even indies can get this and it tends to stick. For example, the Windemere hero bio on Thursday is for a central supporting character. 9 times out of 10, I get hate comments when this character comes up. So, I’m always cautious about using them on the blog.

      • Oh my goodness! I’m so tired of people with rude comments that they feel the need to share. Ugh!!! So frustrating.

        Yes, Team Gale/Peeta flourished because of Team Edward/Jacob. Sigh.

      • It isn’t usually rudeness these days. Just a debate over the character’s motivations and existence. It gets tiring because I think there is a culture barrier in the way. Makes me want to avoid any protagonists that come from unique cultures.

      • Do the commenters at least appreciate how you’ve shaped the character? Or are they trying to tell you what they think you need to do?

      • Hard to tell. Some do, but usually it’s one part of the character that brings everything down. This causes a small issue with creating flawed heroes. You’ll always have some readers who don’t like the flaw and can’t get over it being there.

      • I remember you mentioning that before. I’m not sure what people expect of heroes. Do they want them to be invincible (though people complained about Superman in that regard)? To me a hero is more compelling with flaws.

      • People want heroes to be flawed, but almost superficially. Maybe there are limits or people would rather have physical than mental flaws. Not really sure. Superman is an odd one since he is flawed, but in a way that a reader can’t immediately connect with. He is always trying to maintain some type of human life while knowing he’s not one of them. This doesn’t get acknowledged since he can bench press a planet and shrug off a point blank missile.

  3. Good catch on the word “genre” in that article. I missed that and it shows a basic lack of understanding of what the journalist is writing about! Charles brought up a point that I was thinking as I read your post: so what if there is a “sameness” in these YA novel adaptations? Isn’t there a sameness to the Buff Male with Endowed Power Saving the World? From Bourne to Marvel, this formula does not change. But truly, I’ve grown weary of all of them. I agree with what’s been shared here regarding cashing in. Look at the plans for the Star Wars spinoffs! I adored The Force Awakens, but do we really need spinoffs every year? I watched “Brooklyn” the other night and was delighted by the quiet indie film set in the 1950’s with nary an oppressive regime nor a Chosen One to be seen in the entire film. 🙂 What a nice departure from blockbusters Hollywood salivates over.

    • I’m glad you brought up Brooklyn, Laura. I loved that movie. I think she was a teen too. That’s a great example of a beautiful YA movie. I wish more of those were made.

      It’s sad that so many ideas get beaten to death. You and Charles are right. The formula does not change. Like you, I get weary of the formula sometimes.

      • Wow! I’ve been impressed with the conversations going on from this posting, giving me much fodder for thought. Money tends to be the root of all evil, doesn’t it.

        Laura, I loved Brooklyn. I actually did see it at the theater, a matinee, with, oh maybe 12 people in the audience. It was so beautifully done. The book remains on my pile, sad to say.

      • I thought Brooklyn was a wonderful film. Beautifully done.

        I can understand the desperation Hollywood faces in this day and age where people no longer venture to the movies as much. But part of the issue comes from greed, yes. We don’t need four movies when two will do.

  4. Since I haven’t seen any of these movies or read the books, I’ll comment on the tree photo. Yes! That’s exactly what is looks like L. Marie. I’m happy to know you’ve gotten outside for a little tree watching. 🙂

  5. I love your tree shot . . . definitely Jane Austen (or Jane Eyre) with her hands in the air. “Oh, Heathcliff!”

    I watched the 1st two Hunger Games movies and thought they were OK. When they chose to split the 3rd book into two movies, I lost interest and . . . split!

    • Ha ha! Glad you see that. I’m taking this as a sign to watch one of the Jane Austen movie adaptations I have on DVD. 🙂

      I enjoyed the movies, but purposely chose not the watch the last one. I already knew what was going to happen and didn’t care to watch it unfold on the screen.

  6. I haven’t ever got around to watching The Hobbit, because the idea of stretching it out over three movies seems ridiculous. I will watch them one day, but I do very much agree it’s simply cashing in, which I didn’t feel at all about the LOTR movies. I can’t help feeling it must backfire on them in the long run. I don’t think it really makes people watch more movies over all – certainly not me, anyway. In fact, I get bored with trilogies in either books or films – very few of them can sustain interest enough to bridge the long wait between them.

    The tree is pretty amazing!

    • Isn’t it??? I was out for a walk and noticed it. 🙂

      I agree with you! The LoTR movies were such an effort of love. They are among my favorite movies.

      I enjoyed the first two Hobbit films, but not to the extent of LoTR. They were so much like LoTR, down to some of the battle scenes having the same choreography. I had been looking forward to seeing The Hobbit adapted, since it’s the most kid friendly of the four books. But the films did not capture that spirit.

  7. All great points, Linda. I completely agree. Also, I LOVE THE TREE. I saw the exact same thing the minute I looked at it. And YA is NOT a genre! Where is Jim Hill?

    • Yay! This tree is right outside my door. I’m embarrassed to say I just noticed the Regency dress thing yesterday. 🙂

      Totally! Besides, those who read YA books and watch films adapted from those books are not necessarily only teens.

  8. I’m one of those weird people who’s not a fan of blockbuster movies, and over the years they’ve gotten more predictable and harder to tell apart. Maybe that’s part of my trouble with YA these days. I’m just too weird. Anyway, give me a quiet, thoughtful foreign film or something quirky and small-budget like Captain Fantastic (which reminded me of a quiet, quirky YA novel I read for the Cybils a couple of years ago, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside). Am I the only one who liked Captain Fantastic?

  9. The double-feature of Mockingbird worked slightly better than expected, but still wasn’t great. Part of the problem with the Allegiant films is they’re just not good movies – I haven’t been able to sit down through them. Also, as someone who hasn’t read the series, the closeness to the tone of the Hunger Games didn’t make them attractive.
    I think good YA adaptations are possible, but Hollywood has to be smarter about execution and quality.

    • I agree that Hollywood needs to be smarter–starting with hiring good screenwriter who actually love the material they’re adapting. I couldn’t help noticing how much everyone who worked on the Harry Potter films loved the books.

      • I’m also impressed by how Harry Potter evolved over the movies, and finished with an excellent team who loved the world and understood the characters.

  10. I totally see the woman in the tree!!!

    Another factor is the bubble thing. YA was the quickest growing market for a while, because it attracted just about everyone. So tons of authors and movie makers jumped on it at once. Flood of supply, but the market can only grow so far. I predict we’ll see a big drop in the market, people will survive on classics for a while, eventually new YA will be in demand again, and up we swing.

    • I think you’re right, ReGi. Everything is cyclical. The problem with YA sometimes is that many of the topics are very trendy. Trends come and go. It’s much harder to write a book that is close to timeless.

  11. If you hear about movie after movie adapted from a dystopian series involving plucky teens fighting back against an oppressive government while falling in love with each other, wouldn’t you think they all sounded the same if you knew nothing about the book series from which they sprang? Yes! I enjoyed watching the first in the Divergent series. I don’t see reason to watch another.

    What an imagination you have! I see a tree. Okay, I see a lady raising her arms!

    • Yay! I’m glad everyone is seeing what I’m seeing.
      More dystopian series will debut. I’ll be curious to see if Hollywood latches on to them or if the movie makers will be more cautious.

  12. Pingback: Maybe a Different Strategy, Hollywood? – Politics & chaos

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