The Problem of Making Young Adult Books into Movies

When the first Harry Potter film came out, people were genuinely excited. Kids who read the books were eager to see it translated into a big budget movie. People who’ve never read the book enjoyed the surprisingly deep story of The Boy Who Lived and his connection to He Who Must Not Be Named and they started to read the books themselves as they got invested in the characters and magical tales they spun. It was the one of the most successful Young Adult novels turned movies and Hollywood took notice.

The practice of turning books into flicks isn’t anything new. There have been a ton of books from Stephen King, Tom Clancy and many more that have been converted to the silver screen. Heck, even I Know What You Did Last Summer was based on a book! But Hollywood was looking for something different. They’re looking for a sure hit. Like superhero films, they already had a rabid fanbase so there’s already a build-in audience for it. It seems like a sure thing!

And, for a while, it was a sure thing! They released a long line of successful films based on Young Adult books like The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. This, of course, culminated in the release of Stephenie Meyer’s mega-blockbuster Twilight Saga.

Yeah, I know your reaction to this: EEEEEW!

Yeah, I know your reaction to this: EEEEEW!

When the Twilight Saga (finally) ended, Hollywood then went into a mad scramble into finding the “next big thing.” They started releasing a torrent of movies based on young adult books. Percy Jackson and The Olympians. The Spiderwick Chronicles. I Am Number Four. Beautiful Creatures. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. They’ve even tried to delve into the past by making film adaptations of Ender’s Game and John Carter.

While there are notable exceptions, The Hunger Games comes to mind, most of them seem to fail to set the box office world on fire. Or, at least, get really good reviews. Why is that? I actually think it has to do more with the material and the fear of movie studios to diverge from the source material.

Better than the above series of films!

Better than the above series of films!

I’m not much of a reader so I can’t really identify with the quality of the books themselves (the last book I read was The DaVinci Code, which I felt was ridiculous). But, by definition, the target audience for these books is the young adult demographic. While they can be somewhat complex, most of the stories are generally going to be clear cut. The hero’s gonna be good, no matter what and the villain’s gonna be evil. The hero will come out victorious in the end… yadda yadda yadda. Character development is also pretty forced for most young adult stories.

Another major problem is the movie industry not properly adapting the book into a film as well… because they try to transfer every detail onto the big screen. This may not seem like a problem but it actually is because, well, movies and books are totally different mediums.

With books, you can read the minds of the people in the story. You can read the minute details of something that’s described in there. You can also turn back some pages if you forgot something and you want to check something out again. With movies, you can add stirring music cues. You can add little mysteries such as how a character is feeling at the moment. You can zoom onto something to draw your audience’s attention to it. It’s generally a different way to tell a story.

Take the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson, who is a huge fan of the books, took liberties with the story when he made the films. He added new characters, added and cut out some scenes and even reworked the timeline somewhat to make a great trilogy of movies. It’s him telling the story of the Lord of The Rings rather than just him repeating every line from the books.

Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

The best of all of the trilogy of movies on this post.

So, should we stop making film adaptions of young adult books? No, I don’t think so. Rather, film companies should concentrate more on making a good movie rather than just making an adequate film adaption of the book. That way, you can both appease the fans of the book as well as the moviegoer who has no idea that there was a book to begin with.

What’s your take on young adult books being made into films? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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