Home » Books in General, YA » Are we witnessing the death of young-adult dystopia at the movies?

Are we witnessing the death of young-adult dystopia at the movies?

21 March 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

In movie theaters this past weekend, a reluctant teen hero led a rebellion comprising an implausible clan of oppressed but likable young iconoclasts. Together they rose up around their chosen one to fight their government’s evil social engineering.

Sound familiar? No, it wasn’t a new installment of “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner”or “The Giver.” And it wasn’t a reprise of “Saturday Night Live’s” “The Group Hopper” sketch, which blended almost every current dystopian teen trope into a trailer for a fake movie “written entirely,” the joke went, “in the comments section of a ‘Hunger Games’ trailer.”

The real film was “The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1,” the third in the franchise starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.

But with an opening weekend box office of just $29 million — compared with a $54-million start for “Divergent” (2014) and a slightly lower $52 million for “Insurgent” (2015) — “Allegiant” debuted at a disappointing No. 2 behind the rabbit-fronted “Zootopia, calling into question whether we are witnessing the end of the young adult dystopian wave at the movies.

. . . .

But few films in this genre have been able to claim “The Hunger Games'” big bucks. The 2013 science-fiction thriller “The Host” made just more than $26.5 million in its entire domestic run, even though it was adapted from a novel written by “Twilight” author Stephanie Meyer and starred two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. Another alien-centric adaptation “The 5th Wave,” still in theaters, has made just under $34 million since its January debut.

. . . .

Senior media analyst for comScore Paul Dergarabedian doesn’t agree that the weight can be placed solely on the genre in question. “Athough as a whole the YA dystopian movies have had massive success, many films from this category have fallen short, so their continued relevance in the marketplace has come into question,” Dergarabedian said in a email.

He added, “The overriding premise of most of these films seem very similar and thus the natural conclusion is that YA audiences may be looking for other, perhaps fresher options.”

. . . .

Even though the movie dystopia looks to be slowly dwindling in box-office numbers, the “bleak future” trend is alive on television. The CW’s critically adored “The 100” just got renewed for another season, USA premiered Carlton Cuse’s alien-occupied Los Angeles thriller “Colony” in January and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (while mostly teen-free) is still running strong with a spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” in tandem. More is on the way. The CW gave the green light to an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” with a dystopian bent. Wrap your head around that.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Books in General, YA

21 Comments to “Are we witnessing the death of young-adult dystopia at the movies?”

  1. Not sure this is a fair watermark. The first book was kick a** start to finish, learning to be Divergent and what it meant. Book 2, Insurgent, was a lot more about the politics of it all, a little more psychology. Book 3 is all politics, far more than the Hunger Games Book 3 (in two parts), and there are huge parts where it is almost just exposition. Not surprising it would tail off, even with the built-in crowd who saw 1 & 2. The third book is definitely the weakest of the three.

  2. Hollywood hits us over the head with the same thing over and over and we’re surprised people grow sick of it? Perhaps we should be surprised people are still putting up with it at all.

    • Ooh! Now I don’t have to say it. Kinda boring seeing the same move over and over again. Unless it’s Die Hard or The Terminator.

      • Terminator hasn’t done all that well its last two outings. They should’ve stuck with the Sarah Connors Chronicles.

        • Dont tell my family but I’m sick of superheroes.

          • You heathen! 😆

            For someone who’s not a fan of the genre, I can see why there’s fatigue. As a comics freak myself, the success of Deadpool scares me because the suits will only look at the numbers, not WHY the property was successful. Then they will ruin the releases of superhero movies over the next couple of years by making them exactly like Deadpool.

            • Oh yes, Susan, a thousand times yes. That’s what happens. If one is good, why… a million exactly like that ‘one’ will be better! Such fatigue!
              The only reason I may see the new superman/batman thingy is because of Gal Gadot. 🙂 I gotta see her as Wonder Woman.

              • LOL Me too! I loved Gal in the F&F series. And I’m looking forward to Chris Pine as Steve Trevor next year. 😀

                P.S. If you’re into coloring books, Amazon is taking preorders for the WW book, which features George Perez’s art from his run on the comic series back in the ’80’s.

          • You don’t want to see the *fifth* reboot of Spiderman?!


        • I agree with you there, Felix. I’m referring to The Terminator. Couldn’t care less about the remaining films.

        • TSCC had a chance to be awesome. 🙁 The 100 is decent. TWD is da bomb, and FTWD could be the very thing for summer zombie love (I liked the first season).

          I used to have the same fantasies as any teen girl, wherein I alone could save the world. Outgrew that and don’t get the thrill of YA dystopia books. To each his own, I guess. If there could be some real variation in the story lines, these movies might do better.

  3. I doubt that it’s either “dystopian” or YA that’s the problem. Maybe people are tired of unrealistic plots where youngsters become kick-a** heroes who rise up against oppressive governments and save the world.

    • It could also be because the second movie was pretty bad. Not that I’m in the target market for these movies, but I found the first one more entertaining than Hunger Games.

      Though more people on IMDB were complaining about the lesbian hairstyle than the story when I looked in the discussions there after watching it…

  4. Maybe people just didn’t like the ending, which was controversial and divisive (if the movie has the same ending as the book).

    • Might also be that people are tiring of these franchises dividing up books into two movies to milk them for every last penny…

    • Yep – I saw the first movie because I loved the first book. I tolerated the second and loathed the third, so I didn’t see films 2 or 3 and have no intention of seeing them, especially if the ending of 3 is the same as the book (which I assume it has to be, considering how important it was). This is sometimes the issue when people write YA dystopian series where no series was originally intended. I also think Hunger Games suffers from the same sort of decline in quality and plot.

    • I’m sure the studio wasn’t pleased with it, either. Merchandise tie-ins are crucial for these kinds of movies, and she made a plot choice that ruined any chance of that.

  5. As others here have noted, the 3rd book in the Divergent trilogy was HATED by a lot of fans. The book has a huge number of 1 and 2 star reviews on Amazon (30% of the reviews, in fact).

    That plus the obvious money-grab split of Part 1 and Part 2, and I think this is indicative of a failure of this particular franchise, not YA dystopian in general.

  6. Ashley McConnell

    I think another reason for the movie tanking is that it’s been so long since the first two came out that the audience has moved on. That, plus the fact that the third book wasn’t nearly as popular as the first two, pretty much guaranteed a real slump in sales.

    People who buy series in ebooks are becoming used to being able to get books a lot faster than one a year. I think this is beginning to affect movie releases, too. JK Rowling may be able to get fans to wait a year for the next installment of Fantastic Beasts, but even those sales would be higher if the movies were released six months apart.

  7. I don’t think that particular movie genre is in trouble at all. I really feel, as others have mentioned, that the fans hated the last book.

    The author managed to alienate the majority of her audience by killing off her main character and the readers of the series were pretty angry about it. I’m not surprised they stayed home when the movie came out. If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you can see how very upset they were.

  8. I have no desire to see Allegiant as it was the most boring book of the series, but I’m also done with YA dystopian as a reader. Too much of it now is recycled plot lines and ideas from other series. Now, the real question is what will be hot next? 🙂

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