While studios are clearing searching for a young adult movie series to experience the same level of phenomenon that titles like "Harry Potter" or "The Hunger Games" enjoyed, there have definitely been a lot more flops than successes. With so many young adult adaptations losing their momentum, many fans are forced to face the reality that these stories simply aren't a huge hit. Here are 15 young adult franchises that once looked promising but have unfortunately fizzled out.
"Ender’s Game” was a beloved book and a fairly decent film, however the book’s author Orson Scott Card may have proven to be a detrimental force against his own creation. Card made headlines with controversial comments and spoke publicly against gay marriage, which had audiences and even the cast and crew of the film enraged. Whatever the reason was, the film only earned about half of its $110 million budget here in the United States.
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s “Beautiful Creatures” came out at a time when the YA genre was booming with fantasy-romance stories in the wake of phenomenons like Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight.” This was both the making and undoing of the “Beautiful Creatures” film. It meant that pitching the film to studios was an easy sell, as the film rights to the "Caster Chronicles" book went very fast. However, when it came to attracting audiences, “Beautiful Creatures” just didn’t stand out as significant or a must-see in the way other successful YA stories did.
Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” series is one of the stand out fantasy series by YA authors working today. Her urban-fantasy story spans six books and has a devoted readership. The film, however, bore none of the same success (despite great performances by actors Lily Collins, Lena Headey and Robert Sheehan). Many fans believe the screenplay squeezed in too many rushed plot arcs into one film. Luckily, this series has now made its way into the much more suitable TV format as Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.”
Let's be honest: Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” was never going to be good source material for a respectable film. While the book is a good beach read with a campy, fluffy story, it just doesn’t have strong enough characters or plot to make for a riveting film. Hiring both the director of “Mean Girls” and the director of “Heathers” gave the production a spark of hope for success, but ultimately the movie comes off like a cheap, bloody and rambling high school movie.
You know the film adaption is bad when fans are happy that further sequels are not going to be made. This is what happened when the third “Percy Jackson” film was cancelled in the wake of two consecutive “Percy Jackson” flops. While Rick Riordan deservedly sold a boatload of "Percy Jackson" books, the films sadly sacrified vital character development in favor of way too much flashy big-budget visuals. The new "Harry Potter" series this franchise was not.
For a while, it looked like C.S. Lewis' iconic “The Chronicles of Narnia” books would follow in the footsteps of "Harry Potter" and have a successful movie for each book in the series. Sadly, they only made it to 3 films for a number of likely reasons: the family-friendly violence and battle scenes didn't translate very well to the screen, the novels themselves are way too episodic and (dare we say it?) the Pevensie kids are just kinda boring. While three films is still a respectable number (and yes, Tilda Swinton was pretty awesome as The White Witch), the "Narnia" films still left a lot to be desired.
The film adaption of Lois Lowry’s much-loved book “The Giver” was somewhat of a passion project for Jeff Bridges, who reportedly spent years trying to get it made. In fact, there was reportedly a draft of a script floating around studio offices since 1998! While he succeeded in his role of the title character, the film overall was pretty mediocre. The fact that Lowry’s book sequels (such as "Gathering Blue") were also far less popular than “The Giver” (paired with the small profit made by the first film) gave us little hope for any further film sequels set in Lowry's universe.
Yes, “The Host” was just one single book to begin with, but you KNOW that the film’s creators were hoping for a successful franchise when they made Stephanie Meyer’s post-“Twilight” book into a movie. Despite being heavily advertised, the movie came out to harsh critical response and had a smaller than expected fan turn out. It seemed that either “Twilight” fans were no longer interested in the YA genre or that “The Host” wasn’t as accessible as Bella Swan's story was.
“The City Of Ember” had plenty of great source material, with five total books in the series. It also managed to cast the wonderful Saoirse Ronan as the lead. Although things looked up for the film series, they never made it past the first adaptation. Visually, there's no denying that the film was incredible — however, the film’s story was less complete and left out a lot of important aspects of the book. This is one franchise we would like to see given another chance, but the possibilities of that look grim.
“I Am Number Four” could have brought something new and interesting to the YA film genre, with its well thought out sci-fi roots making it a wonderful YA novel. However, the movie itself was a failure. It took out major scenes important for telling the complete story and ultimately told a better romance story than the riveting action/sci-fi story it promised to deliver. Or maybe fans were just sick of actor Alex Pettyfer appearing in YA titles?
From the get-go “Eragon,” always seemed like a rather generic copy of “Star Wars.” The watered down film version made this even more apparent, leading to a film that could barely stand out as having any significance in the YA genre. While the film did make a decent amount of money at the box office, many fans of the book spoke critically about the film adaptation and thus stopped any chance of a sequel.
Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy was an amazing read for kids and adults alike, easily considered one of the most important YA titles of all time — which makes the fact that the film version didn't succeed that much more tragic. Despite an incredible cast and a visually appealing film (the film is one of the most expensive of all time), the story was over complicated and didn’t feel appropriate for the medium. A controversy with the Catholic Church probably didn't help word-of-mouth, either.
The “A Series of Unfortunate Events” film adaptation stands out in this list because it was actually pretty good. It had the hilarious Jim Carey and Queen Meryl Streep on board, with an amazing steampunk feel that told the book’s unique story very well. So it's somewhat puzzling that Paramount didn't make more big-budget movies based on the books. There's good news, though! In August 2016, Netflix will be releasing the story as a new binge-ready television series starring Neil Patrick Harris.
“Inkheart” is one of the biggest disappointments on this list. It had everything it needed to be great, but sadly it wasted so many of its assets. Cornelia Funke's source text was incredible, but the movie felt heartless in comparison. The film cast Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany and Jim Broadbent, but it barely even utilized their talents. In the end, the film fell flat creatively, with a weak screenplay and too little imagination put into the visual story telling.
The latest in the "Divergent" series, "Allegiant" was released on March 18 and failed to live up to expectations. With a 46% decline from the opening weekend of "Divergent," "Allegiant" debuted to a low opening weekend of $29 million, which is a clear indication that either fans have lost interest or the movies just aren't good anymore. It doesn't help that "Allegiant" has an embarrassing 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Regardless, the fourth movie in the franchise just had its budget drastically reduced due to the performance of "Allegiant." We'll have to wait and see what the future holds for this franchise.