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Three Young Adult Series Being Made Into Films That Shouldn't Be Made Into Films

By Jodi Clager | Think Pieces | January 24, 2013 | Comments ()


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All the books you love, and hate, will be made into movies. Movies based on books, especially Young Adult novels, have the possibility to bring in huge box office dollars and enough movies to keep a studio busy for a decade. It's so pervasive that I automatically imagine actors while reading books so I can argue about how wrong they get the casting (BECAUSE IN MY BRAIN IT WAS DIFFERENT AND I'M JUST NOT SOLD ON WHO THEY CHOSE AS FINNICK, OKAY?).

The problem is that studios want to pump these out as fast as possible, and in as many movies as possible, to prolong the profit. So you get characters lost completely, final books broken into two overlong movies, rushed special effects, important scenes cut and reworked, and the wrong directors brought in to bring your beloved characters to life. There are three specific books that I've read that are being developed into moving pictures that I am quite worried about.

Divergent is the first book Veronica Roth's trilogy of a dystopian future where all of the citizens are divided into different factions. Dauntless are the fearless faction who hold the traits of bravery and strength above all others. Erudite prize knowledge above all else, while Amity thinks peace is most important, and Abnegation believes putting others before themselves is the way to live your life. Protagonist Tris is Abnegation and must decide at her Choosing Ceremony whether to remain there with her family, and the only life she has ever known, or to choose a new faction and leave them all behind. You can guess how she chooses, right?

I'm worried about the casting (more on that in a moment), but I'm even more worried about which characters will be cut out, combined, and how much of some of the harsh reality of the book they'll choose to leave intact. There are a myriad of important characters who each serve a purpose in either pushing Tris to change, bully her, or befriend her. There are sequences of intense brutality between the teenagers, not unlike The Hunger Games, but this brutality isn't necessarily centered around survival. It's borne from a place of sheer ruthlessness, fear, and the need to damage and destroy anything that stands in the way of a goal. It's also important in understanding characters that become bigger players in the second book.

Then there are the Dauntless jumping onto moving trains, and then off again, and other fearless feats that could look like a weather reporter in front of a shiny map of cold fronts instead of a seamless action sequence. Zip-lining, climbing creaking ferris wheels, jumping from buildings, and other, again, important sequences that Tris has to engage in to show her growth and change could be removed entirely for the sake of other plot points.

Shailene Woodley (The Descendents) has been cast as Tris, which I see as a misstep, and the male lead of Four has been whittled down to three actors: Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class), Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike), and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse). Of the part of Four, Woodley says, "We've been doing some auditions, and we'll see what happens ... As of right now, we're scoping out the land. There are two particular guys I think are pretty great ... The thing about Four is he has to be a man. No feminine actors, please. You cannot walk in that room with pretty little boots and pretend you are a man. You need to walk in there and you need to not have muscles that look good but don't actually work. It's just this character needs to be extremely masculine." I admit it has been a while since reading this book, but what? Four needs to be a little unreadable but not arrogant, somewhat harsh but also tender, and not the biggest or strongest guy around. He has to have inquisitiveness about him while also seeming aloof. Dude has layers like an onion or a parfait. Dear Godtopus, not Pettyfer. I'm pulling for Lucas Till who already proved he can show some of Four's traits in his portrayal of Havok. Havok seemed like he thought he was better than everyone else, but he was afraid of getting close to the others because he might hurt them unintentionally. Meanwhile, Pettyfer is an assh*le getting by on looks.

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Tris is supposed to be tiny, blonde and blue-eyed, with the stature and appearance of being younger than her 16 years. I can live with losing the blue eyes and blonde hair, because that's not important. What is important is that Tris is seen as weak because of her appearance and it fuels some of the jealousy and rage sent her way when she proves that she is strong-willed and tough. I don't know that Woodley can bring that to life.

Another YA novel I've read, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, has been acquired by Universal. There are no casting suggestions as of yet, but I'm sure they'll muck it up. We have 17-year-old Karou, who has peacock blue hair, tattoos, and was raised by demons. Then we have the angel Akiva, who has fiery eyes and IS AN ANGEL. I mean, who the frick are they going to cast? Then you have Issa, snake from the waist down and woman on top, save her hooded head and fangs; Yasri, who is a parrot/woman hybrid; Twiga the giraffe-necked dude; Kishmish, the bat-winged, bird-headed messenger; and Brimstone, Karou's guardian who has a man's chest, ram's head and horns, lion legs, tough skin, and claw feet. Done incorrectly, these characters will look like something your one-year-old made while playing in their own feces.

Karou could easily be miscast. She needs to be engaging and immediately likable. She also needs to know how to defend herself without more than her body and a small knife from her boot. Unflappable, artistic, curious, and able to speak several languages, Karou is one hell of a heroine and needs to be played by someone who can act well. Akiva is a mothereffing angel with a gigantic chip on his shoulder and a singular goal to achieve, but he also needs a vulnerability to break through his anger. I fear we will get Pretty in spades and Acting in shards.

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Now we have word that Ron Howard is in talks to direct Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book for Disney. Originally pitched as a Selick-like stop-motion affair, Graveyard will now be live-action. This is another beautiful book that could fall to ruins under the wrong director and special effects. There are dead people in this book. Not Sixth Sense dead people, but ghosts. GHOSTS. I'm fearing some ghosts that look like The Frighteners instead of, um, a movie where ghosts looked good and not clearly like the ghost was green-screened? Is there one? Damn it, this is going to be awful, isn't it?

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I suppose you're wondering, "What the f*ck, Clager. Do you have a point?" Yes I do. My point is, not every single popular novel needs to made into a movie. Most of these novels have such scope, such fantastic visuals, such striking moments, and those can be lost when changed from the written word into motion pictures. Hell, I'll take cable channel series adaptions of most of the books I just named over movies any day, as long as you keep Alan Ball the f*ck away from them and STICK TO THE BOOKS.

There are plenty of amazing Young Adult novels out there that tell simple stories that would make great movies without being split into twelvesies. They only require a good writer for the screenplay, the right young cast, a good director, and adherence to the story. "Before I Fall" by Lauren Oliver. Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers Trilogy. "The Raising" by Laura Kasischke. These would all be strong movies, even the trilogy, and within the abilities of special effects available today.

Don't misunderstand. I'm still watching Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, The Graveyard Book, and Divergent when they hit theaters. I have to see how they turn out, whether they are faithful to the core of the stories, and if they prove me wrong about their inability to properly cast and create characters. I hope to be proven wrong, but Hollywood's track record isn't so great.

Jodi Clager is also HBIC for product review blog Hot Ink and has a Twitter she barely updates. Sometimes she wishes she had peacock blue hair.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Nobody's mentioned my annoyance with Shailene Woodley in the lead: Tris is not supposed to be pretty.

    I know it would have been too much to hope for, Hollywood getting that right. Still, it would've been nice to see a protagonist who doesn't look like a beauty queen for a change.

  • Oliver Urban

    I wish people would stop complaining about it. If you don't want it to be a movie, then just don't watch the movie. And, even if the movie is bad, it's not like they're going to re-write the books to match. The books will always be better, no matter what, and they will always be the books we love and cherish. If you're worried about sane people hating the horrible movies and judging you for liking the series because they haven't read the books, then you haven't learned anything from the books. And, lastly, the looks aren't important. Acting is imortant. Which is why they should not cast Alex Pettyfer. Like, have they even watched his films? Shit is bad man. |Shit is real bad.

  • Candee

    I'm honestly really surprised that no one has thought to do the Uglies/Pretties blah blah series of books. I read them eons ago, but I really liked them. It was almost Brave New World-ish. I found it really interesting when I read them, and seemed like a really good concept for a movie/s. Not as a PG 13 movie though. A little more darkness would be nice.

  • Hollywood could actually try to tackle something challenging, like the A Wrinkle in Time series.

    ...

    I'll be over in the corner, thinking about what I said.

  • Mary

    As long as they don't touch The Name of the Star (modern day Jack the Ripper) or Shadow and Bone (Russian-style fantasy), I'm fine with the fustercluck that will be the Divergent movie.

  • logan

    Why is there no OLDE adult fiction? Why cant we have stories where middle aged men fight baldness, erectile dysfunction and the desire to own a corvette?

  • marya

    Because we already watch those stories in 7 out of 10 Hollywood movies.

    And in 10 out of 10 Congressional hearings.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm an old adult. Give me lots of movies with lots of women over fifty. Oh, and aging gays.

  • BobbFrapples

    Oh, but The Graveyard Book has such potential...*sigh*

  • Just yesterday someone recommended Divurgent to me. I'll have to fast-track that one so I can join in on the casting discussions.

    And it pleases me greatly to know that if Claflin fucks up Finnick, I won't be alone in my anger.

  • Artemis

    I can get behind the sentiment of this piece, but I don't understand its application to Divergent. I thought those books were fun enough, but they aren't particularly complex and the fact that they have so much action actually makes them really well-suited to an adaptation. Things like jumping on/off trains and climbing ferris wheels are the kind of stunts that a reasonably-budgeted movie shouldn't have any trouble pulling off. And while Shailene Woodley is not a tiny little waif, she's not exactly a giant muscle-y badass either. I think she'll be realistic as someone a bunch of big jerky dudes wouldn't expect to kick their asses.

    It seems like your biggest concern about the adaptation is that they'll ditch plot points you think are important. But there's no real reason to think that will happen (the book's not unusually long or anything), beyond the fact that all adaptations need to make some changes for the story to work on film. Unless you go into the movie determined to be upset about any change from the source material, I don't see why it needs to ruin the fun of watching a story you already love unfold in a whole new medium.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    I hope it doesn't, but you never know.

  • Zuffle

    The Frighteners is a masterpiece, and would be even if Jeffrey Combs wasn't magnificent in it.

    That is all.

  • Candee

    I watch that shit all the time. One of my favorite movies. I don't care.

  • Jerce

    Now we have word that Ron Howard is in talks to direct Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for Disney.

    No no NOOOOOOOOOO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO...

    Please No.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Let's say you're an author. A moderately successful author. And someone offers you a lot of money to put your work in front of lots of new fans. Wouldn't you say yes?

    Let's say you're a producer, and your job is to make movies that make money. Wouldn't you like to speed up the script-writing process and enhance the marketing process by working with material that does that? GOOD material, at that?

    That being said, if you think the movies are going to be terrible, detach yourself from them. You are so hungry for more of these worlds, because you love them, and it's understandable. That hunger is the very reason these are being made into movies - even you, as a skeptical original-source lover - can't help yourself, though you know better. So. If you want to teach Hollywood a lesson, you need to not see the movies. Vote with your dollars.

    I don't know why Smoke & Bone wouldn't just be made as an animated movie. Or get Guillermo del Toro to do it. But the possibilities for animation seem really strong for that one if a strong concept is taken.

    ps: Hollywood's track record PERIOD isn't great. Not just regarding adaptations, not just regarding YA, but period.

  • Dragonchild

    This could be a quibble, but studios don't "prolong" the profit, they try to maximize it by doing the exact opposite. They HAVE to make the movies quickly, as the target audience rapidly ages. The older fans are safe, and if a series of books is good enough on its own (a la "Harry Potter") the pressure is more due to the aging of the actors than the audience. But take schlock like "Twilight". It still made a depressingly huge amount of money, but by the time they shat out the last movie, many fans had grown out of the glittery-eyed boy-worship phase.

    It's cynical, passionless and calculating, and maybe that's why YA fiction shouldn't be made into movies at all. Unfortunately, as long as movies cost money to make and thus need to be financed by bean-counters, I can't imagine it happening any other way. My message to fans of YA fiction is, "If you're eager to see this story become a movie, you missed the whole point. The movie's gonna suck, so learn to treasure your imagination."

  • Steph

    Bummer about the Graveyard Movie, we've been two for two so far on adaptations of Gaiman books. This one is both his best and the one with the most potential to be made lame in the wrong hands so it sucks that Sellick isn't doing it.

  • Deidra

    "Most of these novels have such scope, such fantastic visuals, such
    striking moments, and those can be lost when changed from the written
    word into motion pictures."

    It's the inherent difficulty of trying to translate any novels into films, let alone these specific ones. Especially enamored readers have built fully-fleshed out world in their heads of everything, up to and including even how they think the characters sound. The films should be viewed as interpretations of the source materials, which admittedly more often than not disappoint specifically because they are tied to preconceived worlds but also because making a great movie is very difficult.

    Take your pick:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

  • Ponytail

    Why would you go and see these films if you loved the books so much ? I still haven't seen "It" after all these years, because I couldn't bear the thought of having Tim Curry in my head when I reread the story. I certainly won't be going to see "The Graveyard Book" - the audiobook version was so brilliant I snivelled at the end, and I just can't see how a film could top that.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    It's like my Horror Sickness. I can't help seeing them!

  • Anne At Large

    Oh I fear for the Graveyard Book.

  • Anna von Beav

    There's some other thing coming out too, on Valentine's Day, I want to say? That looks like a The CW series gone terribly awry? That is also based on a YA novel or series? something about witches?

    I am SO HELPFUL AND CONTRIBUTEY.

    ETA: A-HA. Beautiful Creatures, it's called.

  • PerpetualIntern

    The good thing about that is I don't think the Beautiful Creatures novels are that good. They're meh. Enjoyable but probably easily translated to the big screen.

  • Even Stevens

    I actually enjoy those books (or at least the first two I read) but that movie looks straight up awful

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    Only redeeming factor for Beautiful Creature is Emma Thompson. If she's part of it, it may have potential.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    Beautiful Creatures?

  • lonolove

    This news about Ron Howard has ruined my year. I had heard rumors that Selick was out but refused to look into them on the grounds that I LIKE living in my fantasy world...but now this awful, awful confirmation. I would approve if Disney died (the whole damn company!). Does their wickedness and money-grubbing know no bounds? They are well under way to destroying Pixar and just....generally have shit for brains. I can't go on. Utter disappointment.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Any movie made from Daughter of Smoke and Bone will undoubtedly shit all over the book. There's just no way that it could be done WELL. This pisses me off.

  • BobbFrapples

    Even it's own sequel Blood and Starlight couldn't match the original awesomeness.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    Really? I loved the sequel! She went really dark and I totally appreciated that, especially in a book that's supposed to be YA. Can't wait for the third.

  • BobbFrapples

    I think the main appeal of the original book (for me) was the mystery of just how was Karou connected to the demons and the angel. Once that was solved, the second book lacked a pull for me.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    I get that, that was definitely a strong appeal to me as well. I think I just fell in love with the characters and couldn't wait to see what happens next. And (minor spoiler warning) I was curious to see how Karou would be after she was."whole".

  • lowercase_ryan

    No, but it was still great.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I agree. I was legitimately excited about Hunger Games when I heard it was being made into a movie. So much about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is atmospheric, I'm just terrified they'll mess it up.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Right? The story just doesn't lend itself to the constraints of film. CGI can only do so much, and in this case I think it would cheapen it.

    Other stories tend to be better suited for film. I actually thought I Am Number 4 wasn't bad. I would have liked to seen the others get made into movies.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    I've read a lot of crap YA books, and had plenty of issues with Divergent, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone and it's sequel were amazing. Beautifully written and so original (well, as original as you can get with stories of Angels and Demons). And I have no doubt Hollywood will turn it into a steaming pile of poo. To do it any justice, they'd have to treat it as an adult story not YA and if they do that, there goes the demographic.

  • Even Stevens

    If Alex Pettyfer gets the role of Four I will burn this mother to the ground. I cannot stand his doucheface.

  • lowercase_ryan

    She'll do it too.

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