While everyone is sure to still be out in force this week to see Cinderella, the first of a batch of YA Novel adaptations (unless you count Jupiter Ascending as a YA movie) comes out this week Friday with the second part of the Divergent series, Insurgent. Starring Shailene Woodley as the heroine of dystopian Chiacgo, Tris, it also stars Theo James as Four, her love interest, Kate Winslet as the cerebral and devious Jeanine, and Jai Courtney as the equally sinister Eric.
While, obviously, not the first YA Novel adaptation nor the best of the bunch, Insurgent has potential. It comes from a long line of commercially successful movies, but they are not always critical successes. The move rental floor, and probably your shelf of DVDs and Blu-Rays, have numerous examples of YA Novel movies that have flopped or been critically panned. However, there are some that have been great movies and only helped to bolster the legacy of their literature pasts. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five movies that have done just that.
The spooky, scary slasher movie based on the 1973 Lois Duncan novel with the same name. It was a sensation at the time and although the critical consensus was mixed, it gave us Jennifer Love Hewitt in a breakthrough role, as well as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. (husband and wife now and ALSO both cast members on Star Wars: Rebels) which isn’t all that bad of a thing. I know that for many teens growing up in the mid to late 90’s, this movie was a first step into the horror genre for the MTV generation because of the cast. It really is not the best movie, but it certainly has its share of scares and bloody endings, and it certainly is formulaic enough to assist in creating the spoof horror movie Cabin in the Woods, which is awesome.
Based on the incredibly well-known book of the same name by Christian thinker, author, ethicist, and all-around smart guy C.S. Lewis, this was surprisingly a really great movie. The Pevensie kids in the movie are not in the least bit distracting, which can be a potential distraction when casting kids, and the movie had a great cast of supporting roles. Tilda Siwnton, one of the best character actors around, as the White Witch was inspired casting and she delivers a chilling and powerful performance. Equally, like the voice of God, they had to get Aslan’s voice right and they did so by casting the authoritative voice of Liam Neeson to voice him. A really great movie and this would be higher on the list if not for some other more successful franchises and one great movie.
Alright, seriously you guys, you have to trust me on this one. In the swath of fantasy, dystopia, and teen romance YA novels and movies, this is actually not a bad movie. A breakout performance for America Fererra (Ugly Betty, How to Train Your Dragon), it also is a very sweet movie without being cheesy or saccharine. It is far from formulaic and avoids a lot of the tropes of a chick flick and is really not that bad. I promise. Oh yeah, and it’s based on the novel by Ann Brashares. Kinda got lost in defending it from all the inevitable haters.
2) The Hunger Games Movies
Yeah, you kinda figured my last two are going to hit on the big players, right? Well, the mother of all YA dystopian novels has been quite the ride. I have really enjoyed all the movies except Mockingjay: Part 1, but as we said on the podcast about the movie last year, we are withholding judgement until Part 2 comes out and we have a full movie. Taking Suzanne Collins wildly popular and rightly acclaimed novels, the movies had stayed true while also putting new twists on some parts of the books that have not really taken away from the overall feel and tone of the movie. While some of the stylistic choices are a little off and the performances are kinda spotty, you get a good adaptation when you cast a strong lead who doesn’t mail it in. That is exactly what this series has in Jennifer Lawrence. As long as she is on the screen, the final installment is in good hands and will be a fitting visual representation of the story of Katniss Everdeen and Panem.
1) Harry Potter Series
My favorite group of YA novels and absolute classics. J.K. Rowling is in a class of her own and her narrative is LOTR or Star Wars-esque in the depth, breadth, and detail of her world and stories. The movies, while some are not so great and others are, tell the story and culminate in two really good movies from my favorite book of the movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I thought it was very interesting that they used different directors, different writers, and kept everything fresh and visually interesting throughout. It was a book sensation in its own right and the movies only made Harry Potter more enduring and more special. What’s your favorite movie of the Harry Potter series? Mine is Prisoner of Azkaban.