>Filling the Harry Potter/Twilight hole in your heart.


Filling the Harry Potter/Twilight hole in your heart. By Jess Lomas.

Have you found yourself wondering lately; “Gee, what AM I going to watch once the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises end?” No? Well, just pretend you were.

There’s been a boom in Young Adult fiction over the last 6 years, which in turn has trickled into cinema. Never before has the literary and cinematic landscape been so abundant and profitable. The Young Adult phenomenon Twilight would be unmatched in previous decades, and there was no series, such as Harry Potter, that children and adults enjoyed equally.

Similarly, film franchises as we know them today are vastly different to those of years gone past; the epic Harry Potter series is almost at its end, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One (the seventh of eight films) having just been released. That a book-to-film series could last as long as this one without reducing in quality or losing its audience is astonishing.

So now that Harry Potter is the oldest student in Hogwarts history (can you tell who hasn’t read or seen any HP books/films?), and Bella and Edward are nearing the end of their saga, who will young boys and girls wish to emulate? Who will they be willing to forsake their family, friends and heartbeat for? Thankfully, the graduates from the new class of YA protagonists have a little more meat to them, though a little less magic and body glitter.

Perhaps the most anticipated page to screen adaptation is Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. The last book in the series, Mockingjay, was released this year to amazing, albeit not Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, numbers. Not since Twilight or Harry Potter have booksellers seen such passion in their readers. Midnight release parties, costume competitions; fans of lead character Katniss Everdeen run young and old, male and female – she’s Harry Potter and Bella Swan combined. Sort of.

The Hunger Games is a Battle Royale for the younger generation. Set in a post-apocalyptic world (dystopian fiction is so hot right now), the government of Panem (formerly North America), called the Capitol, runs an annual televised competition called, you guessed it, The Hunger Games. One boy and one girl are chosen via lottery from each of twelve districts and thrown into an arena where it’s kill or be killed.

Katniss Everdeen is sixteen years old when she takes the place of her younger sister who was chosen for District 12. Peta, the boy-next-door type, is also chosen for the district and yes – you guessed it again – he’s the love interest! But no love story is complete these days without turning it into a triangle; enter Katniss’ long time friend and hunting partner Gale, who realises too late that his feelings may run deeper than he first acknowledged. It’s Edward versus Jacob all over again – are you Team Peta or Team Gale?

Just when exactly the film will hit our screens is a bit of a mystery at this point in time. It was confirmed back in November that Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) will direct for Lionsgate and Collins will write the screenplay. The most important element, however, is the casting of our three leads. Who will play Katniss, Peta and Gale? The powers that be would be wise to go the Twilight route in casting relative unknowns with some acting experience. Twilight catapulted Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner into unprecedented stardom, and whoever lands these key roles could be in for a similar ride.

So, should you read the books before seeing the film? Absolutely. With an unknown production schedule and release date, who knows how long it will be before we see The Hunger Games on the big screen. The trilogy is action packed, with just the right amount of romance for the Twihards and plenty to keep the older reader entertained. When the film finally releases I can guarantee it will be a big event.

Maybe teenagers in a battle to the death aren’t your cup of tea; let’s see what else we can find for you. I Am Number Four is an interesting one; the novel of the same name by Pittacus Lore – the pen name of authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes – was only released in August of 2010 and yet the film is set for release in February 2011. In fact, DreamWorks bought the film rights way back in June 2009. The positive spin here is if you’ve read and loved the book you don’t have long to wait for the film, and I Am Number Four is the first book in a proposed six book series – so we’re looking at a potential Harry Potter-length franchise if the first movie is received well.

In the film, Alex Pettyfer plays Number Four, human name – John Smith. He’s one of nine aliens who flee to Earth when their planet, Lorien, is destroyed by invading aliens, the Mogadorians. As if that weren’t bad enough, the invaders have followed them and plan to exterminate them all. They must be killed in the order of their numbers; three are already dead, thus making Number Four next.

What will make this franchise appeal to people is the mix of sci-fi and teenage drama. John is tired of running from the Mogadorians and when he meets Sarah (Dianna Agron – Quinn on TV’s Glee) he decides it’s time to fight back. Each of the nine aliens living on earth is given a guardian and begin to develop powers as they get older (so perhaps there is a sprinkling of magic for the Potter people). This should make for some fancy special effects and fight scenes.

The film is directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) and produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay … oh dear, Michael Bay! I have to be honest a little bit of hope just flew out the window. There is a big risk with this film that it could be all action and no story, but I’ve got all my fingers crossed that we’ll get something different to the usual teen action films, such as Transformers.

Another Dystopian YA novel to have film rights sold is The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Catherine Hardwicke is in talks to direct the film, which primes this as perhaps the next Twilight, except there are no vampires involved. Hardwicke famously steered the first of the Twilight films and helped create the monstrosity that is the series today. She was, quite publicly, upset about not being asked back to direct the sequel, New Moon, but has recently directed Red Riding Hood and with the early talks for The Maze Runner could see herself at the helm of another major franchise.

The Maze Runner has been described as The Truman Show meets Lord of the Flies. Thomas awakes in total darkness; remembering only his name he discovers he’s in a place called the Glade. The Glade is devoid of adults; an enclosed construction with no way out. Outside is the Maze, where kids (called Runners) venture daily and attempt to map the constantly changing pattern of the labyrinth, trying to find a way out. Thomas seems to have a connection to the Maze, a vague recollection that singles him out amongst the group. As unusual things start to happen, Thomas and the other Runners question if he is the key to their escape.

Though this is still in the very early stages of production the story is dynamite, and while the proposed director doesn’t seem the obvious choice, her previous films Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen show she’s a gritty filmmaker not to be judged solely on Twilight.

If you can’t commit to another series there are a few stand alone films worth watching out for or avoiding. Beastly, due out in 2011, is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast and stars Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen and Vanessa Hudgens. You probably don’t need to guess which category this film falls into. The book was horrendous so my money is on the film stinking worse than mouldy cheese.

While Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was a bestselling and much loved book, co-written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the film adaptation seemed to quietly slip onto the weekly rental shelf (this would work much better if video stores were as prevalent today as they used to be, but let’s just call it the metaphorical “weekly shelf”). The authors are back with a new collaboration, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, and Scott Rudin Productions has already acquired the film rights. Lena Dunham – writer/director/star of Indie film Tiny Furniture – is on board to direct and write the screenplay. The story revolves around two teens left alone in Manhattan over Christmas – no there are no Home Alone hijinks here – and develop a friendship based on a notebook left at the Strand bookstore. Think Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist but with literary references in lieu of music.

Lastly we should alert you to an Australian author whose Young Adult novel has recently sold film rights. Kathy Charles’ John Belushi is Dead (titled Hollywood Ending in Australia) is set to hit the big screen. Still in the early stages, this is a great accomplishment for a debut author and we couldn’t be more excited to see this story transferred to film. Producers Ralph Singleton and Joan Singleton are developing the project and have worked together previously on Because of Winn-Dixie.

John Belushi is Dead tells of two teens, Benji and Hilda, who, instead of doing the typical teenage things, roam Los Angeles visiting the sites of celebrity deaths and murders. When their mutual fascination leads them to Hank, an Old Hollywood screenwriter living in a dilapidated apartment, Hilda strikes an unlikely friendship with him that will see her reevaluate her relationship with Benji and ask “whether her fascination with death is worth missing out on life”.

So fear not Twilight and Harry Potter lovers, there’s plenty on the horizon in the world of books to film. We’re not likely to see a phenomenon like the aforementioned titles created for quite some time (and to be honest I think we all need a little break before the next one), but there’s an abundance of exciting projects set to hit our screen in the near future.

Discuss: How are you planning to mourn/celebrate the end of the Harry Potter/Twilight film sagas?

One Response to “>Filling the Harry Potter/Twilight hole in your heart.”

  1. >Knowing that the HP franchise will officially end next year and Twilight next, it suddenly felt like High School Musical all over again. You wallow over it but as years pass, you get over it. That's why Twihards and Harry Potter fans need to know other movies other than their favorite.

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