Bleak fu­ture

Does the dis­ap­point­ing open­ing of Al­le­giant sig­nal the death of young- adult dystopia at the movies?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By MERED­ITH WO­ERNER

IN movie the­atres these past weeks, a re­luc­tant teen hero led a re­bel­lion com­pris­ing an im­plau­si­ble clan of op­pressed but like­able 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 in­stal­ment 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 US$ 29mil ( RM117mil) – com­pared with a US$ 54mil ( RM218mil) start for Diver­gent ( 2014) and a slightly lower US$ 52mil ( RM210mil) 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.

Cer­tainly we haven’t seen the end of this fran­chise: The Diver­gent Se­ries: As­cen­dent – Part 2 is sched­uled for a 2017 re­lease. And The Maze Run­ner is film­ing The Death Cure, the third and fi­nal in­stal­ment of the se­ries, which halted pro­duc­tion af­ter star Dy­lan O’Brien was in­jured on set.

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 US$ 26.5mil ( RM107mil) in its en­tire do­mes­tic run, even though it was adapted from a novel writ­ten by Twi­light au­thor Stephanie Meyer and starred twotime Academy Award nom­i­nee Saoirse Ro­nan. An­other alien- cen­tric adap­ta­tion The 5th Wave, has made just un­der US$ 34mil ( RM137mil) since its Jan­uary de­but.

Most dis­cour­ag­ing was ju­nior- high and grade- school English class main­stay The Giver by New­bery Medal- win­ning au­thor Lois Lowry. The long­time pas­sion project of ac­tor Jeff Bridges boasted a hefty cast in­clud­ing him­self and fel­low Os­car win­ner Meryl Streep. But crit­ics found the film flawed – LA Times film critic Ken­neth Tu­ran called it “dis­ap­point­ing” – and it made just US$ 45mil ( RM181mil) in its do­mes­tic run.

Do these fall­ing num­bers in­di­cate we are near­ing the end of the teenage dystopian dy­nasty?

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 an 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.”

The pile- up in genre films is not a new phe­nom­e­non. Twi­light spawned a res­ur­rec­tion of vampire films. Fright Night, Dark Shad­ows and even Abraham Lin­coln: Vampire Hunter all sought to cap­i­talise on the fang trend but failed to pump new blood into the genre.

Af­ter the Harry Potter films made enough gold to fill the many vaults of Gringotts, Potter- fod­der filled the­atres serv­ing up fist­fuls of pip­ing- hot child­like won­der. The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles, The Seeker, The Bridge To Ter­abithia and oth­ers all hoped to en­chant some of that Hog­warts crowd or carve out their own fan- verse.

But most of those of­fer­ings failed to fly. Mean­while, oth­ers are be­ing to­tally re­vamped. The source ma­te­rial for Golden Com­pass, au­thor Philip Pull­man’s His Dark Ma­te­ri­als, is be­ing re­booted into a TV se­ries at BBC One, much to the de­light of dis­ap­pointed fans who found the movie trans­la­tion less than wor­thy.

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 teen­free) is still run­ning strong with a spin- off 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.

On the film front, you only have to look at the com­ing at­trac­tions to see what the stu­dios are hop­ing will cap­ture the dis­pos­able in­come of the young- adult crowd. One ex­cit­ing trend ap­pears to be fairy- tale adap­ta­tions. Dis­ney has al­ready cued up a live- ac­tion Beauty And The Beast star­ring Harry Potter’s Emma Wat­son, and Chloe Moretz has been cast to star as the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter in Univer­sal’s live- ac­tion Lit­tle Mer­maid.

Will The Hunts­man: Win­ter’s War, the Snow White- in­spired film with a dash of Snow Queen, cash in on the new trend this April? Only time and money will tell. – Los An­ge­les Times/ Tri­bune News Ser­vice

is cur­rently show­ing at cin­e­mas na­tion­wide. For GSC show­times, see the next page.

The dystopian fu­ture set­ting is very much alive on tele­vi­sion, in shows like

— The cW

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