For a while it seemed like Young Adult film franchises were unbeatable, with series like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games dominating the box office over the last decade.
However, recently things have taken a different turn. Last year The Hunger Games’ final instalment (Mockingjay Part 2) underperformed at the box office, while the latest chapter in Shailene Woodley’s Divergent series, Allegiant, bombed to the extent that the last film in the franchise (based on the second part of the final book in Veronica Roth’s series) may be resolved as a TV special instead.
So what happened? Did people just lose their taste for good-looking teenagers taking on mean adults and winning, or did these films in particular make a mistake? And is this decline in YA movie interest inevitable, or is there hope for the future?
Well, one man who might just know is James Dashner, the author of the bestselling Maze Runner series, which sees a group of young people try and survive in a dystopic, diseased wasteland while being tested and hunted by a shadowy evil organization. Dashner’s series has itself been adapted into two popular movies with a final film (called The Death Cure) still in the pipeline after delays caused by injuries on set, so we asked him – in his expert opinion, where did Divergent go wrong?
“I honestly think the problem was splitting the last Divergent book into two movies,” Dashner told RadioTimes.com.
“I just feel like too many people had done it by that point; Harry Potter did it, Twilight did it, Hunger Games did it, now Divergent’s doing it. I think that was the mistake. I think if it had done one final film it would’ve done just fine.
Maze Runner author James Dashner
“We made a decision long ago that we would never split the Death Cure into two movies, just because it seemed extremely unnecessary. It’s not that long of a book. And I think that gave us a little bit of praise, and some street cred with film critics and stuff.
“So I’m pretty sure that by ending our trilogy, you know, making an actual trilogy and just having one solid film to wrap up the story – I’m pretty sure we can do as well as the other two movies.”
With that said, the films based on Dashner’s own works haven’t been without their problems, with shooting halted on The Death Cure earlier this year after star Dylan O’Brien had a motorcycle accident while shooting a stunt. Are things back on track now?
“Yeah, it was a little scary – but he’s recovered, and you know everyone’s been mostly concerned about him,” Dashner said.
“But it looks like he’s recovered, he’s signed on – he’s currently filming a movie called American Assassin. So he’s back in action, and he’s definitely going to be filming next year.
“We will begin filming in January for the third film, and it’s scheduled to come out in January 2018.”
And until then Dashner has plenty to occupy him, with the final novel in the Maze Runner series, prequel The Fever Code, released this week.
“I really think this is the last one, at least for a very long time,” the author told us.
“I have a long list of other things I want to do, and I feel like this story is very complete now. I’m not sure what I would write, unless it was like the same story from different perspectives or something.”
“I will miss the world, I will miss the kids. But I’m also really looking forward to trying new things.”
After all, he knows well the dangers of dragging things out for too long…
James Dashner’s latest book, The Fever Code, is available to buy in UK stores now