x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Host and other teen novels on the bumpy journey from book to box-office success

Twilight opened the doors for teen novels tailored for the big screen, so why are some now failing to engage with filmgoers?

A scene from the movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, starring Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan. Alan Markfield / Open Road Films / AP Photo
A scene from the movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, starring Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan. Alan Markfield / Open Road Films / AP Photo

Having sold well in excess of 100 million books over the past eight years, the best-selling author Stephenie Meyer knows when to shake things up. If not on screen then, at least, on paper.

Following the unparalleled breakout success of Twilight, the supernatural series that promoted fawning and abstinence - and an even bigger film franchise that transformed Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart into pin-up celebrity fodder - Meyer shrewdly opted to up the ante with the seemingly more risqué sci-fi romance, The Host.

Pitched at the same audience who'd lapped up Twilight three years earlier in 2005, The Host swiftly racked up unprecedented sales figures in a matter of months, easily passing the 750,000 mark in its first US print run alone. Now, the inevitable movie adaptation has arrived.

The Host boasts a scenario even more bizarre than Twilight, one which even the New Zealand director Andrew Niccol has struggled to get to grips with. Humans have been invaded by alien Souls, who proceed to inhabit every being on the planet, transforming Earth into a calm, peaceful place. Some take umbrage at living in harmony (for reasons not entirely clear), and a rebel alliance of sorts is born.

The Host has so far suggested that even Meyer isn't immune from box-office worry. To date, the film has barely recouped its modest US$45 million (Dh165.3m) budget. Compare that to Twilight's $3 billion franchise haul. It's also worth remembering that none of the five Twilight films was a hit with critics.

Meyer isn't the only teen author to have been blindsided by the box office. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures also inexplicably stalled in the US, despite having an engaging cast that included the British thespians Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson.

Stiff competition from the likes of A Good Day to Die Hard and Nicholas Sparks's weepy romantic drama Safe Haven didn't help. An increasingly discerning audience also now has the option of a radically different franchise to sink their teeth into - namely, Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games - suggesting that teen-lit hits are far from a given, even with a writer such as Meyer attached.

"There are only so many Harry Potter and Twilight franchises out there," Jeff Bock, a senior box-office analyst, admitted recently to the Los Angeles-based industry site The Wrap. "Twilight is still fresh in the minds of its fans, and they are rabid and protective; they just weren't ready to drop into a new series."

Despite this, several high-profile young adult novels are currently in development with studios. Among them: Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy, Veronica Roth's Divergent and Marie Lu's Legend. Meanwhile, Cassandra Clarke's popular novel, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, is due to hit cinemas as soon as August. The message? Don't expect the trend to die quietly, anytime soon.

The Host is currently showing in UAE cinemas

 

artslife@thenational.ae

Teen lit: hits and misses

Twilight: New Moon (2009)

Pass

Helmed by the acclaimed director Catherine Hardwicke, this first adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's vampires-on-Earth universe provided a visually arresting start to the on-screen lives of Bella, Edward et al. Audiences engaged immediately. Three sequels swiftly followed. The money rolled in.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Fail

Stephen Chbosky's 1999 teen novel offered a straightforward look at the growing pains of adolescence without the interference of supernatural forces or ravenous, immortal fangs. It also provided the Harry Potter star Emma Watson with her first real breakout from the land of the wizard, with the emo-like figure of Ezra Miller as a nifty sidekick. Surprisingly, audiences didn't agree.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Pass

Suzanne Collins's 2008 novel provided an antidote to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight universe in every sense. There was a no-nonsense kick-ass young adult in the form of Katniss Everdeen, played by the rapidly rising star Jennifer Lawrence (now an Oscar winner), trapped within a reality television setting gone mad. Its forthcoming sequel, Catching Fire, looks just as enticing.

Beautiful Creatures (2012)

Fail

Deemed too similar to the Twilight series to ever stand a chance of success, Richard LaGravenese's big-screen adaptation of the popular series secured A-list casting (Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson), a promising up-and-comer (Alice Englert, the daughter of the New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion) and a suitably ominous setting (a redneck southern portion of the US). Despite this, its story meandered and lacked the conviction of its competitors. A sequel seems unlikely.

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