November 28, 2011

Who will fill Twilight's void?

Scanning through radio stations this morning, I happened to pause on a morning show just as its host was going on and on about how great the new Muppets movie is. As proof for its quality, she pointed out the movie’s current box office standing – second place after opening with a solid forty million, behind only The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The host flippantly remarked, “Obviously it wasn’t going to dethrone a Twilight movie.” And yet, who didn’t predict Breaking Dawn’s box office dominance? Considering the series’ track record – four films in as many years have swept in over two billion dollars worldwide – The Muppets never stood a chance.

2008’s Twilight is a runaway success story – a small-budget film with no big names attached that earned back twice the cost of its production during opening weekend alone. By staying true to its source material, Twilight appeased its fans, and distributor Summit struck a cinematic goldmine. Now, dozens of studios are buying rights to high-selling YA novels. Even on the small screen, adaptations are filling up timeslots faster than even medical dramas or crime procedurals (which, if you watch any TV at all, you’ll recognize to be a big deal). I’ve highlighted three features hitting theaters soon which may or may not be successful in occupying the Twilight throne once the series concludes at the end of next year. And hell, if these three bomb, there are literally hordes more where they come from.

1. The Hunger Games (directed by Gary Ross, novel written by Suzanne Collins) – The internet exploded with excitement this week over the just-dropped trailer for Collins’ YA novel about a dystopian American future wherein teens kill each other for the viewing pleasure of their country’s capitol. Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence is playing lead, and she’s just the mix of critical-acclaim, semi-recognition, and natural beauty that Kristen Stewart worked to her advantage as Bella Swan. There’s even a love triangle here, and both beaus are tween-approved. If you only remember Josh Hutcherson as the actor who played the mean kid in a million movies throughout your childhood, then I warn you now – don’t be surprised to see him plastered all over your younger sister’s walls in about a year’s time. Could this be the next Twilight? Highly likely. Collins herself wrote early drafts of the screenplay, and if the trailer’s any indication, The Hunger Games will rival Twilight in source-material-faithfulness. Distributor Lionsgate isn’t green-lighting a sequel unless this one breaks $100 million domestic. Odds are, it will.

2. The Mortal Instruments (directed by Scott Charles Stewart, novels written by Cassandra Clare) – Cassandra Clare rose to online fame by writing Harry Potter fanfiction. I’m not lying. And though originality isn’t exactly one of her series’ highpoints, Clare’s amalgamation of plot points from every successful fantasy series ever could strengthen The Mortal Instruments as a popcorn flick. Moreover, the movie’s screenwriter, I. Marlene King, has already struck adaptation gold with the ABC Family small screen hit, Pretty Little Liars. Could this be the next Twilight? Maybe. Lily Collins is playing lead, and her last big role was in the mega-flop Taylor Lautner vehicle, Abduction. Beyond that, the film’s male romantic lead is to be played by Jamie Campbell Bower, who the fandom (if not the world) seems to find unattractive in a weird way; no dirty British charm here to be worked, as in the case of Robert Pattinson. And as if the parallels between Instruments and Twilight aren’t already blatant enough, Bower also stars as villain in the latter film series. Stewart will need to distance his film visually from the Twilight world if he expects it to occupy the Cullen’s vacancy in tween hearts; fans want to find their next new obsession, not a cheap imitation of their last one.

3. The Host (directed by Andrew Niccol, novel written by Stephenie Meyer) – Based on Meyer’s foyer into adult fiction, The Host, with its built-in fanbase, is a studio’s boon. Whether or not the gigantic, slow-moving source material will translate well to film remains to be seen (not that it’ll necessarily matter). It’s reported that Oscar-nominee and critical darling Saoirse Ronan is signed on to play the film’s lead, which suggests that the studio is aiming this adaptation at a younger crowd than the one at which Meyer aimed her novel (a logical move, considering the audience of Twihards that The Host’s bound to attract). Will this be the next Twilight? Probably not. Although planned to be a trilogy, Meyer is quoted as saying that the sequels are indefinitely axed so that she can avoid having to kill off any of her characters. Yes, she honestly said that. Google it.