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Top 10 Failed Young Fiction Franchises

What’s better than turning books into movies? Turning Young Adult books into movies: while regular adults might like a novel enough to maybe go see the movie, teenagers love their favourite books so much they’ll go see a movie multiple times – if it’s any good. And having identified the flaw in Hollywood’s scheme, it’s no surprise that for every smash hit they’ve created from this process – basically Harry Potter, Twilight and maybe The Hunger Games – there’s been at least three other series of books that have fizzled out on the big screen. 

But what if you actually enjoyed the movie version? What if you want to know what would have happened if they’d kept on making the movies? Then read on…

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10. The Last Airbender


Notable for being based on a young adult television series rather than book series, this one was basically screwed out the gate thanks to the decision to condense an entire seasons-worth of television into one film. Not to mention casting Caucasians and Indians to play most of the previously-Asian characters. 

Maybe a world-class film-maker at the top of their game could have made it work; instead, they hired M Night Shyamalan. Fans desperate for his trademark twist endings weren’t disappointed… well, ending a movie that was doomed to fail with a massive cliffhanger that would never be resolved counts as a twist, right?

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: 

After the Fire Lord tasks his youngest daughter Azula to prevent the Avatar from mastering the ability to bend Earth and Fire before the arrival of Sozin's Comet, a whole lot of stuff happens (the television show ran for three seasons), but eventually after a failed attempt to invade the Fire Nation the Avatar and Azula (now head of the fire nation) face off. She doesn’t win, her now-reformed and non-evil brother Zuko takes over the Fire Nation, and it’s party time.


9: Stormbreaker


Young adult series are almost always fantasy-based, but the Alex Rider series (best described as James Bond Jr. – after all, he goes to school with a girl named Sabina Pleasure) was a more down-to-earth hit. 

Back in 2006 it seemed as if turning his adventures into a movie franchise was a smart move. Stormbreaker kicked off his adventures in much the same way as the books did: Alex is an average fourteen year-old who lives with his bank manager uncle, only his uncle is really a spy for MI6 and is now (Car crash! Or is it?) also dead. Breaking numerous child labour laws, MI6 blackmail him into becoming a spy and various spy-jinks follow. Despite an all star-cast (including Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Nighy and star Alex Pettyfer), no one cared.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: 

Having sworn to take down the assassin who killed his uncle, one Yassen Gregorovich, Alex then has a bunch of other unrelated adventures. Meanwhile, it turns out Gregorovich was once saved by Alex’s father (also a spy), and so he becomes kind of protective of the junior spy. Then someone else kills Gregorovich. Or do they? Yeah, like bad guys ever die for good in spy series.




8. I Am Number Four


When nine children are sent to Earth from their alien homeworld to escape evil invaders, the stage is set for a lame Terminator knock-off (each kid has a tough-as-nails protector; our lead gets Timothy Olyphant) with some alien super-powers mixed in. The good news for Number Four, AKA John (*cough Terminator ripoff cough*) is that the kids can only be killed in numerical sequence; the bad news is, Number Three just bit the dust. 

How could such a gripping concept fail? Especially with Alex Pettyfer, star of the failed Stormbreaker franchise, in the lead role? As with most of these series, while it didn’t exactly flop it didn’t exactly succeed either, and what’s the point of making kids movies unless you make huge bank?

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: 

John bails on Sarah, the high school hottie he’s fallen for, to go find the rest of his kind. Don’t worry though: his alien race only ever falls in love once, so they’re bonded for life, right? Uh, hang on a second here. He leaves her with her ex (he’s standing right next to her as John leaves), while John leaves with this super-hot blonde Buffy-esque ass-kicking alien babe to go find the rest of the aliens and kick bad guy ass? Yeah, it’s no surprise to learn that despite two more books in the series having been published, Sarah is yet to return.


7. City of Ember 


Faced with the end of the world, a bunch of scientists built the City of Ember deep underground, populated it with people who knew nothing about the outside world, and gave them a box to open after 200 years. Whoops: they lost the box, 200 years passed, nothing happened, and now the city is starting to run down – and every time the lights go out, something starts moving in the darkness.

This one actually looked pretty good: the design of Ember owed a heavy debt to Terry Gilliam, and the cast was decent too (Bill Murray as the Mayor!). But a 95 minute run time left the whole thing feeling rushed. There were three more books in the series: this was the only film.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: 

The film ends with the kids finding their way to the surface and freedom – but hang on, wasn’t there an atomic war 200-odd years ago? If there’d been a sequel, it would have involved the survivors trying to figure out how to survive on the surface amongst the ruins of the old world, being taken in by a small town (they don’t really get along) and rediscovering the technology of their forebearers. As the actual underground City of Ember was the best thing about the film and they never go back, it’s probably a good thing the sequels stayed as books.



6. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events


This 2004 film adapted the first three of the then exceedingly popular Lemony Snicket series. Featuring the then also-exceedingly popular Jim Carrey as the hammy Count Olaf, who takes in 14 year old inventor Violet (Australia’s own Emily Browning) and her siblings after their house burns down in suspicious circumstances, it looked set to kick off a long-running series. 

Yet somewhat oddly, despite doing well at the box office and actually not being that bad a film, a sequel never happened. Maybe they just waited too long and the kid cast grew up; Browning next made a splash as a drugged and naked sex doll in Sleeping Beauty.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: 

Olaf hunts the siblings down over and over no matter where they hide, they gradually discover more and more details about the secret society their parents belonged to, and yet by series end most of the big questions are never answered. Guess the ride’s the thing here.


(Continued next page)

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5 comments so far..

  • Knee Jerk's avatar
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    Knee Jerk
    Date and time
    Thursday 26 Sep 2013 - 8:09 PM
    I would add Eragon to that list. I've read the three sequels by Paolini and I find that the movies have changed many of the events and characters so much that I think it would be hard for the movie to stay faithful to the novels.
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  • JOHNTSHEA's avatar
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    JOHNTSHEA
    Date and time
    Saturday 28 Sep 2013 - 11:23 AM
    By your own admission, most of the movies you list did not lose money, and ALL the books had successful sequels, no doubt boosted by the single movie in each case. And are you so certain there will be no movie sequels ever? That's what many said of the 'STARSHIP TROOPERS' and 'RIDDICK' movies.
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  • AnthonyMorris's avatar
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    AnthonyMorris
    Date and time
    Saturday 28 Sep 2013 - 11:41 AM
    No, it's more the case that the initial book had led to a bunch of sequels before they made a film, and then the film didn't do well enough for them to move onto filming the book sequels. I don't think there's any example here where you could claim the movie inspired them to then create more books.

    Also, with this kind of young adult film they usually try to move fast on the sequels before the actors get to old. They probably will take another stab at one or two of these series (The Dark is Rising has been a classic for decades now), but it'd almost certainly be a reboot rather than another film leading on from the first.
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  • Miss Incorrigible's avatar
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    Miss Incorrigible
    Date and time
    Saturday 28 Sep 2013 - 4:16 PM
    I have enjoyed reading His Dark Materials each time I have read the series. The concept and themes were always going to have to be simplified (or is that sanitised depending on how you look at it???) for a mass market.

    It will be interesting to see how the Vampire Academy and Fallen movies do.

    (I am way too old to be interested in these but there are worse secrets to have!)
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  • Bainf's avatar
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    Bainf
    Date and time
    Monday 30 Sep 2013 - 9:45 AM
    As has previously been said many of the movies made money. but.....
    Keep in mind that sequels rarely do as well as the first, so they are less likely to make a profit making it harder to get backing
    Plus they often take several books and squeeze them into one, making sequels even harder
    some kid actors just grow up too fast and continuity and affiliation is lost
    Also some books work well as movies, some second books not so much. For example I dont think the hunger games sequels will translate as well to big screen
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