In recent years, many Young Adult bestsellers have made their way to the big screen. Among them are such popular series as Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. Some adaptations have been pretty darn close, where others have fallen short. In light of the upcoming releases of several YA adaptations, let’s look back at the big screen movies – the good and the bad, successful and unsuccessful – based off of bestselling Young Adult books. This will be a series, as I’ve noticed there are a LOT more of these than I initially realized, I just don’t know how many parts there will be. I’ll be discussing them in order of when they were released starting with the Harry Potter movies.
Harry Potter Series, Books: 1997-2007, Movies: 2001-2011
Let’s start with Harry Potter, the series that started it all. When I was in the eighth grade, Harry Potter Mania hit with the release of the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The next year, one of the teachers at my high school attempted to read the first book aloud to her students at the beginning of class. Parent’s didn’t take it well. It even made the local news. So when the movie came out around Thanksgiving, my dad decided he just had to take me to see it to see what the hullabaloo was all about. He saw nothing wrong with a story about an orphan boy from a secret magical world, in fact it was a great good vs. evil story according to him. And he’s right, it is. However, while I have seen all the movies multiple times and count myself a fan, I’ve never actually gotten around to reading the books. Until I saw the movie, I didn’t quite know what it was, and by then, I was almost 16 and had no desire to go back and read the earlier books, even though I was intrigued by the ones that came out while I was in high school and college. I did start book five on a plane ride to Seattle for a school trip. Between myself and my fellow Honor Society representative, we only had the one book. I never did finish it, but my mom recently picked it up for me at the thrift store. As soon as I get the chance, I’m going to check them all out of the library. Despite this, I’d count myself as a fan, and I’d definitely be a Ravenclaw. I’ve had plenty of friends who’ve read them and filled in any gaps or things I might not have picked up on, and I was told once that I reminded someone of Luna, which I take as a compliment. The movies have been widely successful over the last ten years, and while I can’t speak for their accuracy, they seem to be just as well regarded by fans as the books. There’s a HP convention called LeakyCon, and no matter where you go, you’ll find fans. The books motivated an entire generation to read, and that’s no small feat. They are also on the top of ALA’s Banned Books list for the last decade. I think no matter the times, HP will live on. After all, Harry is the boy who lived.
The Princess Diaries, Books: 2000-2009, Movies: 2001 and 2004
Next up, we have The Princess Diaries (which was released before the first HP movie, but HP is what really started the trend aka the explosion, so I started with that) based off of Meg Cabot’s bestselling series about an awkward teenage girl who finds out she’s the long lost heir to small European country. What’s more normal than that? Ok, so the later part of that storyline is a bit unbelievable. But, awkward teenage girls run a plenty through high schools, making Cabot’s Amelia Thermopolis quite normal, and relateable. I read the first book in this series, and found it pretty close to the movie, minus a change in the city’s setting and a few minor details. It’s the second movie that takes a major left turn at Albuquerque. It’s still a great movie, and seeing Chirs Pine as the love interest before he was cast as Captain Kirk is an added bonus, but the books end when Mia goes off to college and not with her turning 21 and ascending the throne. Cabot’s fast paced narrative, witty dialogue, pop culture references, and likable characters, albeit not always plausible story lines, make her books popular, and it’s why I LOVE them. Plus, the fact that events in most of her books are things that’s she’s actucaly experienced give the books an air of authenticity. I’m personally on a mission to read them all, that is if I can keep up with her publishing rate and don’t keep getting waylaid by required school reading. I haven’t even gotten a chance to finish this series, but I will. Eventually. This movie, and the books, are great for young girls. Mia is a relateable character and strong role model. Despite being closer to 30 than I am to 16 I still tune in to see the movie when it’s played on TV. I wish more of Cabot’s books made their way to the big screen.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Books: 1954-1955, Movies: 2001-2003
In December 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the popular fantasy series The Lord of the Rings was released. It was immediately a box office smash. I remember that it was practically the only thing talked about after winter break freshman year of high school. Everyone had scene it and was talking about it. It made instant celebrities out of Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and several other cast members. The final movie, The Return of the King, swept the Academy Awards, winning all eleven awards it was nominated for, including best picture. Not only was everyone talking about the movies, but a new generation of young adults were reading the books. It was common to see a copy of the trilogy being toted around school between textbooks. While The Hobbit, the first of three movie adaptations came out last Christmas and will be discussed later, is commonly refereed to as Tolkien’s children’s/YA novel, but the Trilogy is still popular with all ages. My dad was fan when was a young man and still has his worn copies from when he was young (my dad was a teen when the books came out). I’ve attempted to read them over the years, but the are much harder to get through then The Hobbit. I have yet to get through The Fellowship due it being a long start, but my goal is to get through them one way or another. And, since I have access to copies 24/7, 365 days a year, I’ve been focusing on other books on my To Read list. AKA, my dad won’t be getting rid of them anytime soon and I can read them whenever the Frak I get to them. My dad took me to see each of the movies, and I’ve seen them probably at least a half dozen times on TV. I’ve even see the extended version of at least one of them. I’ve also debated making an Eowyn costume, since with my blonde hair, I’d be a great shieldmaiden. Or an elf. No matter if you have read the books and seen the movies, or just seen the movies like me, I don’t think you can argue against the popularity and significance of the Trilogy in either form. They’ve changed the face of the fantasy epic and are critically acclaimed in both forms. They are, and always, will be some of the best fantasy out there.
Keep your eyes out for my next post, which will hopefully be soon.