With the cinematic release of young adult behemoth The Fault in Our Stars this week, all attention has turned to the successes and failures of young adult adaptations in cinema. And while most of the attention these days seems to be focused on teenagers surviving supernatural or dystopic worlds, John Green’s story of cancer sufferers in love reminds us that teen success can also be found much closer to our reality. In celebration, I’m With Geek runs down just some of the best book-to-film young adult adaptations.
With Catching Fire, The Hunger Games franchise disproves two Hollywood myths, in that it is a sequel far superior to the original, and that a teen film can be one of the best of the year. While the first film was a sometimes startling, other times slow introduction to Panem, Catching Fire is an always tense tale of sacrifice, corruption and revolution, all anchored by a perfect central performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and wonderful supporting turns from the likes of Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Sam Clafin. Catching Fire capitalises on the success of the books and the first film, and delivers a young adult film that is both thrilling and intellectually stimulating.
While The Deathly Hallows Part 2 may try to lay claim to the title of the best Harry Potter film, it is in fact the third instalment that wins the title. It is the first film where the stakes are truly raised, thanks to the introduction of the horrifying Dementors, the entrance of Gary Oldman and David Thewlis as the scene stealing (and fanfiction inspiring) Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, and a shocking revelation regarding the death of the Potters. We also see, for the first time, some depth to the complex character of Severus Snape, and the Power Trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione have firmly cemented their bond. Add in some clever tricks with time travel, and some of the series’ most atmospheric direction from Alfonso Cuaron, and you’re on to a winner. However, arguments can be made, by other writers on this site alone (Ed: me), that another Harry Potter film is superior, so this place is just as much for the series as a whole.
Based on the book that everyone has to read in school, the original adaptation of Lord of the Flies (there was an inferior version in the 90s) is a startling achievement at bringing the very real horror of that book to life. Filmed in stark black and white, we see the boys on the island slowly devolve from private school boys to utter savages, through the increasingly terrified eyes of protagonist Ralph. The casting of the lead characters is exemplary, with Jack charismatic enough to steal power and lead the boys to brutality, Ralph remaining noble but terrified, Roger an absolute beast, and Simon the perfect, tragic picture of innocence. But it is poor Piggy who excels, with his awful fate the most shattering moment of the entire film. The book is considered a classic to study for a reason, and the film does a fantastic job in capturing that magic.
Adapted from the stunning graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo is an incredible visual achievement from the always brilliant Martin Scorsese, and one of the few films to convince you that 3D is a good idea. While far removed from what one would expect from Scorsese, Hugo is an exciting, charming adventure, and a must-see for fans of early cinema. Like The Artist or Singin’ in the Rain, it is a nostalgia trip of the emergence of cinema, but focuses on the truly innovative and iconic Le voyage dans la lune, by Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), and a celebration of the man who invented sci-fi cinema for a generation who will have never heard his name.
This adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s young adult novel comes from the creative mind of Henry Selick, best known for his work on The Nightmare Before Christmas. As a result, it’s one of the most beautiful and terrifying animations you are likely to encounter. Following a young girl (Dakota Fanning) who feels neglected and escapes to an idealistic Other World that quickly turns sinister, and will make you recoil at the sight of buttons forever more, Coraline is visually beautiful and as witty, dark, and wonderful as one would expect from Gaiman’s pen.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Princess Bride and Mean Girls
The Princess Bride, while featuring a cast of adults, was adapted from a book targeted at the young adult market. Mean Girls, on the other hand, is a young adult film, but one that was adapted from an advice book for parents. As a result, neither really fit into this categories, but are both such brilliant and entertaining films that they warrant mentioning.