Sick of all the teen fantasy franchises? Well, too bad because even though 'Harry Potter' and 'The Twilight Saga' are in the home stretch, a few more are gearing up to go into production. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that more studios are jumping on the opportunity to take advantage of the genre considering 'Harry Potter,' 'The Twilight Saga' and for now, 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' are wildly successful. In total, 'The Twilight Saga' has earned over $1.7 billion worldwide, 'The Chronicles of Narnia' over $1.1 billion (not including this weekend's release, 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader') and 'Harry Potter' over $6.1 billion.
Clearly something's working here and, luckily for the studios, there's a fairly simple model to follow: find a popular book series about a group of gorgeous teens fighting evil in some alternate world and you've got yourself a blockbuster. Yes, some could see it as a risk that these types of films generally cost a pretty penny - all of the 'Harry Potter' films cost over $100 million to make and the most recent edition $250 million and the two 'Narnia' films $180 million and $225 million respectively – but they also generally offer hefty returns.
Now here we are with 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' about to wrap up within the next two years and 'Narnia' potentially meeting its demise after this past weekend's performance of 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader's,' so now it's time to welcome the newcomers.
First up will likely be a potential franchise we've been hearing quite a lot about lately, 'The Hunger Games.' Lionsgate snatched up the rights to Suzanne Collins' book and the studio is expected to deliver something big. The first book features a young girl named Katniss Everdeen who's a resident of District 12 in the country of Panem. Once a year, each of Panem's 12 districts must select one boy and one girl, both between the ages of 12 and 18 to compete in the Hunger Games. The event is televised and the entire country watches as the 24 competitors fight until just one survives.
There's also buzz about another book-to-film adaptation, Catherine Fisher's 'Incarceron,' and now the hype is more powerful than ever because as we reported recently, Taylor Lautner is attached to star. The story is about two people, Finn and Claudia. While Finn, a resident of a prison realm called Incarceron, fights for his freedom and for the chance to see the outside, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, tries to find her way in.
There's something very similar between not only 'The Hunger Games' and 'Incarceron,' but the aforementioned series as well – teen violence. The 'Harry Potter' kids whip out their wands and zap opponents to death, the 'Twilight' vampires ravage innocent people as well as bloodsucking enemies, the young Kings and Queens of 'Narnia' go to war on a regular basis and now we're getting teens fighting 'Battle Royale'-style and another group not only facing the vicious prisoners of Incarceron but the terrors the facility itself throws their way. What is it with moviegoers and teen violence?
As much as this violence is present in these films or the soon-to-be films, it's the fantastical worlds that are the more powerful draw. Look at other films like 'Green Street Hooligans' and even 'Kick-Ass'; both of those films take place in a very realistic setting and that makes the violence feel real. There is one scene in particular in both where you can practically feel every blow delivered to the main characters – in 'Kick-Ass' when Kick-Ass and Big Daddy feel the wrath of Frank D'Amico and the final brawl in 'Green Street Hooligans.' While both films are fantastic and this is likely the desired effect of these moments, it's a very different kind of pleasure you get from them, if you can call it pleasure at all.
That's not to say that the more perilous moments in 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' don't feel dangerous, but when this type of action takes place in a world with unearthly forces, it automatically creates a different tone making the action more fun and even more desirable. There's just so long you can watch a character suffer as in 'Kick-Ass' or 'Green Street Hooligans,' but we watch Harry Potter go through film after film having the life sucked out of him by Dementors and being attacked by the Death Eaters and Voldemort yet still crave more. He's capable of so much more than merely throwing another punch and we're eager to see what comes out of that wand of his next.
As violent as they may be, 'Harry Potter,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' 'Twilight' and the newcomers, 'The Hunger Games' and 'Incarceron,' aren't about the violence. They're more about this fascinating new world we're experiencing and all of the creatures, forces, spells, villains and heroes they have to offer. This is what enables us to detach ourselves from the serious threat the main characters face and really just enjoy the material. Of course that's not to say any of these films are only good for pure entertainment, but they offer a far more enjoyable type of entertainment, something that we'd like to experience over and over.
As for youngsters being at the forefront of these pieces, it's simple; they're prettier, are capable of more and have an innocence with power to instantly earn your sympathy. I doubt 'The Twilight Saga' would have been half as successful if the franchise featured vampires in their 40s. Besides battling werewolves and nasty newborns, what would they do? Take care of the kids? Work in an office? Teen characters are ripe for another major draw with these types of films – romance. At this point they're just testing the waters and falling in love is as magical as it is, well, in the movies and who doesn't love a passionate onscreen romance?
Do you agree? What is it about these films that gets to you?
(Box office and budget information from Box Office Mojo.)