Last month was the release of Divergent, the film based on the bestselling YA book series by Veronica Roth. The film marks the continuation of one popular trend, YA books-turned-movies, and is leading the pack when it comes to another, emerging trend: dystopian fiction.
While the dystopian genre has been around for centuries, we are about to bear witness to an onslaught of dystopian movies, television shows, and books all arriving this year. It seems that the appeal of the genre is the unlimited creativity its author has over the whole society -including the possibility of constructing our own planet’s history and future. It’s a concept that many screenwriters and authors are flocking to in a bid to foster their boundless ideas.
An easy argument could be made that The Hunger Games was the first series to start this trend. The first book in Suzanne Collins’ series was released in 2008 with the second and third quickly following in 2009 and 2010. The series gathered a large fanbase almost immediately, and critical praise due to its somewhat natural evolution from today’s society. While the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic society, humanity as a whole remains generally unchanged. The whole premise of the games, an exercise in extreme voyeurism, recalls reality shows like Fear Factor and Survivor, mixed with live sports. Ordinary citizens are plucked from their dismal surroundings and are immediately turned into stars with legions of fans watching their every move. Sound familiar? Both The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which arrived in theaters this past year have the same themes.
So far, between the two The Hunger Games films, the franchise has made an astonishing $1.5 billion at box offices worldwide. With two more films (Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2) scheduled to release in November of 2014 and 2015, this series is on track to becoming one of the highest internationally grossing movie franchises of all time (it’s already number 26 on the international list and 18 on the U.S. list with only the first two films under its belt).
Another notable YA film adaptation in the same dystopian vein that will be released this year is The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s famous story of Jonas, the Community, and the Giver himself. The dystopian environment of the Community in The Giver is very similar to that of Divergent, in that most of the citizens are blissfully unaware of what’s actually going on. There is the same dark, controlling government, the same suppression of those who are different, a similar placement test for children once they hit a certain age. However, The Giver takes a much more subtle approach to the story, meaning there isn’t the same action that you’ll see in Divergent. It’s also important to note that the book is also part of a trilogy that predates The Hunger Games and Divergent by over ten years.
The film is slated to be released on August 15, 2014 and comes with a pretty big list of stars in it. Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges will star as Chief Elder and the Giver, respectively. In addition to Streep and Bridges, Australian newcomer Brenton Twaites will be playing Jonas, with Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes stepping in as his parents. In a bit of surprise casting, Taylor Swift will be playing Rosemary, the former Receiver of Memories. The film will be only her fifth acting role ever.
It’s clear to see that we’re going to be getting more than our fair share of dystopian films this coming year. And we all know that with the films will come television shows and an increased focus on new and already available dystopian books. Soon, it will be a veritable onslaught of dismal predictions of the future. Hopefully, though, we’ll be able to get some great entertainment out of the trend before it’s inevitably forgone for another YA idea or concept.
A special thanks to Elizabeth Eckhart for writing this wonderful guest post on the current trend of dystopian movies. You can follow her on twitter @elizeckhart