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Notebook: Following the franchise formula for young-adult success

Lionsgate

By Arielle Ackerman, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 18, 2012

I have a confession to make: In a moment of extreme boredom over spring break, I willingly chose to purchase and watch “Breaking Dawn: Part 1.” I sat there for the entire 117 minutes, unable to tear my eyes away from the awful spectacle that is the second to last movie in the “Twilight” saga. Why, you ask? It’s simple: curiosity.

Of course I knew it was going to be a terrible movie, but I couldn’t help myself. Call it a guilty pleasure or whatever you’d like, but I have watched every single one of those damn “Twilight” films — only the first in theaters, though; thankfully, I’m not that desperate.

Hollywood has been cranking out franchise films for as long as I can remember, typically based on comic books or action figures. But why the giant shift to franchises based off of young-adult novels? Well, everybody knows that the youth run the world. It’s a genius idea really, one that has been used time and again by everyone in the entertainment industry. Kids, teens and newfound adults bring in the big bucks. Since Hollywood realized that animated children’s flicks and series like “Harry Potter” are some of the highest grossing films, they’ve been working nonstop to get their hands on the next big phenomenon.

I think we can all agree that the “Twilight” books are not the most well-written and the films won’t be regarded as the best of our generation. However, all four movies together have made over $2.4 billion worldwide, and there’s still one left. The “Harry Potter” series — which is infinitely better than “Twilight” — has made over $7 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing film series of all time.

Today, the latest franchise film aimed at teens, “The Hunger Games,” comes out. And obviously, I have already bought my midnight-premiere tickets. The film is expected to make $70 million its opening weekend. It looks like a better film than “Twilight,” but even if it’s not, it’s still likely to make a truckload of money because the phenomenon surrounding YA franchises will keep drawing viewers in, regardless of their quality. The franchise follows the now-classic Hollywood formula for making money: Get the rights to a YA series, cast a bunch of hot, young actors and appeal desperately to the masses.

While I take it as kind of an insult that Hollywood thinks they can get away with making the same fixed film over and over again, I ultimately have to admit that they’re right. Even before YA franchise films came along, movies have always had the same classic narrative, case in point: the Hollywood classic “Casablanca.” It follows a storyline that mingles romance and action perfectly, with a love triangle at its core that drives the whole film.

Now, take a look at the YA franchises of today: There’s a love triangle between two male leads and one female lead. There’s also a nice mix of romance and action to keep our ever-shortening attention spans captivated. The only added trait to these teen-based narratives is the inclusion of fantasy elements, such as wizards or a made-up, post-apocalyptic world.

YA franchises work despite, and probably because, they follow the same formulaic plot. That, and they somehow manage to captivate the current generation of teens and young adults through all the artificial hype they generate. If you’re one of those people who hopes that these teen-based franchises will shortly come to an end, you’re sorely mistaken. Screen Gems has already started production on the “Mortal Instruments” series by Cassandra Clare. There’s a love triangle in that one, too.

So while I, and many others, may protest against this insult to our intelligence, I’m still going to wait in line for two hours on Thursday night to see yet another version of the same film. And whether out of curiosity or actual interest, I will probably see every other YA-based franchise film after that.


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