Why Teen Dystopian Future Movies Died Out

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Why Teen Dystopian Future Movies Died Out
Why Teen Dystopian Future Movies Died Out


For a few years, the teen and young adult dystopian future genre were one of the biggest and most successful venues. Originating with the successes of Harry Potter and Twilight, other franchises began experimenting with other novel adaptations, and audiences ate up the devastated future worlds where the only hope for humanity was a ragtag group of teenagers and the occasional helpful adult. But, over time, it became more of a blip on the radar than a long-lasting success for films. Although The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner could conclude their stories, Divergent fell to a worse fate, never receiving the audience or fanfare required to boost the series into the franchise’s final installment.


Television adaptations like The 100 would have been a better outlet to flesh out dystopian worlds. But, the movies did not have time to do everything the books suggested. Rather than using the film to dive into the whole political scope of the world and what it became, some stories ended up being more about beating the bad guy and the love triangle that is along for the ride. Removing most of the meat from the story and making it seem like every dystopian future series was precisely the same hurt the individuality of the stories and eventually led to audiences stepping away from them.

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Too Many Shared Similarities

Red Wagon Entertainment

The Hunger Games and Divergent have been compared plenty of times, questioning if the franchises are more similar than different. They share some things in common, from a female protagonist to the separation of classes and a revolution surrounding a corrupt government. At the same time, romance plays an integral role in the plot. It certainly does not help that the two franchises were releasing movies back-to-back or removing so many critical elements from the books that showed more significant separation between them.

Even beyond that, the “Chosen One” storyline is used in The Hunger Games, with Katniss being used as the face of the revolution after she and Peeta become the first duo to come out of the games alive. In Divergent, Tris being Divergent, rather than fitting into one specific faction, makes her central to the plot.

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Did Not Go Beyond Defeating the Enemy

A scene from The Hunger Games

One of the biggest questions in the dystopian future genre is something that barely gets answered. They’ve defeated the Big Bad. Now what? The aftermath of how society gets rebuilt is scarcely a factor in the movies or even the books at times, as the central focus is more about calming down from winning the revolution. Sometimes, there is a time jump to years into the future, such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, showing an older Katniss and Peeta happily spending time with their children.

It is an excellent way to end the series, as it shows at least they came out healing and moving forward. However, it does not show what Panem became after the revolution and how it grew into a world where Katniss and Peeta felt comfortable and safe enough to have kids, something Katniss had determinedly been against in the books during her teenage years out of fear for them being reaped. Skipping revealing a new sense of government and how it was built back up takes away from understanding how a better world was born from an awful one. Although the movies may not have had enough time to portray an entirely new creation of a government in its conclusion, the film could have been developed or changed to create a unique portrayal of how a dystopian future film could end.

Not Enough Unique Factors to Each Story

The Maze Runner Newt and Thomas
20th Century Studios

The Maze Runner and Ender’s Game have tried to take slightly different approaches to this, given the changing nature of the world surrounding it. However, even they fall victim to endings that are beating the villain and never move forward. For the most part, a teen dystopian future film is pretty predictable as the only ones that had been released all shared similar concepts of a ragtag group being the only ones capable of defeating the evil government. In nearly every movie franchise, a fan-favorite character dies; the protagonist’s parents are missing or dead, or they are separated for various reasons.

The Fifth Wave could have had potential with an alien invasion and the destruction of Earth. However, that falls under the category of another franchise that never got the chance to continue. Revolutions are a staple of these franchises, along with too bright corrupt governments whose biggest failure is their inability to see how their system is causing so much harm.

Adaptations Left Out Too Many Book Details

The Fifth Wave Ben, Sammy, and Cassie
Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group

Novels have more space to develop characters and worlds. They are not limited to how long a movie is supposed to last and have unlimited space and the potential to flesh out the world as they see fit. On the other hand, a movie is expected to not be longer than three hours at most, with many coming in at about two hours. For the sake of time, the film must cut many of the book’s storylines or characters. In doing so, some characters do not match their novel persona’s characteristics. In other cases, describing the entire political backstory would take too much time, so it is reduced to a few lines if the audience is lucky. As a result, the books allow the franchises to feel separate and entirely their own, even if they still have similarities.


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