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New Escapist Column! On Young Adult Movies Operating Under Star Power…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier in the week. With the release of Shadow and Bone on Netflix last week, it seemed a good opportunity to take a look at the state of the young adult in modern Hollywood. in particular, the ways in which the genre is dependent on an ineffable star quality.

The young adult boom really kicked off with the Harry Potter series. However, not all the adaptations that followed succeeded. Looking back over the various attempts to tap into that market, it becomes clear that the series that triumphed tended to share one key factor: lead performers who had genuine movie star charisma and energy.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Divergent

As far as adaptations of popular young adult novels go, Divergent lacks the strong charismatic lead of The Hunger Games or even the campy pleasure of The Mortal Instruments. Working with a premise that feels like it would have made for a delightfully cheesy piece of sixties socially-conscious science-fiction, Divergent proceeds to take absolutely everything far too seriously. Cliché moments play to an over-the-top soundtrack, terrible dialogue is delivered with earnest profundity, the movie failing to take any joy in anything that it does.

There’s a sense of cynicism in Divergent, with the sequels already mapped out, and the studio committed to their release. The result is a movie that never feels compelled to rush, instead spending most of its runtime spinning its wheels, covering familiar ground. It’s over-long and poorly paced, with the first two acts often feeling like a hyper-extended training montage, meaning that by the time anything starts happening the audience can’t wait for it to end. The result is a heavy-handed and over-cooked attempt at social commentary, one reeking of anti-intellectualism and simplistic pandering.

Don't worry, her training covers this...

Don’t worry, her training covers this…

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Non-Review Review: Young Adult

Young Adult is a good film, even if it falls short of greatness. It has a wonderfully engaging premise, and a set of truly wonderful leading performances from Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron. It is also, for most of its runtime, a very compelling and brave examination of a very flawed protagonist. For the first two-thirds of the film, it invites us to follow a truly loathsome lead character, one with very few redeeming features. Unfortunately, this rather gutsy set-up is undermined by a fairly shallow attempt to justify and rationalise her flaws in the movie’s third act.

Homecoming queen?

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