Is YA Nostalgia In Full Force?

By Matthew Moorcroft

Less 12 hours ago, as I am writing this, The Hollywood Reporter broke that a Twilight TV series is in the works. The show, which is being developed by Sinead Daly (The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Tell Me Lies), is in early development at Lionsgate who will sell the show to a streamer/network after it’s treatment is approved. Stephanie Meyer is also expected to be heavily involved in the production of the series, which is currently not specified to be a full remake of the books or simply an offshoot set in the same universe.

This of course, is notable for two reasons. One, it means Twilight girlies are back in full force. And second, it comes at the heels of one of the bigger announcements from Warner Bros. Max reveal – which is that Harry Potter is getting the full reboot treatment. The reportedly “decade long plan” to adapt the books in their entirety for Max was a divisive one to say the least, not to mention the widespread outcry of controversial author and raging TERF J.K. Rowling’s involvement with the production. Unlike this series Twilight series however, the Harry Potter reboot currently has no attached showrunner – likely due to Rowling having full control and needing to vet whoever decides to work on it.

This of course isn’t to say the least of their more gritty cousin, The Hunger Games, which is returning this year in November with The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel that explores the early days of President Snow. The film, which is directed by franchise veteran Francis Lawrence and stars a mammoth cast that include Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Peter Dinklage, and Viola Davis, among others, is admittedly based on prior source material that was written several years ago, but still is clearly being made to capitalize on possible nostalgia by it’s younger Gen Z audience.

And then there is the elephant in the room of their fourth – and arguably most popular – rival, Percy Jackson, which is returning for a TV series on Disney+. Getting the best money can buy with reportedly one of the biggest budgets in the history of the company (the first season reportedly costs upwards of $250 million) and Rick Riordan given nearly full creative control, the series is arguably going to be a template going forward in these reboots as it plans to more accurately adapt the beloved books in ways that the films didn’t.

These YA adaptations used to be cream of the crop in Hollywood. Easy to greenlight due to established audiences, and almost guaranteed a little bit of profit. But they slowly died out, mainly as audiences grew more interested in the growing popularity of the superhero genre and streaming, but also the simple fact of the matter of their audience growing up. They weren’t teens anymore – and if they were, they had likely moved onto others things. Teens are after all fickle, and if you bore them enough they will more onto the next best thing.

But now those teens are older, and now have money to spare (though that’s debatable, considering our current climate). So what’s better then an appeal to nostalgia? It worked for millennials and boomers alike – take one look at the insane box office numbers for films like The Force Awakens, Top Gun: Maverick, and Spider-Man: No Way Home as proof of that – so why not the YA crowd? Could this actually work?

While some will say it’s too early to tell, there is a key difference here – recasts and reboots.

One of the major things that seems to be the common theme in these projects is “book accuracy”. Percy Jackson has Rick Riordan directly involved after two disappointing projects that failed to capture his vision. Twilight has Stephanie Meyer directly involved after she reportedly clashed multiple times over the course of the film series with the different directors and writers attached. And Harry Potter has J.K. Rowling with complete creative control after the movies had… her complete creative control (seriously why is this one happening?). And while I suspect this method might work for Percy Jackson, whose film adaptations (outside of some popular casting choices like Logan Lerman as the title character or Sean Bean as Poseidon) are widely mocked, I’m less inclined about the rest.

Harry Potter in particular, whose cast is widely seen as one of the best in franchise filmmaking, will be hard to replicate. That feeling of growing up with the actors was a once in a lifetime achievement – the kind of lightning in a bottle stuff you only get when the stars align once in a billion years. And it’s decision to reboot feels less like a chance to “accurately adapt the books” and more like a desperate decision to save a dying brand. Twilight is also in that position, though the fact they seem unwilling to comment on it being a full reboot makes me think they are treading the ground, waiting to see how Harry Potter is received in the coming months as we learn more.

It’s going to be hard to say whether or not these YAs nostalgia ploys are even going to pay off. As we reach an uncertain time in Hollywood – one where superheroes are seemingly on their way out (or at least going to slow down for a bit) and video game adaptations on the rise – it’s going to fascinating to watch if a relic of the 2000s and early 2010s can survive. Though ironically, considering the vampiric nature of Twilight, it’s possible that several of these might be totally fine as it sucks the life out of everything else around it and making it the only things available to watch. Dystopian maybe? Possibly. But if I am going to live in a dystopia like this, at least give me a proper Animorphs adaptation.

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