Dystopia: The Big Three.
Written by Fahima Meah.
Dystopian: An imagined state or society where there is great suffering, injustice or a post-apocalyptic setting.
YA dystopian and fantasy books were the first ever books I truly fell in love with. The intricate settings and the world building as well as the characters fuelled my imagination. I would always substitute myself into these beautifully written worlds and imagine myself as a completely new person every time I opened a book. I was always a quiet and shy child, but every time I would read a new story, I could feel myself being intertwined with it, like it was bringing me to a place of comfort.
The Dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre has produced some of the most popular films and TV series, most of which are based on books. But it doesn’t stop there. There are thousands and thousands of films that are based on books from any genre. Today’s topic is centred around the dystopian world, specifically dystopian novels (in other words, I get to talk about my favourite novels in the whole wide world).
So the question lies. A few questions actually since I couldn’t help myself. Do film adaptations give the books justice it deserves?
First Of Three: The Hunger Games.
Everyone knows about ‘The Hunger Games’ but if you don’t that’s okay (I guess). ‘The Hunger Games’ was created by author Susanne Collins in 2008. She also created two more epic novels to complete the series. Originally, there was only meant to be one novel, but towards the end of the book, Collins realised there had to be a sequel written to show the aftermath of the games. The second novel ‘Catching Fire’ was published in 2009 and ‘The Mockingjay’ in 2010.
Collins then published a prequel novel titled ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ in 2020 where the story takes place years before the Hunger Games and the events which led the games to be created.
The books became insanely popular after their release, with millions of copies being published and sent out, Collins was highly praised for her writing, and she soon found herself giving rights for the films to be made and contributing with writing the script.
The first film came out in 2012 which, again, was very popular and this initiated more books to be sold, then ‘Catching Fire’ was released the following year and ‘Mockingjay’ was separated into two parts since producers wanted to delve deeper into the storyline and to keep fans anticipated so they didn’t lose interest.
Another reason I assume, is because there was so much happening in the last book, that producers and directors needed a separate film to specifically capture each event. There have even been parody films and videos released based on the ‘The Hunger Games’ such as my personal favourites ‘The Starving Games,’ and ‘Katniss Everdeen rap battle,’ with it also being referenced in many movies and TV shows.
Some of that money was invested in visual and special effects. You can pointedly see this when the tributes line up in the arena to show off their districts, in the first movie Katniss’s and Peeta’s flames are different in comparison to the second movie, where it looks a bit more realistic.
What is ‘The Hunger Games’ and what’s so good about it?
‘The Hunger Games’ is about a post-apocalyptic, dystopian nation where children are sacrificed into a brutal game where they have to fight to the death until only one remains. The games are entertainment to the rich whilst also being a retribution to a war. If that doesn’t grab your attention then you’re wired differently. What makes it so great is the way Susanne Collins writes and structures the books. Her books are divided into different parts or acts, this derives from her playwriting background. She also has a way of writing action or violence, she keeps it fast paced and constant.
Her writing is simple but complex which is great for people who get distracted easily or flow off the page. The books as well as the films made a big impact for me when I was 10, not only was it the first YA book I ever read, it was the first book that made me pretend I knew archery or pretend I knew how to hunt. The dystopian era was something that no other generation could experience again because there was a sudden influx of dark futuristic films with ‘The Hunger Games’ being the peak. It influenced styles such as Katniss’s signature braid or her fashion sense (basically just her cool leather jacket), it influenced social media platforms such as Tumblr or Pinterest.
The film verdict.
In my opinion, this film was incredibly made due to how closely it related to the books. Was it maybe because the author was collaborating with the script writing? Maybe. Sure, there were a few missing details, but overall, the directors and producers created the movie perfectly whilst maintain the original story line and not jumping out of the plot. Although the book can never be outshined by the movie, the movie version allows fans to explore each character’s perspective independently, as the book only allows us to see everything through the perspective of Katniss. However, it can be argued that the movies watered down the struggles and trauma characters faced as well as some characters altogether. The films also let us see the plot unravel through a visual medium, rather than a conjured image in the mind. The costumes and world building were created, to my surprise, really well. The costumes, style and make up were so strange and unique which perfectly fitted well with how the nation is described, it shows an eerie difference from how the rich dress to how the poor dress. It also gives viewers a physical description on how the characters look and behave.
I’m going to have to say it’s a tie between the two, they are both so creatively produced that it makes it hard to choose.
Fun fact: ‘The Hunger Games’ is actually banned in Vietnam! This is because of the idea of children being sacrificed to basically kill each other for a game is insane. Honestly, I don’t blame them.
Series 2: The Maze Runner.
This series has my entire heart. I remember picking it up when I was 11 and being crazily obsessed ever since. ‘The Maze Runner’ was created by James Dashner in 2009, there are five books in these stories including two prequel novels. The second book in the series ‘The Scorch Trials’ was published in 2010, ‘The Death Cure’ was published in 2011 and the first prequel which was set years before the disastrous events titled ‘The Kill Order’ was published in 2012, the second prequel which was set a few years before the beginning of the events in ‘The Maze Runner’ was published a few years later in 2016. Another short novel was published in 2020 relating to one of the characters. James Dashner is such a good writer, although I feel like he gained more recognition through ‘The Maze Runner’ movies.
The first movie was released in 2014 and then the second movie was released a year later with the third instalment to be released soon after. Unfortunately, the filming productions had to hold back when one of the actors became seriously injured trying to film a stunt scene. The third movie ‘The Death Cure’ was released in 2018, much to fans excitement, including myself. ‘The Maze Runner’ was a success in the box office reaching a stunning $350 million and ‘The Scorch Trials’ following closely behind with $312 million. However, to my surprise ‘The Death Cure’ only made $288 million in the box office. In my opinion, ‘The Death Cure’ was actually quite good, sure, it was all explosions and action, but it wasn’t all bad. I would think it would do just as well as the first movie since it was the finale.
What is ‘The Maze Runner’ and what about it is good?
‘The Maze Runner’ is about a boy who has been thrown into a community of other boys with their memories erased and only their names to remember. We later find out that the boys are trapped inside an elaborate maze that changes constantly during the night. With no memories to rely on, no idea who put them there, they try desperately to find a way out. But they are not alone. Horrifying creatures also lurk within the maze trying to keep them inside. Trust me. Read this book. The way James Dashner writes his stories always captivates me. He makes it simple yet so powerful, it makes it feel as though it’s playing out like a film. The chapters are short and it’s quick and easy to get through. The way he vividly describes certain parts makes it realistic, the same can be said about his characters.
Maybe it’s because it’s targeted for my age group, maybe he’s just a good writer, but I will always treasure ‘The Maze Runner’ series. Even when I was 11, I was obsessed. I was even more obsessed when I found out that there were movie versions released. So naturally, I got the DVD’s too.
Film vs Book.
Now my opinion is mixed but I stand by it. The movies were not quite what I expected. The characters were great and the casting choices were good as well. But my pet peeve about it is, it didn’t follow the original plotline. The story was there but vaguely. It would’ve been fine if it was “inspired” by ‘The Maze Runner’ but it wasn’t. They kept some things the same, but the complexity and challenges and personality were heavily watered down. They missed huge plot details that were relevant to the story so it was just unclear and rushed. The positive attributes is that we got a glimpse of the story in action, we got to see the characters come to life.
The set and production designs were phenomenal, they really captured the maze and all the other little details in the setting, they did a great job in creating the creatures as well. It has a constant pace and really good visuals, like the set for example. The books and the actual storyline if you really look at it, is really dark and sinister, but the movies play it off, it doesn’t invest deeper into the story, it doesn’t go deeper with the characters. Sure, we get to explore the characters physically, but it would have been nicer to see their flaws and struggles. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still watch it but it doesn’t feel the same than the book.
The film partially gave the book justice. There was so much more potential but the films gave a good visual on the setting and characters.
The Divergent Series.
For the third series, we will be introducing the ‘Divergent’ series, which was created by Veronica Roth. The series consists of three books in the series, with two short epilogue stories that highlight the events after. ‘Divergent’ was published in 2011, the second novel ‘Insurgent’ was published a year later and the finale ‘Allegiant’ was published in 2013. Veronica Roth was highly praised for her series and was even ‘New York Times best seller’ due to how popular it became. She originally strived for a Utopian world but then realised that “people trying to be perfect all the time was more troubling” and steered off to the opposite direction and ended up creating a whole new dystopian world.
The first film was released in 2014, with the sequel being released in 2015, and the last film released in 2016. The films as a whole received mixed reviews, although it was praised for performances and action sequences, it was also deemed unoriginal and “just like any other YA adaptations”. Originally, the last film, ‘Allegiant’ was meant to be separated into two parts, but they only managed to create one because the other film was cancelled altogether. This left fans devastated as the ending wasn’t clear, it wasn’t intentionally an ending in the first place, but it was the last film we were ever going to get. ‘Divergent’ did well in the box office with $288 million with ‘Insurgent’ coming out on top with $297 million. ‘Allegiant’ just came through with $179 million, which isn’t bad but with the circumstances, was understandable.
A reason why lots of people think ‘Divergent’ is so popular, is that it derived from ‘The Hunger Games’ popularity. Dystopian blew up with YA after ‘The Hunger Games’ took off. ‘Divergent’ was a creative idea that interested a lot of teens and young adults, more so since dystopia was gaining more recognition, more and more people were recycling the same story just different idea. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading ‘Divergent’ but there was definitely something missing.
What is Divergent and what about it is good?
Set in a post-apocalyptic, futuristic world, a society divides its citizens based on their human virtues into 5 different factions. As each person enters adulthood, they must choose which faction they will commit to for the rest of their lives. The protagonist finds herself uncovering her identity as Divergent, which is a threat to the system, and must conceal her status or she will be targeted and killed.
The idea is great and unsettling. The thought of human beings meddling with human virtues and trying to be perfect is eerie and strange. The first and second book were written well, there was a clear plot and Veronica Roth structured the world really well. Until the third book. In my opinion, the third book was a bit messy, the original plot was thrown out the window and in the third instalment we got an even bigger plot detail. Then Roth invented another world outside of the ‘Divergent’ society, and sure, it was good, but it just got a bit much. Again, great idea but the execution was quite poor in my eyes.
The same goes for the films. The first film was a masterpiece, it related closely to the books. Of course, with a few changes, but not enough for me to yell at the screen. The first movie was so good, the characters were memorable and the way they created the city (and society) was really impressive. It gives a chance for fans to watch these characters in action, it lets us investigate the way the world is and it gives fans a better understanding of who the characters are, how they act and what they would look like. The second film ‘Insurgent’ also related closely to the books, it was packed with action sequences, which were highly praised, as well as giving a glimpse into how the characters interact, how close or strained their relationships are with each other. ‘Insurgent’ was another great film in the series.
Have books influenced the film industry?
Yes, they have. There are millions of novels that have turned into film adaptations or have been inspired to create films or shows. Not only books, but comic books as well. Take the MCU or DC for instance, they were all solely based on comic books and is now one of the most popular film productions in the world. Twilight was a huge deal in the early 2000s with the films increasing its popularity. Look at Harry Potter, Warner Brothers’ most famous film series ever, producing nearly $1.340 billion. Books generate some of the most creative and inventive ideas ever, books are the blueprint for the start of some film companies.
Do the film adaptations do the books justice?
If done correctly, then the answer is yes. If the films follow the book, or at least closely resemble the storyline, then it will gain just as much popularity as the books. Some books don’t even need a film adaptation and should be left as it is. What would makes it so great is if the characters are well written, the scheme is closely followed and it is just as exciting as the book and also, not to forget, if the world building is the same as the book.
The genre I chose was Dystopian, and all these books mentioned are treasured, popular series amongst young adults. These books have created some of the most popular film series as well as dominating a whole era with nostalgia. There is never going to be a time like this again, which is probably why I like it so much. Nothing will come close to the rush I felt reading and reliving a new life in the books and the movies.
-Tommaso Boddi on Getty Images – Effie Trinket Hunger Games.
-Gabe Ginsberg on Getty Images – Mockingjay Symbol.
-David M. Benett on Getty Images – Maze Runner Premiere.
-Dave J Hogan on Getty Images – Will Poulter Maze Runner Premiere.
-Brent N. Clarke on Getty Images – Veronica Roth Allegiant Premiere.
-Kevin Winter on Getty Images – Veronica Roth Divergent Premiere.
-Lead photo by Cottonbro on Pexels – Distopian Bridge.