In our research of the YA dystopian literature genre, we discovered that the translation of these books into film led to drastically different results. While the Hunger Games franchise exploded in popularity and success, the adaptations of other YA dystopian series that followed failed to garner the same level of prestige. Andrew Barrow focused specifically on what made The Hunger Games such an overwhelming success, while Michael Johnson focused on why other movies in the genre failed to take off. In our research we found that the biggest reason is timing for both subjects.

The Hunger Games was critically successful notably due to the acclaimed performances from its cast. Jennifer Lawrence became a breakout star after these movies, while her costars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson gained similar levels of praise and respect. The cast was also filled with more renowned actors of the time, like Woody Harrelson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Suzanne Collins, author of the original Hunger Games novels, is credited for being active with many of the casting decisions and helped to make sure the actors stayed true to their characters during filming (Entertainment Weekly). The Divergent series also received praise for its cast’s performances. Many a critic applauded Shailene Woodley’s performance, along with those of Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller. Unlike Collins, Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, had little influence on the movie as a whole, but did praise the casting choices and expressed surprise at how closely the script stayed to the plot of the book (Web Archive).

One of the reasons why YA dystopian movie adaptations failed following The Hunger Games may have been the involvement (or lack thereof) of the author. Suzanne Collins made sure that she was a part of most major decisions when making the movie, and filmmakers frequently respected her wishes in making the movie as true to the source material as possible. Veronica Roth on the other hand had very little involvement with the movie as a whole, but did approve of the script and the cast, indicating that the movie must have at least resembled how she wanted it to be. In the case of The Giver, Lois Lowry had even less input in the production of the movie. Though she too praised the film and its production, her motivations may have been as simple as marketing. It only makes sense that author involvement has an effect on the success of the movies adapting their work, as what fans ultimately want most for the movie adaptations is to be as close to the books as possible. Due to increased author involvement, the Hunger Games movies seem to be more successful.

Ultimately, we found the biggest reason for the success of The Hunger Games to be a simple matter of timing. The first Hunger Games book came out in 2008, exactly one year after the last Harry Potter book. The first Hunger Games film came out in 2012, one year after the final Harry Potter movie came to theaters. The end of the previous dominant YA series allowed new series to appear, and The Hunger Games took readers through a world much more grim than the fantastical Harry Potter. This perfect time frame and new content in turn further led to rapid success as a book series and later a movie franchise, occasionally garnering the label of “the next Harry Potter.” (Fox). The Hunger Games came out at the perfect time for it to be successful. Its success, however, led to later YA dystopian series to be  seen as knock offs of The Hunger Games, since it came out first and saw great success. The Divergent series was criticized for being too similar to The Hunger Games, due to its later release date (The Wrap). Even later, The 5th Wave was criticized for copying both The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. As both Michael and Andrew address later, it really seems like the main cause for the success of these movies was just their timing.