Never Gonna Sequel
It’s happened to us all. You hear that one of your favorite books for kids or teens is being adapted to the silver screen and you are struck with a simultaneous feeling of hope and fear. You go to see it and it’s even worse than you imagined. Then you leave the theater and realize that this was based on the first book in a series. Are they honestly going to keep going, even if this is a flop?
Thankfully, the answer is usually no. But what happens is that you’re left with a lot of series just ah-blowing in the wind. Here then is a tribute to those book series that are just not going to see any more sequels. Unless, of course, they get a reboot. Which, in at least one case, may happen.
The Seeker a.k.a. The Dark Is Rising
Remember this? Or has your brain done you a favor and allowed you to forget? One of the more egregious adaptations out there. In the midst of the Harry Potter films, studios were looking to recreate that same magic for themselves. And lo and behold, here is a fantasy series starring a special boy who learns he has the power to defeat a dark and ancient evil! Perfect! So what did the studios do? First, they made it American (one can only imagine the conversations that took place to make this happen – “I bet Harry Potter would have been MUCH more successful if he’d been from Jersey!”). Then they mucked with the plot so much as to render the film unrecognizable from the book. No Under Sea, Under Stone for you, kids! Which, technically, should have been first anyway . . .
The Black Cauldron
Not that when Disney animated it they were really prepared to make any sequels. Many consider this film the moment Disney animation hit rock bottom. They also combined two of Lloyd Alexander’s books together to make it in the first place. I heard a rumor the other day that a new version of The Book of Three is in the works somewhere, but was unable to find any proof of it online.
The Seventh Son
Apparently this was years and years in the works, much good it did it in the end. A real pity since the book was so great. What could have been a really good creepy film was instead yet another big budget war against an evil blahfest. Ah well.
A Wrinkle in Time
Oh yeah. It was straight to television, so hopes couldn’t have been all that high anyway. In a 2004 interview with Newsweek Madeleine L’Engle was asked if the film met her expectations. She said it had. She was pretty cheery about it. “I expected it to be bad, and it was.” Rumor has it that another is currently in the works. I dunno, folks. Mixing religion and science and fantasy into a single book is hard enough. Short of animating it, I don’t know how a film could even come close to doing it right.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader
This one is unlike the others mentioned here for a number of reasons. First off, these movies aren’t all that bad. They seem fairly aware of the books that they’re based upon, for one thing. And admittedly they managed to get through three books in the Narnia series, and even then only by the skin of their teeth. Amazing that they got that far! It’s too late to keep ’em coming at this point, so the series is pretty officially dead (sorry, Silver Chair, fans).
The Last Airbender
I’m cheating by including this since it’s not based on a book originally but a television series (Avatar: The Last Airbender). That said, the graphic novel sequels (penned in part by our current National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang) are fantastic and deserve mention. The movie adaptation of the first season was problematic not the least because all the villains were people of color and all the people of color who were heroes were played by white actors. [My husband points out that if you look at the voice actors for the original TV show it’s not much different, but that’s only if you think Iroh and Zuko are villains, and anyway the true baddies were Mark Hammil and Jason Isaacs who are the whitest white guys to ever white a white].
By the way, notice how all these series star white kids, usually of a male persuasion, and are fantasies or science fiction. So while I’d love to see the One Crazy Summer books adapted, my hopes are not currently very high.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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