In recent years, the film industry has seen a rise in the production (and popularity) of a new breed of film. Based on young adult novels, popular film culture is becoming obsessed with films featuring teenagers or young adults in oppressive future settings, fighting against a cause. Unsure of whether this new sub-genre has a name, I am nick-naming it ‘Teen Dystopian’.
And if I had to put it simply – they’re brilliant. Although derived from novels clearly aimed at a particular demographic, the films capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences of all ages. Why you ask? Because they’re films that have it all. Let’s use blockbuster favourite ‘The Hunger Games’ as an example.
On Closer Inspection
Where to even begin? For a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s needless to mention that the effects and cinematography are flawless. And the story-line? The narrative in ‘The Hunger Games’ is multi-faceted, cleverly incorporating elements from several different genres, attracting a wide audience with different viewing preferences. The story features love, action, suspense, politics, and of course, those heart-wrenching, tear-jerker moments (poor Rue).
Further, the overall theme of a dystopian future scarily reflects both historic and current events within the real world. For example, ‘The Hunger Games’ talks of a setting with different districts (similar to those of the UK’s Boroughs, or the US’ different States), and a country that has seen a brutal civil war (which, unfortunately, too many of the world’s countries have suffered). There is something about the story’s real-life application that makes it all the more satisfying for the audience – perhaps as a therapy, or perhaps as a point of interest.
And finally – the characters. Who doesn’t love Katniss Everdeen? She’s brave and courageous, she’s loving and sensitive, and she’s the ultimate role model for young girls (not to mention she wins the Hunger Games, you have to admit that’s pretty impressive). The characters in general contrast one another, perhaps making them more identifiable and characterising them more clearly to the audience. Whatever it is about these characters, and this film in general, it’s working. This is Teen Dystopian at its best.
Why the Success?
I admit, ‘The Hunger Games’ and similar films such as ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Maze Runner’ are absolute crackers. But why are they so successful with the global audience? After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that historically, film has produced films with a dystopian sub-genre with an aim to target strictly adult audiences (for example Kinji Fukasaku’s ‘Battle Royale’, seen by many in the industry as the gorier bigger brother of ‘The Hunger Games’). However, due to the resemblance made with real life situations, such a narrative is appealing to all age groups. Subsequently, there seems to be a gap in the film industry that is now being filled by these Teen Dystopian films.
I love Teen Dystopian films. They’re a thrilling watch, and tackle great topics that provoke discussion on a range of issues relevant to today’s society. To the people making these films – I salute you. Keep up the good work.