Divergent 2

There are, of course, any number of completely human young women caught, like Katness, in a dystopian future.  In “Delirium“ (Fox 2000), love is considered the root of all evil and girls are cured of it on their 18th birthdays.  In “Divergent” (Summit/Lionsgate), 16-year-old girls must make the choice of the group with whom they will have to spend the rest of their lives.  Shailene Woodley, whose breakout role was as George Clooney’s younger daughter in “The Descendants,” will star as Tris.

What is absolutely certain is that not all of these movies will be successful.  A few of the books may never even make it to the screen.  What is uncertain is which one will be Hollywood’s Holy Grail -- the next "Harry Potter," the new "Twilight," the future "Hunger Games."  Most of the novels are the first in a trilogy or a longer series, so commercial success can last for years.

And commercial failure can be a bone-chilling end.  20th Centuiry Fox’s “Eragon” (2006) was to be the first of a series.  But the sword and sorcery movie about a boy and his dragon was trashed by the critics, and, with a cost of $100 million before prints and marketing, the $75 million “Eragon” made in the United States did not give Fox an appetite for a second film.

“The Golden Compass,” the first book in Philip Pullman’s award-winning “His Dark Materials” trilogy, cost over $200 million.  Flawed but by no means an artistic failure, the New Line film did well abroad but had a mediocre domestic boxoffiice gross of $70 million in 2007, despite starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.  Its story of a girl living in an alternate Oxford University in an alternate universe where people's’souls take the shape of small animals--witches can be good and polar bears are amored-- was too intellectual, too philosophical, too steeped in theology to work well on the screen.  And, although the anti-religious elements that permeated the trilogy were scrubbed away in the movie, their shadows remained.  The silver screen demands something simpler and less rigorous.

So, for a wonderful afternoon, read the books.