As most of you probably are probably well aware at this point, dystopian teen science fiction is a hot ticket in Hollywood these days. Not only is the second installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy coming down the pipe next month, but Veronica Roth’s Divergent series hits this spring. After those two films, 20th Century Fox is getting into the game with an adaptation of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. In fact, the studio is so high on this particular adaptation—all you need to do these days is write a book, preferably a trilogy, and you’ll get a movie deal—that they’ve already decided to move ahead with the sequel, The Scorch Trials.
In The Maze Runner, a boy named Thomas wakes up in place called the Glade with no recollection of who he is, where he came from, or how he got there. Populated by other kids with similar stories, their prison opens up every morning, revealing an unsolvable maze that holds the key to their escape and survival. The Scorch Trials picks up shortly after the main core from the Glade escape, but now face a cross-country journey across the open roads of the burned out, decimated world they find waiting. You know, it’s a real pick-me-up.
Moving ahead like this is a strong vote of confidence from the studio. Especially because the release date was recently pushed back from February 14, 2014, all the way to September 19 of next year. A change like this doesn’t always bode well, but first time feature director Wes Ball said that he agreed with the choice all the way, and that this will give the studio and marketing team time to come up with all manner of cool promotional stuff do ahead of the release date.
Out of the three franchises mentioned, The Maze Runner seems to have the most to prove, the steepest uphill struggle to get through. The series is hugely popular, but nowhere near the level of The Hunger Games, which is, at this point, already a proven commodity, not to mention the fact that it’s one of the better written young adult adventures out there. And Divergent has a big name cast to elevate it and set it apart. The Maze Runner not only has a first time director at the helm, but the biggest name is Dylan O’Brien from Teen Wolf, hardly a top-tier star. Fox seems to be banking on the brand recognition rather than well-established star power.
That’s the selling point for YA franchises like these, they come with a built in fan base already in place, so when they hit, they hit big. However, that’s not always a guarantee of success. You may or may not remember The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones underperforming at the box office this past summer, or the Percy Jackson movies garnering so-so numbers.
There’s no word on when work may begin on The Scorch Trials, but they have some time since The Maze Runner doesn’t come out for another eleven months.