Popular young adult book series The Soulkeepers has been picked up by film producer Aaron Magnani to be the latest set of teen-centered fantasy novels to be brought to the big screen. The six-volume series was written by G.P. Ching, with the first book debuting in 2011; the final installment was released in March.
The series centers on 15-year-old Jacob, who is left in the care of his uncle after a mysterious car accident in which his mother disappeared. One of his uncle’s neighbors, the mysterious Dr. Abigail Silva, tells Jacob that if he helps her protect peoples’ souls from Fallen Angels, she can help him find out what happened to his mother. In the supernatural world of these novels, Angels and Demons battle for human souls on Earth, and Jacob has the unique ability to help shield souls from evil.
According to an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Aaron Magnani Productions has optioned the rights and is currently searching for a writer to adapt the novels, as well as the perfect male lead for the central role of conflicted teen Jacob.
The series taps into two popular and profitable phenomena for both novels and movies: young adult fantasy and Christian themes. Faith-based films have been performing surprising;y well at the box office in the past year, with movies like Mom’s Night Out, Heaven Is For Real, Son of God, and God’s Not Dead all making more than expected in ticket sales for films with overt Christian themes.
Heaven Is For Real made $22.5 million when it came out over the Easter weekend, Son of God made $25.6 million in its opening weekend in February, and God’s Not Dead surprised in March, when it took in $9.2 million at the small number of theaters where it opened.
Ching has said that she doesn’t think The Soulkeepers series is overtly religious, though the Christian undertones are fairly obvious given that there are Angels and Demons and a battle for souls. Jacob also spends much of the series undergoing spiritual self discovery as he transitions from an atheist to a Christian.
“I never intended for The Soulkeepers to be a prescriptively ‘Christian’ book. I wrote it because I read tons of YA books but in almost all of them, the main character has ‘never thought much about religion.’ But statistically in America, around 90 percent of kids are being raised in households that practice a religion. I wanted my character to reflect that young adults do think about God and an afterlife. However, I also wanted to reflect that this thinking is individual, unique, and not necessarily the same as the beliefs of their family unit,” Ching said in a blog post response to whether the series is religious.
Whatever Ching’s feelings on the matter are, Magnani could leverage the Christian themes to his benefit for the movie.
Perhaps more evident is the fact that movies adapted from young adult science fiction novel series have been hugely successful at the box office in recent years. The Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games films have reaped huge sums in ticket sales and made celebrities out of the young stars pegged to play the protagonists. The most recent of these films was March’s Divergent, which starred newcomer Shailene Woodley.
The formulaic approach to making teen-friendly film franchises out of teen-friendly science fiction/fantasy novel series results in critic-proof films that bring home the bacon even if they aren’t very good or particularly original. Divergent is a great example of this: The movie has just a 41 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was criticized for being too similar to The Hunger Games but still made $148 million domestically during its run in theaters.
Turning The Soulkeepers into a movie a good bet for Magnani, as the movie probably won’t even have to be great to make a lot of money and has huge franchise potential.
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