The Next Wave of Child Stars: Hollywood's Next Thing?

The Next Wave of Child Stars: Hollywood's Next Thing?

With successful projects starring children in major roles, it's very likely Hollywood will run with the idea - no matter what.
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Stranger Things season 2 has just premiered on Netflix. The new season continues the story of the kids from Hawkins, Indiana, and their discovery of the Upside Down. Meanwhile, It is still making millions of dollars at the box office, and Logan spinoff about Laura is being written, at least according to the director/writer. So it's really no surprise that Hollywood is going to try and push out more films starring kids to cash in on the Stranger Things craze. However, as most people have said, forcing kids into a movie is not always the best decision, and with that, it is pretty obvious that they will be blinded by the possible box office returns and not make good product – simply rehashing popular products to hopefully make back their budget, regardless of quality.

It's usually a constant concern when a movie or television program makes a child or children a major focus, that the kids will either not act like real kids or drag the movie down – or both, like in Iron Man 3. This was especially an issue with Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, as the film showed a young Darth Vader, but not as a teenager or young adult, but as a nine-year-old kid who could race in a podrace. Another major example is Jurassic World, where the child leads were almost treated as just exposition machines, such as the younger brother mentioning a divorce that is never brought up again. However, when Stranger Things was released on Netflix in summer 2016, all those concerns were quickly put aside. In this show, the kids act like real kids – in every way from dialogue to physicality. It's obvious that the showrunners, the Duffer Brothers, do something that many other Hollywood writers don't – they understand how children are. More often than not, kids in movies and television are written as dumbed down adults, which is far from accurate. It does the same thing as Stranger Things, presenting the child leads as normal kids, from the way they talk and act to the way they would react to, you know, a killer clown terrorizing the city. This was highly praised by critics and audiences alike, and the studio noticed.

But as with any “big thing” in Hollywood, be it superhero movies, science fiction, found footage horror, or really any popular film's genre, we're likely to enter an era of subpar “for the money” horror/science fiction featuring kids as the main characters. Of course we've had those before, but I'm talking more like The Mummy style of ripping off the MCU than the inevitable The Explorers remake. James Manigold, director and writer of Logan, is currently working on a spinoff about the character Laura, a young girl who has the same powers as Wolverine. This will go one of two ways – the studio lets Manigold make the movie as he sees fit, or they'll get involved and make it into their own take on the “kid lead equals box office” mindset. Even the upcoming all-female remake of The Lord of the Flies seems to be cashing in on this concept, as unless we had already seen kid characters being experimented on, killed by a clown, or literally made in a lab to become a weapon, no studio would want to fund a modern take on that story. While It was a success, it wasn't because it was the cast being mostly kids, it was because there was effort and care being put into the script and production. Look at the surge in found footage horror movies after The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Not all of them, in fact most of them, haven't been good or even watchable because the people who greenlit the project wanted a quick and cheap buck, knowing the audience will go see it if they say it's in the same style as Blair Witch.

But as I said, this might not be as bad as say, the current shared universe craze. If the studios and filmmakers put their time and effort into making the best possible product, we could see more good movies that aren't afraid to take risks despite the age of their leads. Maybe they won't push for more product like It or Stranger Things, who knows. Rather, perhaps we will see something different – instead of making more, they'll make less and cause every one of the child-led movies to be a success at the box office. It's so unpredictable, so really all we can do is sit back and watch, waiting to see what Hollywood does with their newfound money. With the new season of Stranger Things just starting though, we've still got one great series involving children to watch, and if the trailers are any indication, we're in for another wild ride.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema

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