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Fantasy goes dark

As new franchises replace 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' a grimmer, more apocalyptic tone haunts the story line.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest young adult franchise of them all?

Up to this year, the answer has been as clear as Windex: "Harry Potter." The boy wizard's journey of self-discovery produced a franchise so successful that it seemed as if it had been charmed by the benevolent wand of a fairy godmother: seven books and eight films, the final installment released last July.

Now that Harry's story is told, Hollywood's major studios are set to release a flood of replacement teen franchises over the next two years that they hope will prove to be just as resilient. While the requisite sword fights, evil beasts, and wise father figures are certain to get screen time, the new slate of entertainment is inviting its audience into worlds that are darker, gorier, and apocalyptic. The hero journey in "Harry Potter" and forbidden love triangle in "Twilight" feel trite among the following:

•"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," which updates the story of gingerbread-munching waifs with a look at their adult years in which they become vengeful bounty hunters.

•"The Hunger Games," based on the wildly successful teen lit trilogy set in a postapocalyptic future where teens are forced to fight to the death for public entertainment.

•Two versions of Snow White's story: "Mirror, Mirror," a parody featuring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and "Snow White and the Huntsman," a fantasy epic featuring "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart in the title role.

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