‘The Hunger Games’ Will Become Four Films. Yay or Nay?
For weeks we have been bombarded with near daily updates about the film adaptation of the popular “Hunger Games” book trilogy, and a lot of the news coming from the production has been mired in controversy, particularly for the fan base of the books. “The Hunger Games” takes place in a dystopian future, where the population has been divided up into “districts” that are largely controlled by the government. Food and resources are rationed in order to squelch any type of uprising that might occur amongst the plebeian masses.
Children from each district are selected via lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to death that is televised to all the districts. Think The Running Man meets Battle Royale, with a dash of Stephen King’s novelette “The Long Walk” thrown in for good measure.
I’m a fan of the series (though no expert), and while it is easy to dismiss the books as preteen literature, there are some extremely adult themes about violence and society’s increasing complacency for violence, particularly as portrayed in the media and as a source of entertainment.
Lionsgate studio made the unusual decision to hire director Gary Ross, who previously directed Seabiscuit and Pleasantville. Seems an odd choice for such dark subject matter, though Ross is undoubtedly talented. He faces the tricky task of staying true to the violence of the books without alienating the entire core audience-scads of teenagers who devoured the books, and can’t go see an “R” rated movie.
Some of the casting has been a bit bizarre, too. The film’s heroine, Katniss, is just a teenager in the books, but Jennifer Lawrence has been hired to fill her shoes. Lawrence is an excellent actress, but she seems too old (at the ripe age of 21) for the role, especially by the time all the films are made. Hailee Steinfeld was my firm choice. She was tough as nails in True Grit, and looked the part. I also would have loved Hunter Parrish (Weeds) cast as Peeta, because he looked just how I envisioned the character. I’m warming up to some of the casting (Woody Harrelson as Haymitch is an inspired choice, Stanley Tucci as Caesar, Donald Sutherland as President Snow) but I’m still scratching my head over others (Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna?).
Now yesterday comes news that four films will be made out of the three books. My first thought that this is just a money grab on the part of Lionsgate. From Deadline:
Lionsgate executives told Wall Street analysts this morning to expect big things from The Hunger Games, a series of four action films that the studio will release from the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. COO Joe Drake said it was “the highest-selling film we’ve ever had” at the Cannes Film Festival and that overseas exhibitors consider it “the movie that can change their company.”
Of course, they are in the business of making money, and I can’t really blame them, but there are a few problems when taking this route. Where do you divide up the books? Will audiences fatigue of this practice after the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series got the same treatment? What about your core audience outgrowing the series before the films are all brought to screen? I get the sense that may be occurring with the Twilight series. We’ll have to see if the box office reflects staying power or a drop-off in interest, but I know my response to the news yesterday was a big eye-roll. Shouldn’t they strike while the iron is hot with these book adaptations?