Call me a skeptic when it comes to young adult fiction.
To me, most every novel in that glorified pseudo-genre goes something like this: misunderstood and emotional youth-against-the-world types struggle to find themselves in storylines replete with worn-out love triangles and kitschy scenes of peril.
It seems these books have found a copious amount of success among middle-schoolers and sexually frustrated middle-aged women. This is why I generally avoid reading them.
So when my sister—a sixth-grade English teacher—first told me about a book she was reading to her class called “The Hunger Games,” a story featuring what I interpreted as all of the above, I had my doubts.
Then she started telling me about the plot. It captured my interest.
In a dystopian world reminiscent of something like “Brave New World” or “1984,” the nation of Panem has replaced what once was the United States. Twelve relatively poor districts surround the rich and glittering Capitol, a centralized government that has arisen from the ashes of war and rebellion.
In order to remind the Panem citizens of who truly holds the power and wealth in this nation, each of the 12 districts must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the annual Hunger Games. The Capitol enters the names of every eligible adolescent into a drawing, and the representatives are chosen at random from this pool of names.
Before the choosing ceremony commences, residents of Panem generally offer one another a dry and sarcastic remark: “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
In these sadistic games, the districts must watch their children engage in a gruesome fight to the death on live TV. Think of an adolescent blend of one part “Survivor,” two parts “Mortal Kombat.”
Based on the Greek myth of Theseus, this novel by Suzanne Collins is violent, fast-paced and highly engaging. Her characters didn’t annoy me. I couldn’t put it down.
Having sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, the hugely successful “Hunger Games” trilogy is now making the jump to the big screen, with the first installment slated for release March 23.
With the trailer pulling 8 million views within the first 24 hours of its release, calling this film “highly anticipated” seems a bit of an understatement.
Even though the trailer makes for nothing but excitement, I am still nervous about how this can’t-put-it-down book series will translate to film.
With lackluster adaptations of other young adult fiction books—“Eragon,” “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” and that one trilogy-which-shall-not-be-named—still in recent memory, I think these nerves are justified.
Hopefully, having author Suzanne Collins handle the screenplay and veteran Gary Ross direct will result in a film worth the hype.
Ross’s industry chops include writing that sterling little Tom Hanks film “Big” and Kevin Kline’s “Dave.” He has also directed award-nominated films like “Pleasantville” and “Seabiscut.”
The difference between these last two movies and “Hunger Games?” Tobey Maguire. And the weight of the script.
Not that 1950s utopians and horse races aren’t serious, but I only hope that Ross will aptly translate a story as drastically different from his previous films as “The Hunger Games.”
The franchise cast Jennifer Lawrence as main character Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old who volunteers to take her little sister’s place as the representative from one of Panem’s poorest districts.
Here’s a female protagonist who is cynical, calculating and determined to survive. She never whines or pines or needlessly flips her hair. I liked her, and Lawrence seems to fit the bill.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered how the casting of Lawrence has frustrated many of this trilogy’s fans. The complaints argue that the 21-year old seems too tall, too blond and too old to play her character.
Have you seen her in “Winter’s Bone?”
OK, probably not. In all honesty, I haven’t, either.
But the Sundance Film Festival, indie dandy served to garner some major acclaim for Lawrence, who seems to be the right amount of punch-you-in-the-nose toughness and backwoods humility necessary for a character like Katniss.
Josh Hutcherson will co-star as Peeta Mellark, a brawny baker who once saved Katniss’s life and harbors a secret—and soon not-so-secret—infatuation with his fellow District Twelve representative.
Some may remember Hutcherson from his days as the ruddy-faced, 12-year-old star of “Bridge to Terabithia.” Based on the movie promotion posters, he’s bleached his hair and really bulked up for this latest role. I’m not complaining.
For Katniss’s hunky hunting partner from back home, casting directors chose Liam “little brother of Thor” Hemsworth as Gale Lawrence. It is my understanding that his girlfriend Miley Cyrus will make no appearance in this film. One can only be thankful.
Though both Peeta and Gale desire Katniss’s affection, the entire premise of “The Hunger Games” eddies around concepts of mutual need, responsibility and survival.
Let me make this clear: There is no Team Peeta and Team Gale. No. None. Not any.
Both the “Twilight Saga” and “Hunger Games” are massively popular young adult novels. That’s where the comparisons pretty much end.
I do have to add as an afterthought that it seems Lionsgate Films is still targeting both trilogy’s audiences by debuting “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” on “The Hunger Games.” I can almost see the fist-pumping fans now.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Lenny Kravitz—random, right?—will also appear in supporting roles.
With both the acting and directing showing some serious promise, chances are this movie will be one to see once it hits theaters on March 23.
As a skeptic-turned-fan of this potential blockbuster trilogy, these are chances I’m willing to take.
And may the cinematic odds be ever in our favor.