Why The Hunger Games film franchise matters
HollywoodNews.com: Arguably the most surprising bit of news dropped yesterday was the admission that Steven Soderbergh would be performing duties as the second-unit director for Gary Ross’s The Hunger Games. Even with the friendship that the two of them apparently share (The Playlist goes into details), it is a little unexpected for someone of Soderbergh’s stature to agree to do second-unit work, on someone else’s big-budget young-adult literature adaptation no less.
But that news is merely a segue-way into why the series is indeed far more important than we realize to the long-term health of the industry. The film, due to be released on March 23rd of next year, is an adaptation of the first of three books detailing a futuristic wasteland where teenagers are forced to fight to the death on a reality TV show as a form of tribune to the society overlords. Yes, this is not unlike Battle Royale, which is an absolutely terrific action film/social satire from Japan that basically has the same general premise (it’s based on a book and a comic book as well). Having said that, I’ll give author Suzanne Collins the benefit of the doubt that she’s never seen the 2000 release, as it’s never been officially released in theaters or DVD in America. But the film being released in March, which will theoretically spawn two more in the next several years, is indeed a vital and important one for reasons unrelated to its premise.
First and foremost, The Hunger Games is a new franchise that happens to have a female as its action lead. It is not a re-branding of a fairy tale nor a female-targeted film revolving entirely around romance. Major franchises with female leads are an endangered species. The Twilight Saga had that as well of course. And while we may disapprove of the choices that Bella Swan makes in regards to the men in her life, she sets her sights on Edward Cullen and pursues him with a single-minded determination that would be praised if she were looking for a buried treasure or fighting off terrorists (or taken for granted if ‘she’ were a ‘he’).
But other than Twilight, Underworld, and Resident Evil, the franchise world for
female-driven genre pictures is pretty much empty. Katniss Everdean, taking her little sister’s place in a televised death match so that said sibling may live instead, is a step in the right direction. Simply by occupying a space usually reserved for ripped men or geeky boys, she is an important step in leveling the gender playing field in the realm of studio tentpoles.
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