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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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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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  • August 7, 2011 | Permalink |

    No, it doesn’t matter. It has a female lead for marketing purposes. So that means the ALIEN franchise matters, right? Tell that to FOX, maybe they’ll make a good Alien film again. This book rips off Battle Royale to no end, and you think its a good thing just because there’s a girl in the lead? Are you just trying to get laid or something?

  • August 7, 2011 | Permalink |

    You guys frikkin spelt EverdeEn wrong. It has a total of four E’s not three E’s and one A. Don’t disgrace The Hunger Games like that!

  • August 7, 2011 | Permalink |

    There is only one thing I would cite wrong with your article. Twilight is not a shining example of female-driven literature. The Twilight books are very much a cliche and embarassing representation of women. It’s not the choices Bella makes, it Bella herself. Without Edward, she is nothing. That is the poorest characterization of a female that could ever be made in any type of art.

  • August 8, 2011 | Permalink |

    @llpalazzo It’s not a rip-off. It’s a book with the same premise as Battle Royale and several other books that were made way before Battle Royale was even though up.

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