Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Sci-fi thriller The Hunger Games has made a record-breaking debut at the US box office, taking $155 million on its opening weekend. The film is based on a bestselling trilogy of young adult books by Suzanne Collins; inevitably, critics have drawn comparisons with other blockbusting page-to-screen franchises The Twilight Saga and Harry Potter.
But other than the fact that all three are based on novels, are there really any similarities between them? What does the tale of teenagers engaged in a televised deathmatch in a dystopian future have in common with lovelorn vampires and heroic wizards?
Death and violence. “Children murder one another in a multitude of gruesome and memorable ways in’The Hunger Games,’ deploying spears, arrows, rocks, venomous wasps, mutant wolves and their bare hands in a televised gladiatorial death match,” wrote Rebecca Keegan in The Los Angeles Times, pointing out that this is part of a long tradition for grisly children’s stories such as Grimms’ fairytales. While perhaps less brutal, the Harry Potter franchise pits the young wizard against the murderous Voldemort and features a body count that grows with each installment. And Caitlin Moran expressed concern at the Women’s Media Center over the violence against women in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, particularly the gory labor scene: “Those too young to have experienced a sexual relationship and certainly too young to have experienced a pregnancy only see the normalization of violence against a woman’s body. And when the movie ended, they cheered for it.”
Diehard fans. Unlike Twilight’s Twihards, Hunger Games fans may not yet have their own special name – but they certainly don’t lack enthusiasm. The Daily Beast provided a helpful round-up of ten “fanatical” Hunger Games fans and their series-inspired tattoos. Most of these are based on the Mockingjay – a hybrid bird that is the symbol of rebellion in the books. And like Harry Potter devotees, Hunger Games afficionados are also not averse to dressing up in costume for film screenings.
Watch The Hunger Games trailer below.
Merchandise ahoy! Fans can slake their thirst for all things Hunger Games with a huge range of merchandise. According to The Los Angeles Times, Mattel is set to produce a Barbie doll based on heroine Katniss Everdeen, and stores are selling jewellery, sweatbands, watches, socks and nail varnish. Similarly, TwiHards and Harry Potter fans can show their allegiance through the purchase of phone cases and necklaces – and even a replica of Twilight protagonist Bella Swan’s wedding dress.
Diffident stars? Writing at The Daily Beast, Chris Lee compared Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence’s apparently ambivalent reaction to her new-found fame to Twilight’s Kristen Stewart’s diffidence. “Lawrence has been displaying a deep ambivalence toward her new status as a global movie icon. It all harkens back to Stewart’s characteristic lip-biting, interview paranoia and ‘this is all bullshit’ attitude toward movie stardom insofar as the intense glare of the limelight seems to have driven both actresses somewhat stir crazy,” Lee wrote. And Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe has also proved somewhat limelight-shy: “I’m not anything special or big to fuss about,” the actor told MovieLine.
Women on top? Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games all have a strong female-focus, thanks main characters Bella, Hermione and Katniss. However, some commentators argued that Katniss is a rather more worthy role model for young girls than Twilight’s passive heroine: Bella is a blank slate, the way most of us are at some point in our lives. She needs a reason to live. Through her story, readers have hope that they can be saved, too… But in 2012, many women long to do more in this world, to be more than an object of affection. And when we look to Katniss Everdeen, we see that desire brought to life in a burst of flame,” wrote Colette Bennett on a CNN blog.