At last night's MTV Video Music Awards, audiences had their first glimpse of the highly-anticipated, young adult fiction adaptation The Hunger Games, a movie that's already being touted (mostly by those hoping to turn it into a franchise) as the next Harry Potter or Twilight. Big hopes—especially for a genre that's seen more misses than hits (anyone remember The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising?).
Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) as Katniss, a teenager living in a post-apocalyptic world who finds herself chosen to compete in an annual competition: The Hunger Games. The winner brings home food for his or her starving territory. The other 23 losers...go home in body bags. Eep.
The book has a rabid fanbase, but for real blockbuster potential, the studio has to sell non-fans—and their first minute-long attempt had its hits and misses. Check out the trailer below and read on for a few thoughts on what I think The Hunger Games teaser got right and what else I needed to see.
The Look: Hunger Games is going to get a lot of Twilight comparisons for its romantic subplots and forest setting, but Battle Royale in Forks this is not. While director Gary Ross could have glossed up the action of Katniss running around the Games' forestal setting, this one appears to stay fairly nitty gritty. Giving the movie a reality works to its advantage.
Losing Katniss' Narration: One of the biggest flaws of the book is having Katniss dicatate her entire adventure. Author Suzanne Collins relies on the first-person perspective to make sure we know exactly what our main character is thinking and feeling at all times (and if you've ever met a sixteen-year-old, you know that's the last thing in the world you want). Whether the movie will include this aspect is unknown, but the teaser loses the telling-not-showing technique for a little encouraging voiceover from Katniss' friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
The Mystery: This teaser could have gone big. The world and scope of The Hunger Games is big, colorful and unfamiliar—but instead, our first teaser is of a scenario we can comprehend. Girl dodges falling tree. Girl runs away from balls of fire. Girl shoots arrow. It's not that we've all been there (I hope?), but it's a digestible snippet that raises more questions and keeps interests piqued.
The Music: As I said, the visual tone of the teaser strays away from the Twilight mold, but if anything brings it back it's the soundtrack. No, I don't think this is Danny Elfman's score, so it's not indicative of the final product, but the ambient noise and hushed strings make one think a shirtless muscled tween could jump out of the bushes at any second. Is Katniss Team Edward or Team Jacob? We shouldn't be asking.
The Lack of Co-Stars: I'm a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence and have complete faith in her nailing Katniss—but Hunger Games isn't a one man show. There are a dozen or so characters, all with their own distinct personalities, and to not get a glimpse at the other contestants is a bit of a let down. When casting each participant was made with such fanfare, it's surprising not to see a single person in this trailer. What's the draw for people who aren't that enthralled by pretty white girls? Show the diversity—it's key.
The Mystery: I gave the teaser a solid pat on the back for not giving too much away up front, but then again, I've read the book. If someone was going in blind, would they have any clue what The Hunger Games was about? Why is this girl running? Who is that ominous voice? What the heck is that flaming bird pin at the end? By not sharing some of the more foreign aspects of the film, Hunger Games does itself a bit of a disservice. The movie's a fantasy thriller, so play up the fantasy.