Friday, September 3, 2010

TEAM KATNISS: I haven't yet read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, but quite enjoyed The Hunger Games, and was shocked by the level of violence and brutality in it for an at least nominally YA book. But of course, there'll be a movie, and according to Nikki Finke, not only is a script done (from Billy Ray, writer/director of Shattered Glass and Breach), but there's a director fight--with Sam Mendes, Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), and David Slade (Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), being the final 3 contenders. Mendes seems too arty and Ross too sunny, so I expect it goes to Slade (who's also a hot commodity, coming off of a big hit that got better reviews than the first two chapters), but others may disagree or have thoughts for who should play the leads.


  1. Adam C.3:55 PM

    Haven't read any of these books (which, from Finke's description, sound like some crazy cross between the Stephen King stories "The Long Walk" and "The Running Man," smooshed together with Series 7: The Contenders and Battle Royale, and then maybe a dash of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), but I did just see Hard Candy on IFC the other night, and if violence and brutality are what is called for, then I think Slade can deliver in an interesting way.

  2. Joseph J. Finn4:07 PM

    Well, now I need to read these.  I read a lot of stuff, but for some reason these have been below my radar until this third book.  (And Hard Candy....jeeeeeeeez, that was some rough stuff.)

  3. Genevieve4:11 PM

    On another site, I've been positing Anna Kendrick (she's got acting chops, even though teens only know her from Twilight), Saoirse Ronan (someone else's idea but she'd be great, and she has an action-y movie coming up), and possibly Mae Whitman (who doesn't look like I picture Katniss, but does teen anger and vulnerability well, and has apparently voice-overed a couple of action heroines, as well as playing an Evil Fighting Ex in Scott Pilgrim, though I haven't seen that).

    Excellent books - I normally shy away from books that are violent (including Dragon Tattoo and many other modern much-talked-about novels) but I was completely drawn in and couldn't leave.  Haven't read the third yet - I come up on the library queue soon.

  4. I've enjoyed the books a great deal, too, for what they are.  I think that Mockingjay was an excellent conclusion to the trilogy, though I'm not sure how I feel about it as a stand-alone book.

    One point to emphasize:  These are NOT books that can be read out of order.  If you have an interest, you really need to start with the first one, and read in order. 

  5. christy in nyc6:56 PM

    I really quite like all three of Genevieve's suggestions, although I do think Ronan's the only one young enough of the three to do it. In fact I really think most actors we would have heard of already would by default be too old for the part. I've seen a few people in the kidlitosphere gnashing their teeth a little over a Kristen Stewart rumor, which I really think they needn't worry about because again, she's far too old. I know grown women play teens all the time, but in this case I think it's very important that Katniss really does seem her age. Exactly because of how violent it is.

    I feel pretty strongly that there's no such thing as "too violent" (or too anything) regardless of intended age rage, if it's done well. I wasn't disturbed or shocked by the amount of violence at all, and neither was anyone I know that reads a lot of kids' and YA fiction. And these books are solid YA, not just nominally. In fact, I'd even put them on the younger end of YA.

    To me, The Hunger Games is a truly excellent novel, and Catching Fire and Mockingjay come close to reaching that level as well. And it's emblematic of what I think makes YA really fun to read, in a way that previous crossover hits have failed to demonstrate (with the possible exception of the first Harry Potter book, which was not YA anyway): it has the fast pace and un-put-down-ability of a really commercial adult thriller while staying as character-driven as a really emotionally satisfying (but probably at least a little boring) adult literary novel. The tension is so constantly wire-tight that it's almost physically painful to stop reading. It also makes you cry 30 pages in.

    Now, while I think most YA does combine those two elements pretty consistently (fast-paced/character-driven), and I also think the quality of your average YA book is a bit higher than your average adult book, I also think that THIS series is in a whole other league than even most of the good YA I read. I'd put it up with Golden Compass for emotional punch and writing quality. For page-turning...I honestly can't think of another book I've read that I've found harder to put down when it comes to wanting to find out what happens next in the plot.

    Another thing I really loved about the first book that I wasn't necessarily expecting from the premise (which I didn't initially find compelling despite being a huge dystopia nerd) is that in addition to being a dystopia, it's also kind of a wilderness survival novel! Which is kind of delicious.

    Finally, Mockingjay: I think it's an unusually strong third book in a trilogy.

  6. christy in nyc7:00 PM

    Egad, sorry that turned out so long.

    On a slightly different note: I LOVE Hard Candy as well. Its ambiguity gnawed at me for days. I think it's brilliant.

  7. Genevieve7:39 PM

    No sorry needed, christy!

    So you're looking for someone from the Dakota Fanning / Abigail Breslin age group, hm? 

    I wish Jurnee Smollett wasn't too old (though she's playing a high-schooler right now).

  8. christy in nyc8:04 PM

    I guess it depends on when they start filming! But yeah, I think it should be someone who is around 16 at the time of filming. Hard to see either of them in the role, but I guess that's because they're both quite famous for their age and for doing VERY different kinds of roles than this.

    Umm, I just googled Jurnee Smollett to get her age and she's sexy now??? Yeah she would be great but maybe too beautiful.

    Of course, I can keep saying "too old" and all that but they will cast who they cast. Chances are it'll end up being someone I think is too old.

    Another possible point of interest is that rumor has it Suzanne Collins, when she reads from the books at appearances, gives Katniss an Appalachian accent, which I find rather perfect.

  9. She does.  It's a thick accent, too.  It comports with the story (District 12's location) but it's jarring to hear it.  Because she uses it not just for quotes, but for the entire text, given that Katniss is narrating.  

  10. If you haven't seen Zombieland yet, that may change your view of Abigail Breslin a little bit.  She doesn't do much direct action (that's largely Harrelson's function), but is a lurker and a game player--in some ways, a lot like Katniss--a reluctant but utterly lethal force when she needs to be.

  11. slick1:32 PM

    Thanks, Matt, for this thread.  I loved these books and have found them to have a strong tail - I can't stop thinking about them and have harassed a lot of friends to *hurry up and read them* so I have someone to talk to and compare notes with.  I know it's inevitable that the movie is coming but I'm sad that it can't stay just as I saw it in my head.  

  12. janet9:11 PM

    I just want to say thanks to the thing throwers who recommended this series in the comments of another post a couple of months ago. The books have quickly become some of my all-time favorites, and (very unlike me) I'm really looking forward to seeing them transformed into movies!

  13. Adam C.11:46 PM

    Again, haven't read 'em, so feel free to tell me I'm way off base, but what about Chloe Moretz?  She's a year younger than Abigail Breslin.  Clearly comfortable with violence, given her roles in Kick-Ass (and presumably its announced sequel) and Let Me In.  She'll also be in Hugo Cabret.

  14. christy in nyc7:40 AM

    I think she's a likely choice, Adam C. I haven't seen her in anything yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being her.

    Zombieland recently popped up on Netflix Watch Instantly so I'll definitely be checking that out soon.

  15. I have read the trilogy and thought it was brilliant.  Emotionally brutal but a series that will stand the test of time.  In my opinion, something that may be taught someday in high school.  This series ask tough questions - ethical and moral.  Mockingjay really honed in on that and I am still not certain where I stand on some of the decisions made by Katniss.

    Casting for the movie.  Sigh.  This is hard.  I guess I would be akay with Dakota Fanning, I think she is a caliber of actress that could pull it off - she is the sort of actress who can be plain when the role calls for it. But!  I would hate for anyone associated with the Twilight movies (aside from Fanning) to be involved with the Hunger Games.  I am so weary of the comparisons because dude, there IS no comparison......

    As I have written on my own site:
    ....there is no comparison. Well, not unless you are the sort to also examine the differences between the Sweet Valley High series and anything that Judy Blume has ever written. Francine Pascal and Judy Blume are both authors who wrote books that made you want to read, but Blume actually wrote things that made you want to think . Pascal just made you reach for your Bonnie Bell lip gloss and mourn being a teenager.  Ah, but I kid Jessica and Elizabeth, those wacky identical twins.

    But.  Still.

    The Hunger Games series is like Judy Blume - you will read, you will read again and you will think. Twilight was fun, oh sure. But there was not much substance going on there.

    The Hunger Games?  Atwood-esque, speculative fiction set in the future that is action-packed with a delicious Love Triangle?  I am so there.   But!  Within a seemingly simple series lay some earnest questions.  How far would you go to protect the ones you love? Is it better to be loyal to a cause, or to one's self first?  If caught in a war zone, is it better to just run away to safety or to stay and fight the enemy?  If you stay, is it better to turn the other cheek?  Or to live by the old rule "An Eye for an Eye"? 

    This is not to discredit Twilight for what it truly is: a fun romp through some typical teenaged angst, save for the special "sparkles".  And the vampires.  And the wolfpack with their six packs.  Okay, okay, perhaps Twilight was a little more unique than Sweet Valley High, after all.  I will grant all the Twi-Hards that much.

  16. Last week, several of the women I work with were going crazy about the release of Mockingjay, so I decided, after hearing great things from them, here, in EW, etc., to finally read The Hunger Games. I've been reading books slowly this summer, but I ended up steaming through it in about two days. I absolutely loved it - such a page turner, and with a fantastic hero in Katniss. (And I realized the downside of a Nook e-reader, when you're away from home without the charger cord, and the nook battery power is winding down... but I managed to finish against the ticking clock.) 

    Interestingly enough, I was surprised at how restrained the violence was in the first book.  (Spoilers ahead)  Given the description of The Hunger Games, I suppose I was anticipating more direct, hand-to-hand murder, but Katniss only directly kills one person, and that's part revenge, part self-defense (the boy who kills Rue).  I was bracing myself for more horrors, and I'm not saying I was disappointed - just that I was able to take it because a lot of the violence occurs "off-screen" (where Katniss can't see it). 

    I have no idea of casting for the movie, although Haymitch provides a great opportunity to cast a great, middle-aged/older actor.  And I definitely would want to see teenagers playing teenagers - no twentysomethings playing Katniss, Peeta or any of the other tributes.

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