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If you've never read any of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, you've probably been wondering how anyone could get excited about the images from the film adaptation released in the last few weeks. Every single one of them, from the first magazine cover featuring Jennifer Lawrence to the latest image of Liam Hemsworth, have been variations on the same theme: Attractive, Young White People, Caught In A Love Triangle And Looking Somber.
Sure, there's been a little more to get out of it if you're a fan-- Katniss's shiny silver arrows are visible in this image, and it's good to see how Josh Hutcherson has bulked up to have the muscular arms of a baker's son in this shot. But given the glut of images, it's amazing that none of the most interesting things about The Hunger Games are being represented. Where are Katniss's prep team from the Capitol and their crazy hair and makeup? What about Katniss and Peeta's flaming outfits from the first night of interviews? How about a look at some of the other Tributes in costume, or the look of the Hob, or Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman?
All the most imaginative stuff about The Hunger Games has been missing so far, and while I'm sure part of it is simply trying to maintain some of the surprise for when the film comes out, I worry there's something more calculated and irritating at play. It's no secret that Lionsgate is hoping this will be their Twilight-sized franchise aimed at the many young fans of the book, and they're even planning to split the three-book series into four films, a move cribbed directly from both Twilight and Harry Potter. Anyone who has read The Hunger Games knows the books are not really anything like Twilight-- yes, there's a young female protagonist caught between the affections of two men, but she's a far more active, prickly and interesting heroine than dull-as-dishwater Bella. And where the Twilight books present vampires and werewolves who actively try to avoid violence, The Hunger Games books are filled with bloodshed, starting with the titular fights to the death in the first book and leading to the deaths of many major characters in the gruesome third book.
That violence, that darkness and that willingness to break the rules of young adult literature are one of the major reasons The Hunger Games are so beloved. But so far Lionsgate, which is surely aiming to get these movies in with a PG-13 rating, is playing down all of it, instead focusing on the attractive stars and the love triangle that's really not even that important to the books. I assumed they'd be beefing up the role of Gale in the movie, since he's practically a non-entity in the first book, but now I worry the love triangle is going to take over, leaving less time for some of the book's more interesting, and yes, bloodier moments.
However Lionsgate wants to market The Hunger Games now, this is a story in which we witness the painful death of a 12-year-old girl, watch one of our heroes suffer brutal injuries in a dank cave, and even see our heroine murder without remorse. Those are huge things about the book that can't be changed, and if they are, the hardcore fans of the books whom Lionsgate needs as its primary audience will be vocal in their disappointment. What we need to see now, both fans of the books and people who can't figure out why they should be interested in yet another Twilight-esque teenage romance, is all the really interesting stuff about The Hunger Games, a look at the weapons or the strange characters or anything that actually represents this story's unique appeal. The great thing about The Hunger Games is that it isn't Twilight-- and Lionsgate needs to stop pretending that it is.