Wizards, blood-suckers, cancer-stricken youths and children killing each other: at first glance, youd have to say, not the most wholesome material to gladden the Young Adult heart. Yet HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and THE HUNGER GAMES, all of which began life as teenage fiction, have cleaned up at the box office in recent years, and sent their creators cackling all the way to the bank. So whats their secret? Wouldnt we so love to know.
Fact: not all novels make good movies. There are endless beautifully-written books that do not translate well onto the screen, for the simple reason that they are more language-based than plot-driven. A storys success depends on gut reaction when we read it. A movie is an altogether different proposition. Whether or not a book lends itself well to film depends on five basic elements beyond whether the storyline provides must-play roles, and whether it packs a massive emotional punch. Apply the five rules to The Hunger Games, the conclusion of which MOCKINGJAY PART 2 opens this Thursday, 19th November and its massive popularity is obvious immediately.
TIMING: what else is going on out there? For The Hunger Games, the timing couldnt have been better. The Harry Potter books and films were pretty much done. Twilight was in conclusion. The kids adored The Fault In Our Stars, found themselves unafraid of life-threatening subject matter, and were ready to take on more.
TREND: the blockbuster franchise is the thing. Even though these stories are aimed at teenagers, Young Adult books and movies are widely consumed by grown-ups. Cross over and clean up.
ACCESSIBLE PROSE: in other words, highly readable. Simple sentence structure. Unchallenging vocabulary: you dont need to sit with a dictionary to devour these tales. The kind of writing that makes these stories movie-adaptable.
SHOCK FACTOR: Ill say it again: children killing each other. Shocked? Of course you are. The whole premise is an outrage. Dystopia made desirable. An annual, televised death match featuring innocent kids in combat with each other, which can only end in blood. Lots of it. From what dark recesses of author Suzanne Collinss mind flowed such horror stories? Actually, look no further than Theseus and the Minotaur, from Greek mythology in which Minos forced the city of Athens, as punishment for past crimes, to sacrifice seven youths and seven maidens to the Minotaur, by which they are killed in a vast and terrifying labyrinth. Couple that with the Ancient Roman gladiator games, in which Christians were lobbed to the lions and such, and you can see exactly where she is coming from.
FEISTY HEROINE: Superman, Batman, we all want a hero to root for. Only nowadays,that hero had better be female. The Hunger games KATNISS EVERDEEN is a heroine who kicks ass and takes no prisoners. Is she a girl, is she a goddess, is she relatable? Shes all three and so much more. This is the ultimate power- girl, making tough decisions the right way, and taking care of herself and others as she goes. Her fight for survival is also her voyage into self-discovery. This is her secret: we were all her age once. Compare Twilights BELLA SWAN, Harry Potters HERMIONE GRANGER. A fiercely independent female protagonist is a must-have. Gorgeous JENNIFER LAWRENCE steps up incredibly as Katniss, and has dominated every outing in the franchise.
No, its not SHAKESPEARE. But how many teenagers are reading that outside school these days? BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH had them flocking to the Barbican in his recent residency as HAMLET, sure. But how many rushed home and read it or would race to a movie adaptation of it? Its heroine,Ophelia, was just a stretch too doomed.
Anyway, youre not going to Mockingjay this Thursday night, are you. So stay home on Friday evening, put the telly on, set your phone alarm for 6.30pm, and check out our brand-new film show THE MOVIE REVIEW a fun-packed programme for people who actually pay to go to the cinema! On our first episode, the aptly-named REBECCA PERFECT heads to the European premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, where she chats to some hardcore fans; while co-presenter, the irresistible JOE FORRESTER, does the rest. Truly appealing and an absolute dont-miss. Ya heard it here first.
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