‘Hunger Games’ ushers in era of dystopian young adult films

Jennifer Lawrence will reprise her role at Katniss in "Catching Fire," next up in "The Hunger Games" trilogy.  Credit: Reuters
Jennifer Lawrence will reprise her role as Katniss in “Catching Fire,” the next film in “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
Credit: Reuters

Parents of morose teenagers be warned: The next big trend in films for young adults could make the mood at home even darker.

Vampires, werewolves and boy wizards are out; dystopia is in. Having seen the popularity of “The Hunger Games,” movie studios are rolling out films that explore darker themes.

Summit Entertainment’s “Divergent” and “Ender’s Game,” and Sony Pictures’ “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” are all aimed at the lucrative audience of young adults.

The films were front and center at San Diego Comic-Con, an annual media convention that wrapped up Sunday that is the largest gathering of fans of science fiction, fantasy and video game genres. Studios spend big money there to give that key demographic a glimpse of upcoming films, hoping to whip up the kind of fan hype that can be a powerful marketing tool for Hollywood.

The industry’s move to dystopia comes after the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” franchises both ended in 2011.

The five “Twilight” films, based on novels by Stephenie Meyer about a human girl entangled in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf, grossed more than $3 billion at the worldwide box office and set studios on the hunt for the next young adult franchise.

What they found was significantly darker in nature, exploring themes far beyond a teenage love story and wizardry.

Last year’s Lions Gate film “The Hunger Games,” the first film based on author Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, features a post-apocalyptic society in which a totalitarian government holds an annual Hunger Games, a televised survival game where 24 children must fight to the death until only one remains.

Heroine Katniss, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, who survives by playing by her own rules, quickly becomes a threat to the government and a beacon of hope for an underground uprising.

The film, which made $691 million worldwide last year, will be followed by sequel “Catching Fire” in November, which puts Katniss back in the perilous game as society starts to find hope in opposing the regime.

That theme resonates with teens who feel powerless, who feel like adults but are still stuck in a restricted environment, said author Veronica Roth.

“To have a character who is claiming their identity in a world spinning wildly out of control and to use their means to overcome that world, I think that’s a really powerful thing for a teenager to read about,” Roth said.

Roth is the author of “Divergent,” the first of three novels, which takes dystopia further in a society divided into five factions which define how a person lives their life.

When protagonist Tris, portrayed by Shailene Woodley, is born into the selfless Abnegation tribe but realizes she doesn’t fit in, she challenges society’s rules and finds a home with the Dauntless, a clan for the brave. The film is due for release in March 2014.

“‘Harry Potter’ had this wonderful innocent magic to it and it got darker as it went along. … Maybe ‘Hunger Games’ takes that to the next step. We’ve taken it even further with ‘Divergent,’” said the film’s director, Neil Burger.

“Ender’s Game,” due out in November, is based on the sci-fi novels by Orson Scott Card and starring young actors Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. It explores a futuristic universe where gifted young children are taken to military school early in order to train for warfare against alien invaders.

Harrison Ford, who plays Colonel Graff, a trainer of the youth in the film, said he saw parallels between Card’s story written three decades ago, and today’s world where the military lures young soldiers to fight wars.

“The issues of the manipulation of young people for their values as soldiers for their special skills … is something that was really complex and interesting to me,” Ford said at the film’s presentation at Comic-Con this week.

For all the darkness, young actresses might get some of their best roles in these films. Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss as a strong leader and protagonist has set off a new trend of bolder heroines.

Harald Zwart, the director of the upcoming adaptation of “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” the first of a six-part book series by Cassandra Clare, said he believed there was a need for stronger female leads in film.

“It’s important for young girls to understand that there are qualities to girls other being just pretty and being told what to do,” said Zwart, whose film stars Lily Collins.

“They can take control of their own lives and they need to find their own destiny, and I just wanted my daughter to see that inspiration,” he added.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Astoria minivan crash kills 1, injures 6: NYPD

Anthony Boyd, 45, died soon after what investigators believe was some sort of medical emergency as he drove his family through Astoria on Sunday afternoon.

Local

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Tech

Amazon offers 3D printing to customize earrings, bobble…

By Deepa SeetharamanSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and…

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…