Friday, March 18, 2011
How Hunger Games fans can rejoice instead of revolt over the casting of Katniss
A recent announcement regarding the film adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins' popular sci-fi trilogy The Hunger Games seems to have stirred up some trouble already.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence has been officially cast as Katniss Everdeen,the heroine of this dystopic tale of bloodsport as entertainment for the oppressed masses. The complaints about this choice range from her being "too old" for the part(Lawrence is twenty while Katniss in the first book is sixteen)to not having the right physical appearance for the role(which can be easily changed with hair dye and contact lenses).
As much as I sympathize with those who want the best version of their favorite book to be made for the big screen,a lot of you need to step back for a moment and see the bigger picture.
Yes,Lawrence is older than Katniss but this is hardly the first time that an actor/actress has been cast in a part younger than their actual age. At least she can pass for a teenager much more believably than many of the "kids" in film and TV these days(if you think all of high school students in Glee are actually under 21,think again).
Other concerns aside,the most important aspect in choosing any actor for a role is talent and Lawrence has that in abundance. She's a first time Oscar nominee,people,and for her to be selected here means that the powers that be who are making this movie are taking it seriously. After all,it's not like they cast Miley Cyrus here.
Maybe it would help many of you to put this in a better perspective if I highlighted some truly bad casting choices in the realm of fantasy/sci-fi films that were key elements in making those flicks major stinkers.
A great example is Eric Bana as The Incredible Hulk,back in 2003. Granted,there were a number of wrong moves made in the making of this movie,including adding Nick Nolte to the roster,but Bana's bland performance as Bruce Banner almost made the overwrought CGI version of The Hulk that was put onscreen look like a Shakespearean quality actor.
Bana was such a dud that when the studio decided to make a reboot instead of a sequel,they gave Edward Norton the lead and that Hulk film did way better at the box office-coincidence? I think not!:
Admittedly,a live action feature film based on the purely commercial cartoon series Masters of the Universe wasn't exactly destined to be an artistic achievement for anyone involved.
Yet,the production might have been less clunkier if they had cast someone other than Dolph Lundgren as He-Man,who does look like an action figure come to life but unfortunately has the acting chops of a mannequin at the best of times.
Let this be a lesson,folks-just because someone looks right for the part,that doesn't mean they are right for it. Even Frank Langella hamming it up as Skeletor is more authentic than Lundgren's stiff as a board line readings:
Speaking of villains,casting them well is just as important as it is for the heroic leads but even a good actor can make a bad guy or gal even worse.
1997's Batman and Robin was incredibly campy,with much help coming from Schwartzenegger's Mr. Freeze and his chilly cornball puns but Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy really took the cake and then some on that front.
Her Mae West impersonation take on the part was amusing for awhile,however the nonstop costume changes and intense overacting grew more cloying than convincing by the end of the film. While I'm still a big Uma fan,you have to admit that there are drag queens with subtler style:
Making a villain the lead of your movie is the norm these days but back in 1991, it was a daring move,especially in family friendly films. That dare didn't pay off well for an ambitious adult themed revival of a childhood classic,famous in theatrical and animated format.
The Steven Spielberg cinematic revision of Peter Pan that had a grown-up Peter played by Robin Williams having to return to Neverland to save his children from his old pirate foe was quite the massive flop,with credit due to Dustin Hoffman as Hook for giving the title character that special awful tone that defined this project to a T.
The initial concept was a decent one but the execution is what killed it,in the bad sense of the word. No doubt that all involved meant well but this movie was a sinking ship,particularly with a Captain Hook that was as menacing as a marshmallow:
So,take heart,Hunger Games followers-it's too soon to tell if the filmmakers are on the right or wrong track with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and the best way to determine that is by checking out some of her earlier work,especially Winter's Bone. You may be pleasantly surprised.
The worst that could happen is that Lawrence is forced to divide her time between the Hunger Games films and playing Mystique in the younger version of the X Men series. I suspect that won't be too much of a problem for her,unlike a certain actor caught between a major DC role and a Marvel supporting player. In the end,the better material will win the day:
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