Why 'Hunger Games' Is Not the New 'Twilight'

Jennifer Lawrence Kristen Stewart Split - P 2012
<p>Jennifer Lawrence Kristen Stewart Split - P 2012</p>   |   Lionsgate; Summit Entertainmen
The Lionsgate adventure epic may have similar fan fervor, but it’s very different from Summit Entertainment's vampire-love saga.

In the months leading to the premiere of The Hunger Games, Lionsgate’s adventure epic based on Suzanne Collins’ much-loved book, there have been plenty of comparisons to the Twilight franchise. Both are based on popular young-adult novels and feature a young cast.

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But what do these films really have in common? Not much, if you ask director Gary Ross and the producers behind Hunger Games.

“I think that Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins, who are friends, would be the first to say that this really isn't very similar,” Ross told The Hollywood Reporter. "They couldn't be two more different movies and two more different series of novels."

Producer Nina Jacobson added that what the two projects have in common is “very passionate fans, people who want to share the communal experience of loving a book and seeing it brought to screen.”

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Twilight, the first film based on Meyer’s four-book series, follows Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) as she moves to her father’s home in Washington and meets a vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson), who lives among humans by only drinking animal blood. They are inexplicably drawn to each other despite the danger it puts both of them in.

Hunger Games, the first film based on Collins’ trilogy, is an adventure epic following 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who is forced to compete in an annual televised competition organized by the government in which 24 young people are thrown into an arena and forced to fight to the death, with only the victor surviving.

Here’s what the two films do have in common: Both are based on popular YA books, surrounded by fan fervor, have the potential for massive box-office success and are centered on a female character. But when it comes to setting, plot, protagonists, audience, love interests and critical reception, the two projects couldn’t be more different. Twilight is essentially a fantasy love story, while Hunger Games is an adventure epic about survival. It’s like comparing blood-sucking oranges with fight-to-the-death futuristic apples.

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Here are a few of the major differences:

The Setting
The Twilight books are set in near-present-day in Forks, Wash., where vampires can live among humans. Hunger Games is set in the distant future in North America, which has been renamed Panem. The country is completely different, divided into 12 districts and ruled by a totalitarian government called The Capitol. There are no vampires.

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Bella vs. Katniss
While both stories revolve around a young woman, the two are vastly different. Bella is consumed by her love for vampire Edward. Once she meets him, his love seems to be the only thing that keeps her going. Katniss’ top priority is survival. Before she leaves for the games, she has to illegally hunt to survive and feed her family. After she’s thrown into the deadly competition, she must use all her physical strength and abilities as an archer to survive.

Love Interests
The world of the Twilight novels revolves around the relationship between Bella and Edward. All the danger they face is due to the fact that they can’t live without each other. While there is a love triangle with Jacob (Taylor Lautner), it’s only a mild distraction from the real love between Edward and Bella. In Hunger Games, Katniss is not sure what she wants when it comes to love. Her priority is survival. While she has a close relationship with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), her hunting partner, and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) clearly has feelings for her, she’s not sure if she wants to be with either of them.

The Audience
Hunger Games, though it's the first film in the franchise, is projected to have a stellar opening weekend, possibly making as much as $130 million to $140 million -- partly because it appeals to a much wider audience than the Twilight series. Unlike Twilight, Hunger Games is drawing serious interest among males. The first Twilight film, released by Summit Entertainment in 2008, made $69 million domestically its first weekend.

Critical Reaction
The first Twilight film received a mixed reception at best. It has a 5.5 rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. THR’s Kirk Honeycutt described it as “an underwhelming vampire romance long on camp but short on emotional insight.” Hunger Games currently has a 7.4 rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. “Hunger Games has such a strong narrative structure, built-in forward movement and compelling central character that it can't go far wrong,” wrote THR’s Todd McCarthy.

The Hunger Games opens March 23.