Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire vs. Divergent, two dystopian dramas aimed at the lucrative “young adult” demographic.
PremiseAt the end of the first Hunger Games film, things were going well for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson): they’d won the Hunger Games without having to kill one another and could return to their district and enjoy a life of ease and plenty. When it comes to dystopian young adult fiction, however, nothing is quite so simple. It seems Katniss and Peeta’s refusal to fight to the death has awakened hope in the oppressed district denizens, and the government has decided that they must be eliminated. The two teens find themselves back in the arena for the 75th Hunger Games, this time facing 22 other former champions. The premise for Divergent is fairly similar—it is, after all, being marketed as “the next Hunger Games.” Heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) lives in a grim dystopian metropolis in which everyone is divided into five “factions” based on one the quality they prioritize above all else: amity, a warped form of courage, intellect, selflessness, or honesty. Tris, however, is special. Unlike most of her peers, Tris is not destined for any one faction but is “divergent” and contains aspects of each. Divergence threatens the oppressive order and those in power (Kate Winslet) decide that, like Katniss and Peeta, Tris must be eliminated. We’ve already been in the Hunger Games arena once, so we’re going to go with the new and exciting Divergent.Advantage: Divergent
Leading LadiesThis is a tough category: both Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence have a certain offbeat charm, which often manifests itself in them saying weird stuff in public (see our Shailene interview for examples). We’ve seen The Spectacular Now and The Silver Linings Playbook, so we know both women can act—and act well. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence has that whole “young Oscar winner” thing going for her, but Shailene did win a special acting award at Sundance earlier in the year and, when it comes to film recommendations, we’ll take the Sundance panel over the Academy any day (see: Titanic, 12 Oscars).Advantage: Tie
The Love InterestAnother tough category, albeit for different reasons. In Divergent, Tris’s love interest is played by an unfamiliar British ball of attractive manliness named Theo James. Known to most as “Four” (because he only fears four things, bless him), James’ character is a strong, silent, sensitive type with some sexy tattoos. Four is instantly connected to Tris, and we know from the trailer that the two share at least one very passionate kiss. That said, nothing can beat a love triangle, and it seems as though Catching Fire is the film where Katniss is finally confronted by both Peeta and her childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).Advantage: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The VilliansKate Winslet, who plays the leader of the Erudite faction Jeanine Matthews, can be pretty scary when she talks in her American accent, but The Hunger Games have brought in some veteran actors to augment the evil in their sophomore film: namely, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland.Advantage: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Supporting YouthThe cast of Divergent is basically a who’s who of the next wave of hot young actors—and former Interview View Guys. Ansel Elgort, the son of fashion photographer Arthur Elgort, will make his big screen debut as Tris’ brother, Caleb. Miles Teller and Jai Courtney will play antagonists Eric and Peter, and Zoë Kravitz, Christian Masden, and Brit Ben Lloyd-Hughes will round at the cast as Tris’ three friends Christina, Al, and Will. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, is supported by an actor whose biggest claim to fame is being Miley Cyrus’ fiancé.Advantage: Divergent
Box Office BucksEvery PG-13 film hopes to become a tween sensation, but only a few succeed. The formula for success seems rather arbitrary: sometimes a terrible script based on a best-selling YA series with pretty protagonists brings in the big bucks (Twilight, Harry Potter) and sometimes it doesn’t (The Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures). While we’d like to have faith in Divergent, the first Hunger Games film did extremely well, so it’s certainly the safer choice.Advantage: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The VerdictBetween press screenings, airplane journeys, and actually paying to go to the cinema, we’re certain to see both films; but ties are boring outcomes, so we’re going to go with the tried and true.Winnder: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.