When the Harry Potter adaptations began production in the early 2000s, Warner Bros. Pictures chose Christopher Columbus, a very safe and family friendly director, to launch the franchise. Columbus would not dare to make any choices that were too bold as to offend the fans of the book series. After two installments, the book series had made enough money to have successfully established itself as a film franchise and Warner Bros. was able to take a risk with the director for the third film. They chose up and coming Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, whose previous work was anything but family friendly, and the resulting film was a fully realized and mature vision that remains the best film in the Potter series.
Lionsgate Pictures now finds themselves in an almost identical predicament with their film adaptations of The Hunger Games book series. The first film was directed by Gary Ross, a less experienced filmmaker who took very few risks with the film and made it with fans of the book clearly in the front of his mind. Now that the film has made over $300 million domestically in three weeks, Lionsgate Pictures can afford to take a bigger risk. It was announced this week that Gary Ross will not be returning to the director’s chair for Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games.
There have been no directors officially named as potential replacements yet, but I am hoping that Lionsgate makes a move like Warner Bros. did a decade ago and offers the opportunity to a smart filmmaker with a true vision. Here are six realistic possibilities for who the studio should consider to take over the franchise:
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike has been directing since the early ’90s, but his films have only begun to receive American distribution in the last decade. Like pre-Potter Cuarón, most of Miike’s films are certainly not appropriate for younger audiences as he often pushes the envelope of violence with excessive blood and gore. However, Miike genuinely understands the consequences of violence, which was a level of thematic depth that was sorely missing from The Hunger Games. Miike has experience working with decent-sized budgets and elements of science fiction, so he would certainly not be out of his depth on a project like Catching Fire.
With the final installment of the current Batman series headed to theatres this Summer, Christopher Nolan is suddenly going to find himself with some time on his hands. He has a great reputation with film franchises and few directors have his ability to put butts in seats just by having his name attached (as if The Hunger Games really needs that). Nolan has also shown that he can do spectacular things with a big budget, so his take on the dystopian Panem would no doubt be a visceral delight. The supporting characters might be equally underdeveloped, but at least the camera work will not be so dull.
Todd Haynes may be the filmmaker on this list whose filmography looks the most similar to that of Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit). However, Haynes films are more rich with subtext and tend to do a better job of exploring universal themes than many other contemporary filmmakers. The criticisms about characters being underdeveloped would go away with Haynes in control as he finds the value in even the most minor parts. He is also probably the only director on this list who could conceivably direct Jennifer Lawrence to an Oscar nomination for the role of Katniss. The action scenes may be fewer, but the story would be more resonant.
Even when dealing with fantastical worlds, like the island in Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze still manages to make his films feel very intimate. This is a quality that would not be out of place in a series like The Hunger Games where it is really about Katniss’ story more than anything else. His version of the film would likely feel more like the first person narrative that was present in the book. There may be more whimsy and humor in Jonze’s vision of Panem than Hunger Games fans would be comfortable with, but I am all for it.
The notoriously hot-headed director earned an Oscar nomination last year for his direction on The Fighter. Russell’s films have a quality that makes them appealing to mainstream audiences as well as independent film buffs, so he might be a great choice for the studio. He is also known for putting excessive amounts of research into his films and he would certainly be respectful to author Suzanne Collins’ vision. Who knows how patient he would be with the large cast of child actors, but with a good budget and a decent amount of freedom he could create a film that is very interesting.
Why not re-use the very same man who breathed exciting new life into the Harry Potter franchise? Cuarón is one of the most exciting directors working today and his unique style might fit perfectly within the world of The Hunger Games. He frequently uses tracking shots and lets his action scenes play out in real-time. This effect would be magnificent for The Hunger Games, because it would emphasize the reality television aspect of the films. Cuarón’s Panem would be even more bleak than Ross’, which is probably necessary for where the series is headed.
Those are six of my choices. Which director would you like to see handle the project? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!