The standards for budget, special effects and an audience's tolerance for teenagers killing each other are much higher now than they were back in the early '00s -- a fact made extremely clear when Battle Royale was essentially banned from United States theaters. But what if this week's The Hunger Games movie had been released in 2002? (Yes, we know the book would've had to existed first, but just go with it.) Who would've starred in it? What would the music have been like? Would it have been better than the actual 2012 version? Let's speculate:
For starters, Jennifer Lawrence was only 12 in 2002 -- luckily, Kristen Bell (who was 22 in '02) was still playing teenagers at the time, and would go on to star as a 17-year-old in Veronica Mars not two years later. Despite this casting opportunity that's obviously amazing in retrospect, at the time audiences barely knew who Bell was, and casting directors would have likely gone with 10 Things I Hate About You star Julia Stiles (a badass in her own right), Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Dushku or Josie and the Pussycats leading lady Rachael Leigh Cook.
Better Now or Then? Our apologies to Dushku fans, but we can't see anyone but Lawrence in this role at this point.
Peeta, Gale, Primrose and Rue
Sure, there'd be rumors of Tobey Maguire or Josh Hartnett stepping in as the baker's boy, but Ethan Embry would grasp the pathetic nature of Peeta a bit more authentically. Audiences would eat up Chris Klein or Heath Ledger as steaming-hot Gale, while beloved '00s child star Hallie "The Pepsi Girl" Kate Eisenberg would have no competitors for Prim's role, nor would Disney star Raven-Symoné for little Rue.
Better Now or Then? Then, from the moment we mentioned Ledger's name.
The upcoming movie soundtrack was actually released yesterday, filled with Indie acts like Arcade Fire, Neko Case and The Decemberists mixed with pop acts like Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 showing off a grittier side. We loathe to inform you that in '02, alternative rock and some of the blander pop and hip hop acts were far more widely available; Nickelback, Puddle Of Mudd and Creed would likely have spots in the film's action sequence, but there was room for Jimmy Eat World, Aaliyah and No Doubt to add a slightly more interesting sound. Of course, the movie's climatic emotional scene would have to be set to Enrique Iglesias's "Hero." It would've been pirated on Napster in a heartbeat.
Better Now or Then? Now, especially given the risk of the Capitol residents likening Katniss to Avril Lavigne.
The Hunger Games would simply have to be campier to offset the violence (very, very little of which would be show onscreen). Obviously, this is extremely easy to do while staying in touch with early '00s viewers sensibilities -- instead of the Capitol's arena, stage the games, or at least the opening ceremonies, at a high school prom and allow hijinks to ensue. How do you think American Pie was allowed to slip by with just an R rating in '99?
Better Now or Then? Now... but if you'd asked us ten years ago, we'd probably be mildly interested in seeing who was crowned Hunger King and Queen. Just sayin'.
Click here to read our review of The Hunger Games
Click here to find out how to fill The Hunger Games Void
Click here to read how we'd cast the Hunger Games sequels
Click here to read about the YA franchises that failed
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