Awright, folks, the Hunger Games movie has its manflesh! Today’s casting news has sent fans into fits of rage, but then, ANY casting choice was guaranteed to piss off a certain contingent. Cooler heads (myself among them) continue to preach the “benefit of the doubt” doctrine. At least, to our relief, they didn’t cast a 25-year-old, a Disney Channel golem, or Alex Pettyfer. Who did they cast? Well...
The Role: Peeta Mellark, the baker’s boy, who is picked to compete in the Hunger Games and quickly forms an alliance with Katniss, his fellow District 12 contestant. A kindly and down-to-earth lad, Peeta’s also a keen strategist, and wins over the public’s sympathy by pretending to be in love with Katniss. Only it turns out he really is in love with Katniss, and she’s not sure how she feels about that. Their relationship takes all kinds of twists and turns, and at one point, Peeta’s brainwashed into hating Katniss by the bad guys. He gets better.
The Actor: Josh Hutcherson, who has appeared in such diverse films as Bridge to Terabithia, Cirque du Freak, and The Kids Are All Right.
My Approval Rating: 6.5 out of 10. I confess that I haven’t seen Hutcherson in anything unless you count his voice in Howl’s Moving Castle. He’s too old (again) and his dark hair and eyes are totally wrong for Peeta, but since they already picked a blondie to play the very swarthy Katniss, it’s clear they’re relying upon the magic of the makeup department. Hutcherson’s got a good backlog of film roles, so he’ll probably do okay...but can he be as likable as Peeta? Well, he does have one major thing going for him: he is not Alex Pettyfer.
Who I Would Have Picked: Jeremy Sumpter, from Peter Pan, Frailty, and Friday Night Lights. He’s even older but he looks very boyish, has the right hair color (plus an adorable Peeta-esque smile), and has won rave reviews for acting in the past. Why the hell did I never see his name up for Peeta? Hmmph.
The Role: Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’s lifelong friend, who joins her in hunting for food in District 12. Gale is a dark, brooding rabble-rouser who becomes a major player in the rebellion against the Capitol; he too is in love with Katniss, and jealous of Peeta, though he tries to stay noble about it. His role in The Hunger Games is fairly small, though he appears more prominently in the sequels. In the end (SPOILER ALERT), Katniss chooses Peeta, because Gale’s kind of scary and zealous while Peeta is a cuddly puppy who treats her right. This is another reason why Katniss is way smarter than fucking Bella Swann.
The Actor: Liam Hemsworth, star of The Last Song, where he played the romantic interest for Miley Cyrus. OH SHIT.
My Approval Rating: 4 out of 10. Sorry, but I don’t buy this dude. I know nothing about him, but he seems to hail from the Tom Hardy/Josh Holloway school of hunkiness: tanned, bleached, and fleshy. Whereas Gale is thin, rangy, and very dark in hair, eyes, and complexion. In this case, I can’t see how makeup will help. Also...Miley Cyrus and Nicholas Sparks? NOT THE BEST REFERENCES. Oh, and Hemsworth’s Australian. He’d better have a damn good vocal coach. Oh, well, at least he has one thing going for him: he is not Alex Pettyfer.
Who I Would Have Picked: Honestly, I’ve never settled on a satisfactory actor to play Gale. They all seem to be too old or too beefy. If I had to pick, I’d grudgingly go with Ben Barnes from the Narnia films, who looks perfect for the role. Problem is, Barnes hasn’t proven he can move beyond the bland, dashing style popularized by Orlando Bloom. But at least he’s spry!
Stay tuned. Plenty more roles to cast, teens and adults alike! I hope they can slip some quality talent in among the grown-ups! Oh, and please don’t cast Willow Smith as Rue, no matter how many meaningful phone calls her mommy and daddy make.