Can the ‘Hunger Games’ Team Pull Off Adapting ‘The Odyssey’?

Source: Lionsgate

The team behind The Hunger Games franchise is looking to make another literary adaptation, just going a bit older with its source material this time. According to a report from Deadline, Lionsgate is working on a big-budget film version of one of the oldest pieces of literature in the Western canon, Homer’s epic journey tale The Odyssey. That Greek epic poem has had incalculable influence on Western art and culture, all the way down to Hollywood films like Star Wars, Big Fish, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but according to Deadline, the studio is looking to tell the story in a more straightforward fashion from the many retellings that have been done before.

The Odyssey tells of the hero Odysseus’s journey back to his home in Ithaca after fighting in the Trojan War. That journey home takes him a decade, during which time his loyal wife Penelope and son Telemachus must fend off the suitors trying to win Penelope’s hand in Odysseus’s absence. Meanwhile, the wily Odysseus must battle lots of iconic monsters through both his might and his wit in order to get back to Ithaca, slay the suitors, and return to his place as the head of his family.

Deadline says that Hunger Games studio Lionsgate has assembled basically the entire Hunger Games team to make this adaptation; it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Jennifer Lawrence is announced for the part of Penelope. Francis Lawrence, who directed three out of the four Hunger Games movies, will direct. Peter Craig, who co-wrote the two installments of Hunger Games: Mockingjay, is adapting the screenplay. Nina Jacobson, who guided the Hunger Games franchise from its inception, will be producing this movie, as well.

The publication wrote that Lionsgate really wants to get the show on the road with this movie, as the final installment of its biggest cash cow, The Hunger Games, comes out in November.

The young adult dystopia series The Hunger Games is a completely different animal from a Greek epic poem that is one of the oldest extant pieces of literature, so it’s hard to predict what the retelling from the Hunger Games team will be like. The Hunger Games franchise has been a massive financial success due to fan attention from the uber-popular book series and Lawrence’s skyrocketing fame for her acting skill and for being considered a positive role model to the young female audience of the books and films. The first installment made $691 million worldwide; the second, $864 million; and the third, $752 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The films have been generally warmly received by critics, in particular for Lawrence’s performance.

Since the recent star-studded Biblical epics like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings haven’t performed very well with critics or at the box office, it will be interesting to see if Lionsgate takes a risk and goes full-on ancient Greek. According to Box Office Mojo, Noah only made $362 million on a budget of $125 million, and Exodus did poorly, too, making $268 million worldwide on a budget of $140 million. Even more embarrassingly, that movie only made $65 million domestically. People just don’t seem to be very interested in the ancient stuff, even if you have Christian Bale or Russell Crowe leading the cast, so a straightforward Odyssey adaptation seems like a risky move.

Much of The Hunger Games’ success was due to the already popular source material and Lawrence, rather than the filmmakers, so it will certainly be interesting to see how they pull off adapting The Odyssey. Side note: Wouldn’t Lawrence make a great gender-bending Odysseus?

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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