For the most part, the spate in recent years of teen-targeting franchises based on successful young adult novels have left us pretty cold. There've been a few gems ("Bridge to Terabithia," "The Spiderwick Chronicles"), but generally speaking we've found little to like in the "Twilight"s or "Percy Jackson"s of the world -- even the "Harry Potter" series, while mostly solid, doesn't really raise our pulses. But with that series drawing to a close, a new slate of potential giants are lining up, and while some are less than enticing ("Mortal Instruments," "Incarceron"), there's also a few unusually promising ones on the way.
For instance, while we still have our doubts about Gary Ross, we've heard good things about both the source material and the script for "The Hunger Games," and the casting of Jennifer Lawrence bodes well. Then there's "The Seventh Son." Based on Joseph Delaney's popular "The Last Apprentice" series, about a grizzled witch-hunter and his young charge in medieval England, and with Sergey Bodrov, the acclaimed Russian director of "Mongol" at the helm, the film has attracted a very high-caliber cast to date, with Jeff Bridges almost set to play Master Gregory, the witch-finding mentor, and Julianne Moore in talks to play Mother Malkin, the blood-draining villain of the piece. Now, the film's found its two young leads, and for the most part, the news again bodes well.
Variety reports that Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures have picked Sam Clafin and Alicia Vikander to play the central roles of Tom and Alice in the project. Alex Pettyfer and Jennifer Lawrence were initially linked to the roles, but neither signed -- Lawrence picked "The Hunger Games" instead, while Pettyfer dropped out for unknown reasons. Earlier in the week, both Clafin and Vikander were mentioned as participating in tests for the film, and look to have beaten out their competition, which included Caleb Landry-Jones ("X-Men: First Class") and James Frecheville ("Animal Kingdom") for the male role, as well as Dianna Agron ("Glee"), Imogen Poots ("Fright Night"), Felicity Jones ("Like Crazy") and newcomer Gabrielle Wild for the female.
Neither are household names, but both are certainly on the rise -- Vikander was linked to the title role in "Snow White and the Huntsman" before Kristen Stewart signed on, and won acclaim for her performance in the film "Pure" last year in her native Sweden. She just won an acting prize at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for it, and beat out Noomi Rapace and Pernilla August for Best Actress at the Guldbaggen awards, the Swedish equivalent to the Oscars. Clafin, meanwhile, has his big break coming more imminently -- he's playing the romantic lead in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and, while he's mostly been absent from the marketing materials so far, we've been told it's a central role in the film. While we're not sure it'll display his talents to the best effects, he's the real deal -- we saw some of his excellent work at London drama school LAMDA, and he was terrific in U.K. miniseries "Any Human Heart" last year.
All in all, it's shaping up nicely, and the quality of talent that's signed on suggests that the script is decent -- although it was punched up recently in order to secure Bridges' involvement. Bodrov's an immensely talented visualist, and we're certainly interested to see something like this in a period, "Witchfinder General"-style setting. The film's not yet been greenlit, but the talent signing on should bring that closer, and a September shoot is being eyed, with a release in 2013 looking most likely.