The Hunger Games hit the theatres just in time to kick off our Spring Break and has already been deemed the latest pop culture phenomenon since Twilight and Harry Potter. In its’ opening weekend, the movie grossed a historic $152.5 million – the most for a non-sequel, non-summer movie. The world has been taken by frenzy; everywhere you look, from magazines to TV to Facebook to the endless paraphernalia, one thing is clear – everyone is jumping aboard the Hunger Games train.
If you haven’t caught the fever you’re probably wondering to yourself – what’s the big deal? The previews of the movie illustrate nothing more than your typical PG-13 action movie, carried out by the big screen’s up-and-coming heartthrobs and not distinguishably different or more interesting than its market rival, Twilight.
While it may appear this way in the commercials, Suzanne Collins’s novel, from which the movie is adapted, offers much more depth and complexity. Laced with social satire, the novel revolves around the themes of self-preservation and totalitarianism. Taking place far into the future, Collins creates a world divided into thirteen districts that are overseen by the all-powerful Capitol until an uprising of the districts occurred, ending in the destruction of District 13. Each year as punishment for the rebellion, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games where two tributes – a male and a female between the ages of twelve and eighteen – are chosen by lottery from each district to fight to the death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol until one victor remains standing. Collins constructs a strong, free-spirited and resourceful heroine out of Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers as a tribute in her younger sister’s place and must team up with Peeta Mellark, the local baker’s son to try to stay alive.
Full of action, adventure, conflict and of course, love, Collins’s riveting novel makes it easy to adapt into an entertaining film. As a fan of the book series since it first came out, nothing could convey the anticipation and excitement I had for the film, and it definitely did not disappoint.
Jennifer Lawrence captured the heart and soul of Katniss, finding the perfect balance between strength in the arena and vulnerability with the people she loves. In addition, Lawrence’s steady gaze and strong presence falls nothing short of perfect for the role of the heroine. Accompanying Lawrence’s Katniss is Josh Hutcherson, whose not-quite-handsomeness and easy charm makes him the perfect match for Peeta. The rest of the supporting cast included Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s handsome, brooding childhood friend/admirer, Stanley Tucci as the ostentatious “Ryan Seacrest” of the Capitol, and Elizabeth Banks as the overzealous publicist.
The dream cast along with director Gary Ross and author Suzanne Collins created a masterpiece that allows fans of the novel to breathe a sigh of relief as the film adaptation stuck to the quality of the novel as much as possible. Now, I won’t say that the film is better or as good as the novel of course – as we all know, the books are always better than the movies – however, Ross brought Collins’s visions to life on the big screen. Minor changes such as the toning down of the gore and the cleaning up of the character of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) were necessary in order to fit the film into its PG-13 rating.
Feelings and thoughts of course, are very often left out of films as it is easier to convey paper – Collins allowed readers to get into Katniss’s head but had that been transferred onto the film, narration would have been needed and would probably have come off more awkward than supplementary. My only critiques would be the shaky cameras during the arena scenes and the changing of the story for how Katniss obtained the mockingjay pin, as it undermines the pragmatism in her character.
Overall, I walked away from the theater feeling satisfied and anxious for its sequel. Sadly, Ross will not be returning to the film so I can only hope that Lionsgate finds a suitable replacement that can do the rest of the series justice. May the odds be ever in our favor.