Of all the adaptations I’ve seen The Hunger Games is one that stays closest to its source material, a trilogy of books penned by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games follows the first book from the trilogy but like most adaptations things are condensed and left out to fit within a “reasonable” 142 minute running time. I thought the film was great, very enjoyable but I can’t help thinking had I not read the books before hand I would have left feeling disappointed. A lot of characters, some of which are key characters and very detailed in the book, are skimmed over or cut out completely in the film which left central characters underdeveloped. It’s only with knowledge I had from the book that I was able to fill in elements of back-story which I think are necessary in the characters development and to the films depth. Despite this I enjoyed the film immensely. The only other problem I had with it, and I’m just being fussy here, is that for a film made with a production budget of $78 million the costumes and sets for scenes in the Capitol, an incredibly impressive, visually appetising and magnificent place in the book, looked cheap and lacking in some way (Think Ikea furniture). However, what the film lacked (in comparison with the book) it more than makes up for with a striking narrative, especially for one aimed at such a young audience. It’s not often we get films rated 12A when the subject matter is children as young as twelve being set to kill each other. But that’s exactly what we have here.
The Hunger Games centres around Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year-old girl from District Twelve who sacrifices herself to save her younger sister, volunteering as tribute to take part in the games against one other boy from District Twelve and two from each of the other eleven districts in what they call The Hunger Games. But these are no ordinary games and while twenty-four players go in, only one comes out…….alive. Dun dun duuuuunnn……
“Let the games begin. And may the odds be ever in your favour”.
And the odds have definitely been in their favour. For a film made on $78 million it’s more than doubled that at the Box Office, making $152, 535,747 in the opening weekend in the US alone, while in the UK it made an impressive £4,900,177 on its opening weekend.
Marketed as the next big film franchise after Twilight (which brought in a measly £2.5 million in the UK on opening weekend) its well and truly devoured that, becoming the third-biggest debuting film of all time (After Harry Potter and The Dark Knight), and Lionsgate’s highest grossing film. Yay for The Hunger Games. If Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson weren’t household names before, they sure are now and we’re only at the beginning, with two more films in the pipeline (if not more, with the possibility of each book being made into more than one film). Either way The Hunger Games franchise is a gigantic cash cow, one Director Gary Ross is probably glad he got his hands on. However this is far from anything he’s done before, with earlier films including Big, Seabiscuit, and Pleasantville, but he manages to capture the essence of the sci-fi action books perfectly, bringing to life the incredible, complex world Suzanne Collins created. And I look forward to seeing this continue throughout the trilogy.
But The Hunger Games would be nothing without its actors that include acting heavy weights Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and a colourful performance from Elizabeth Banks and brief role for Lenny Kravitz as the lovable Cinna. And while these are well-known, established actors (with the exception of Kravitz), they are merely the support to up-coming talent Jennifer Lawrence alongside Josh Hutcherson who drive the film as central characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Jennifer Lawrence is not a name everyone’s heard of but after an emotionally and physically demanding performance in The Hunger Games that she delivers flawlessly, bringing to life the character I imagined in the books, it’ll be a name difficult to forget. But Jennifer Lawrence is more than just The Hunger Games, giving great performances in earlier films Like Crazy, Beaver, X-Men: First Class and an award-winning performance in Winters Bone. She’s one to keep an eye on and I’m eagerly awaiting her next release House At The End Of The Street. Josh Hutcherson, though not as impressive or central to the first book, delivers the character as I imagined Peeta, and it will be interesting to see the character develop and the relationship between him and Katniss grow. Hutcherson and Lawrence have great chemistry that will draw in the ‘tween’ audience as easily as Edward and Bella (but far less cheesy I hope).
Although the films biggest comparison has been made to Twilight due to their adaptation of sci-fi books for young adults, their young female heroines, and a similar love triangle, The Hunger Games has also been compared with Japanese sci-fi thriller Battle Royal and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man. These films both include a similar violent subject that centres around participants entered into an arena to fight to the death for the entertainment of others, and it’s true the games themselves are very similar, but The Hunger Games is aimed at a far younger audience and Director Gary Ross cleverly draws away from the majority of the books violence with skilled camera work that implies more than what is actually shown. And this is where the comparisons end. Though the games draw parallels with several other films, on a whole the film is a refreshing, unique and intricate story that has proved a major success. I imagine the second film will go on to do even better than the first and the third to do even better again, and no doubt we’ll see more big name actors attaching themselves to the project. I’m well and truly hooked on the film as I am with the books (which I’m now going to read again) and I can’t wait for the release of The Hunger Games sequel that will follow on with Suzanne Collins Catching Fire.