Author: Danielle Christopher
The anticipation surrounding the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” has been overwhelming, as many fans awaited midnight premiers in “Hunger Games” t-shirts or obnoxiously colorful clothing resembling outfits worn in the novel’s Capitol. This type of hype leading up to “The Hunger Games” helped it earn $155 million last weekend, making it the third highest grossing movie on an opening weekend (after “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “The Dark Knight”), according to Yahoo news.
Both the novel and the movie are set in the post-apocalyptic world called Panem, where the wealthy and powerful members of the fortress city called the Capitol hold a dictatorship over 12 districts. As punishment for the districts’ past rebellion against the dictatorship, the Capitol chooses a male and female child between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district to fight to the death on national television. These “Hunger Games” serve not only as a grim reminder of the power the Capitol holds over its districts but also as a major source of entertainment for Captiol members. The novel is told from the first-person point-of-view of Katniss Everdeen, a participant or tribute, representing District 12 in the Games.
The best aspect of the movie is how it successfully transforms this first-person narration and internal monologue into an intriguing third-person perspective. Because Collins co-wrote the screenplay with Billy Ray and director Gary Ross, the movie successfully adds a new angle to the story that fans can thoroughly enjoy. In the novel, everything the reader learns about the Games is skewed by Katniss’ opinion, but in the movie the viewer experiences the Games objectively through an omniscient perspective. Important plot points that Katniss explained through internal monologue in the book are cleverly explained by flashes to a sports-like commentary conducted by Ceasar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). The movie’s new perspective also adds scenes that were not described in the book, such as shots of the Gamemakers manipulating the Games, that further develop the story’s powerful theme of government control and dictatorship.
Another undeniable strength of the movie was the casting. Fans of the novel will not be disappointed by the acting, as every actor accurately parallels the written descriptions of their respective characters. Many critics were initially skeptical of how the Jennifer Lawrence would be able to portray protagonist Katniss’ rugged, skeletal demeanor. However, when she personifies Katniss, Lawrence uses the same rogue-like mannerisms and vulnerability of her breakthrough role as Ree in “Winter’s Bone,” and the result is pure perfection.
Josh Hutcherson, who played Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District 12, complemented Lawrence’s commanding presence in the film, as the pair rely on each other for survival in the Games. Although Hutcherson is slightly softer than the description of Peeta in the novel, his portrayal of the love-struck, selfless boy is enchanting. Tucci also captivates the audience with outrageous clothing and an overly effervescent personality as he embodied the irony of the Capitol members flamboyant excitement while they watched the children die. Fans will also love the incredible performances of Wes Bentley (head Gamemaker Seneca Crane), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy) and Amandla Stenberg (Rue).
Although the writers of the screenplay made great decisions in keeping the fast-paced momentum that captured readers, the movie begins with a jumble of scenes without accurately describing exactly what’s going on. “Hunger Games” fans who have read the novel will surely understand the initial chaotic jumps between past, present and future events, but viewers without that background knowledge could easily become confused.
“Since I didn’t read the book, I felt like I was missing something at the beginning, so I had to suspend disbelief and just go with it at times,” local resident Natalie said after viewing the movie on opening day.
Despite the lack of a solid back story, the movie does an excellent job engaging viewers and immersing them into a suspenseful survival thriller, especially once the Games actually begin. With an outstanding cast of characters and a fresh perspective on the morally challenging story, “The Hunger Games” is one of the best film adaptations that stays true to the essence of the novel while still captivating audiences with a fast-paced plot.
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