When a movie takes in $155 million dollars in its opening weekend, it’s hard not to wonder what all the hype is about. “The Hunger Games” has set a record for most revenue for a non-franchise movie in an opening weekend, and third best debut of all times, only falling behind the “Harry Potter” finale and “The Dark Knight.” If you weren’t amongst the masses piling into the theatres this weekend, there’s a good chance you’re considering checking it out. Before you go, here is some food for thought.
It’s hard to believe that you haven’t seen the trailers at this point, but here’s a little background on the film. The movie portrays a 16-year old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where money and power are controlled by the Capitol. As a reminder to the rest of the districts of the Capitol’s absolute power, they select a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district and force them to compete in the Hunger Games; a fight to the death which is televised for all to watch. When Katniss’ 12-year old sister’s name is drawn, Katniss takes her position and thus must face the brutal challenge of staying alive.
I should start by saying that I recently became an avid fan of the book series. As someone who loves the science fiction genre, a friend suggested I check out the novels. After buying the first one on my Nook, I rapidly bought the second and third, sacrificing sleeping and eating in a compulsive race to reach the end. To say the books are a page turner is a great understatement. That being said, the books were still very fresh in my mind for the premiere of the film. If you are a fan of the book, you will see that many changes were made, some for the better, some for the worse (in my opinion). One thing to attempt to keep in mind though, is that the book was written in first person. Trying to transfer such personal thoughts and emotions to the audience is a daunting task when you really consider it.
I did find myself a bit put off by the way the producers clearly tried to play up the love triangle aspect of the story. While there is a love triangle of sorts in the books, romance is not a prominent aspect of “The Hunger Games” the way it is in say… “Twilight.” In the novels, it’s clear that the strong willed and fiercely independent Katniss Everdeen does her best to avoid the trap of love, and romance is almost warped into a part of the power struggle. Nevertheless, can one expect anything less from Hollywood?
Moving on from this gripe, I should mention that this movie is not a chick flick. Despite having a strong female role, the themes of power and survival have been found as appealing to many generations and genders. Sources are reporting that only 61 percent of moviegoers were female this weekend. So if you’re a guy worried that you’ll be stuck for 2 hours and 22 minutes in a Twilight-esque gushing teen romance, fear not. There is plenty of action and adventure for all. Furthermore, the themes of “The Hunger Games” can really leave you thinking after you exit the theatre (if you predisposed to ponder such things).
The special effects in the movie were pretty cool, and while they toned down the gore factor a bit there is no escaping the essentially violent and harsh nature of the movie. This is one thing about a book being adapted into a movie that always excites me; while you know the movie will stray from the version you created in your own mind, it also allows you a chance to see it all come to life. The visual aspect of the film really kept me on the edge of my seat, and despite knowing the outcome, I felt myself experiencing quite an adrenaline rush throughout much of the movie. One complaint to the filmmakers though; would a few more steady shots kill you? The camera is shaky throughout the film, perhaps to recreate that “realistic” feel when you read the book through Katniss’ eyes, but it took me 10 nauseous minutes to really adjust to it.
Despite a few complaints I have about the reinterpretation of the plot and of the seasick filming technique, I have to admit I will probably try to see this movie again while it’s in theatres. Partly it’s because it was a great big screen experience, but partly because I really enjoyed the casting job. I found Jennifer Lawrence to be a great Katniss Everdeen. She maintained the persona of strong and quiet, but with an uncontrollable streak of rebellion. She got this down without overacting it, and the few moments of emotion she had felt raw and believable. In my opinion, Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark well. Peeta was never written to be a casanova, but rather more of a philosopher with careful logic and a calm demeanor, and that is how Hutcherson portrayed him. Liam Hemsworth is also cast in the movie as Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’ opinionated best friend with his own fierce survival instinct. A solid support cast includes Woody Harrelson as her drunken mentor, Elizabeth Banks with some brief comic, and Donald Sutherland makes a rather chilling President Snow.
Reading the book is by no means needed to follow the movie plot, but it definitely gives you some critical insights that the movie didn’t quite manage. Thus, I would suggest reading the book first if you have the time and interest because it is a great read. While I’m not going to go as far as to say the movie lives up to the outrageous hype, it is certainly entertaining. It’s already got me hooked into seeing it again, something I rarely to never do. Need I say more?