By Andrew Price, Contributing Writer
Back in 2010, the third installment of Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy hit bookshelves. At that time, I was completely unaware of the series. It was only once I was browsing through my local bookstore and saw a large Mockingjay display that I discovered the literary genius of Collins.
I purchased the first book, “The Hunger Games,” in paperback and was told by the clerk I would be back within two weeks to buy the other installments. Laughing him off, I had no clue how correct he was. Before the week was out, I had returned to the store – anxious to buy “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.”
The trilogy depicts a dystopian society in American future. In this society, as a price for a rebel uprising against the Capital, every year each district (twelve in total) must send two children, one male and one female ages 12 to 18, to the Hunger Games where these tributes must fight to the death until there is only one victor.
The Hunger Games is government-run and presented to the districts like a morbid, twisted reality show where citizens are forced to watch their children slaughtered. Sounds like a light read, right?
When I found out there was a film adaptation in the works, I began searching the internet for cast lists, possible dates, and other blog speculations. Over time, the details were slowly leaked and later officially released and the countdown began.
In the last several months, it seemed “The Hunger Games” was everywhere. You started seeing the trilogy filling more bookshelves and several people walking around glued to the pages. And finally, March 23 came around and the movie was released.
When I went into the theater on opening night, there were barely any seats left – it was packed. All around us, people were buzzing about the trilogy and how much they had been anticipating this premiere. Then the movie started.
The movie was visually striking, perfectly cast, fantastically fast paced, and, most important of all, very faithful to the book. The futuristic world depicted contains many technological advances and the film does a masterful job of quietly integrating these things into the lives of the characters.
The filmmakers do try to shove these animated or fanaticized elements into the audience faces and have these things carry the film – they let them speak for themselves. Things such as arena’s omnipotent control room or the many Capital oddities are not overly described or explained. This subtle presentation of these otherwise awe-inspiring elements validates this dystopia and makes the events within that much more believable.
Jennifer Lawrence is perfectly Katniss, the star heroine. She had the correct mix of unaware charisma, serious demeanor, and kick-ass determination. Josh Hutcherson is another perfect fit as Peeta Mellark, the other tribute of District 12. He showed the naturally friendly disposition, humility, and honest devotion of Peeta.
The rest of the cast was also wonderful in their characters: Elizabeth Banks as the comically misguided Effie Trinket, Liam Hemsworth as the quietly suffering best friend, and Woody Harrelson, surprisingly, as the drunken yet thoughtful mentor, amongst the other tributes and individuals in the film.
The storyline was, admittedly, much faster than the novel. This, however, is expected and skillfully executed. There was not a moment when you felt safe sitting back in your seat – you were constantly held on edge waiting to see the next attack or twist that you knew was coming. This offered the audience awesome insight into the world of the tributes, feeling there is constantly something about to spring on you. Finally, the film, to the relief of many, remained very faithful to its literary predecessor.
There were, inevitably, a few jutting plotlines that were missing and a few added in for cinematic value, but overall everything that needed to be there was. In fact, there were a few things that, had I not read the books, I do not think would have made much sense. That is, there were a few things that I only understood because I had read the series.
For example, in the novel there is a thing called “tesserae” where children can put their names into the selection bowl more than once; increasing their likelihood of being chosen but being given more supplies for their families. In the film, however, this was only addressed by asking how many times a character has his name in the bowl. Not a pivotal element to the story, but an example of how reading the novels offers better understanding to the intricacies that build those larger plot lines.
Furthermore, the film added elements, like the occasional break to the game’s commentators to help narrate and explain things happening within the arena.
In terms of box-office success, the odds were in favor of “The Hunger Games”. In its opening weekend the movie made an astounding $155 million in North America alone – placing it at the third highest opening weekend of all time.
The two films overtaking the adaptation are “The Dark Knight” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two” which were both sequels. This means “The Hunger Games” had the highest non-sequel opening weekend – ever.
The Hunger Games trilogy is an insanely engrossing and captivating read. It feels like your own journey to read of Katniss’ journey. With the show given by the first film, it seems the on-screen versions of Suzanne Collins’s bestsellers are not going to disappoint.
And now begins the countdown to November 2013 when “Catching Fire” is set to be released.