The first of three film adaptations to Suzanne Collins’ best-selling “Hunger Games” series premiered Friday and, with two broken major records during opening weekend and counting, the world was definitely watching.
Lionsgate’s newest franchise invites viewers to watch as the exquisitely imagined post-apocalyptic North American world called Panem comes to life while its Capitol prepares to host the 74th annual Hunger Games. During the games, one boy and one girl between the ages 12 and 18 are chosen from each of Panem’s 12 districts and sent into an arena to fight until the last one alive wins.
Enter Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the typical fend-for-herself archer who hunts game to trade in exchange for money and other materials to help her family get by. Katniss volunteers to replace her younger sister Prim (Willow
Shields) as the female tribute from District 12 on Reaping Day, and the audience watches as she and male tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are escorted to the Capitol to prepare, train and compete in the battle whose only reward is the rest of one’s life.
One quality that makes this movie so outstanding is how well it captures both action and intimacy between characters at the same time.
With a love triangle that hardly bears comparison to that of the severely inferior “Twilight” franchise and a constant flow of anticipation and intensity from start to finish, Lionsgate just might have finally found the recipe for creating the perfect date movie.
And you don’t even need to read the book to enjoy it.
When a book series such as “The Hunger Games” holds as large a fan base as it does, however, it is inevitable to find that select group of diehards who will scoff at even the slightest changed word, altered scene or eliminated character. If any screenplay writer stayed completely faithful to a novel’s every line, though, its film adaptation would last much longer than it should. And at 142 minutes, “Hunger Games” already pushes a little over to the lengthy side.
“Harry Potter” and “Dragon Tattoo” fans had to deal with the necessary alterations that come with transforming readers’ favorite series into visual masterpieces; this situation is no different.
As far as “Hunger Games” is concerned, though, the very few but significant changes that writers Collins, Billy Ray and director Gary Ross made were quite smart and set up the next two adaptations beautifully. Even despite those changes, this movie is probably one of the most faithful book-to-screen adaptations Hollywood has seen in the last five years.
Also, remarkable acting shines throughout the entire film, from both the lead and supporting cast. Stanley Tucci plays an exceptional Caesar Flickerman — a Capitol TV show host — and Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson provide fitting comedic relief as the always-drunk District 12 mentor Haymitch Abernathy and the bubbly, sometimes air-headed district escort Effie Trinket.
And although fans might have been weary of Lawrence’s casting as Katniss before the film’s release, a multi-record breaking opening weekend should speak enough for her performance. In fact, the film beat out “The Dark Knight” as the No. 1 all-time midnight debut with $19.75 million in ticket sales. It also trumped Disney’s 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” as the best all-time opening for a non-sequel film.
To say this franchise has caught fire to the world wouldn’t exactly be an understatement, and that is why Lawrence almost passed the opportunity up. In an interview with TooFab.com, Lawrence said she almost turned down the role because she was terrified to think about how a single decision could potentially change her life forever.
With two more movies yet to come, change her life it shall. As this film alludes to, Katniss becomes a very important icon not only to her district, but to all of Panem. With how smooth Lawrence’s portrayal went over with even the most dedicated fans, it is safe to predict that she will be associated with Katniss as much as Daniel Radcliffe is with the spell-casting wizard from Hogwarts.
Perhaps it is fair to bid everyone’s new kick-butt female film hero a generous “thank you” for making the right choice, and may the odds be ever in her favor.