Hunger for The Hunger Games
By Andrew A. Lee & Faith A. Middleton – Staff Writers
Adapting a well known book into a movie is no simple task. The screenwriters, director and producers making the movie have the very difficult task of making sure the film stays true to the novel. This is important because if the movie strays too far from the plot, it may upset the entire franchise. Some book to movie adaptations are successful, such as the Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings series while some adaptations rate negatively among fans like Atlas Shrugged, or The Golden Compass. These unsuccessful adaptations embarrass not only the filmmakers but the franchise itself. So how does The Hunger Games fare as an adaption of the well loved young adult novel? Should it be revered as a well made film that stays true to the source material or be tossed aside into the cesspool of forgotten book adaptations?
Fortunately for The Hunger Games fans, director Gary Ross has lovingly crafted a film that not only respects and reveres the original work of Suzanne Collins, but also has its own unique visual style that enhances the viewing experience. The movie is rated PG-13 for violence and potentially disturbing images.
The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic nation called Panem made up of twelve impoverished districts and one oppressive Capitol. The districts attempted to rebel against the Capitol 74 years before the main plot takes place, but the rebellion failed. As punishment, all twelve districts of Panem are forced to offer up one male and one female between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games. The twenty-four “tributes” fight to death in an arena, and the last tribute alive is crowned victor.
“Katniss [is my favorite character],” Senior Lauren Burnham said. “She’s the main character and shows strength throughout the story.”
The feisty female protagonist, sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen (portrayed by Oscar-Nominee Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her twelve-year-old sister Prim’s (played by Willow Shields) place as tribute. The male tribute is sixteen year old Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the son of a baker. They are readied for the Games by their rarely sober mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson with hair) and made Capitol-presentable by stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and escort Effie Trinket (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks). The annual Hunger Games are run by Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who will do anything to keep the Capitol citizens entertained and the districts under control.
Of the film’s devotion to the novel, Burnham said, “It was very close to the book.”
A pro of this film is that it captures the emotional highs and lows that made the books so successful in the first place. From the dramatic violence of the games, to the awkward hostility of the reaping, to the romantic tension between Katniss and Peeta, The Hunger Games is a gripping emotional roller-coaster that will have the viewer at the edge of their seat until the end credits.
“I was stressed out leaving the theater because it was that emotional,” Senior Daniel Lee said of the film.
“[The Hunger Games is an] amazing motion pic that took me through all my emotional feelings,” Senior Ryan McCuskey said.
The strongest aspect of the film is the acting done by its film veterans and newcomers alike. Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss. She shows deep understanding of her character’s strengths, her vulnerabilities and her nuances. She portrays “the girl who was on fire” so well that it is painful to imagine any other actress in her role. Josh Hutcherson is charming yet tough as the likeable Peeta Mellark. His chemistry with Lawrence helps make believable Peeta’s feelings for Katniss. Praise is also necessary for Oscar winner Woody Harrelson, whose drunken character is harsh at first, but shows depth in his efforts to bring his tributes back alive. Amandla Stenberg plays her character, twelve-year-old District 11 tribute Rue, accurately and with the tenderness necessary to bring audiences to tears.
When asked who her favorite character is, Junior Lindsay Rogan replied, “Peeta. He’s sensitive and beautiful.”
“[The most emotional scene was] Rue dying,” Senior Jill Taylor said.
A common grievance of book adaptations are that many details from the book; minor and major, get taken out of the movie. This is not too much of an issue for The Hunger Games and does not detract from the quality of the film. Suzanne Collins co-wrote the screenplay, so skeptical fans can rest assured that if anything is taken out, it is because that detail or event disrupted the flow of the film.
Final verdict: with quality acting, beautiful directing, gorgeous cinematography, gripping suspense and a script that stays true to the novel, The Hunger Games will leave you hungry for more.
Lee’s film grade: B+
Middleton’s film grade: A