52 Movies: Week 12
The Hunger Games is a faithful adaptation of the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins that is sure to please fans of the books.
The basic plot of The Hunger Games — Contestants in a reality show battle to the death — is not terribly original but the dystopian world that Collins has created around this concept is one of the elements that makes the books work so well. Aside from a few minor quibbles, (the actors all appear plump and hale, not qualities you would expect in a society where an ecological class system is used to keep once rebellious districts under the Government’s thumb), Collins’ vision is well realized in the film.
Most of the novel’s plot made the cut as well, likely due to Collins involvement with the script. At two hours and twenty-two minutes, this makes for a long movie. While I’m not sure how this will play for folks who haven’t read the book, as a fan of the novel I was happy that the story was not gutted for the sake of expediency. Unlike the first two Harry Potter movies, which were, to their detriment, slavishly faithful to the books, The Hunger Games is very much aware that movies and books are two different mediums and what works in one will not necessarily work in the other. While the story is left intact, the filmmakers were clever in the changes they made to convey the same information in a visual medium.
The other element that made the book so successful was the strength of its heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and the casting of Jennifer Lawrence for this role was a perfect choice. Indeed, the whole cast does a great job and the production values are high.
For a movie about kids killing kids, the violence in The Hunger Games has been oddly sterilized but it is hard to fault the filmmakers for making concessions to get a PG-13 rating. The novels are written for young adults and the sold-out showing I attended was packed to the rafters with rapt teens. The lack of graphic violence definitely has a negative effect on the movies’s emotional impact, especially in the film’s final act but, again, this trade off was necessary based on the target audience.
Given how easy it is to screw up an adaptation of a popular novel, and given how often Hollywood gets it totally wrong, The Hunger Games was a pleasant surprise. I give the movie four stars (out of five) and look forward to the sequels.