If movie studios need a blueprint on how to adapt a bestselling book into a faithful, compelling film, they now have their marker: “The Hunger Games.” The Gary Ross directed film should do the unthinkable: appease hardcore fans, but newcomers to the story will have no trouble following along. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, “The Hunger Games” is a film that is appealing to ALL ages–not just young adults.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Suzanne Collins bestselling book-turned-movie, the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America. There are twelve Districts, each who answer (and provide resources) to “The Capital,” an oppressive regime centered in the Rocky Mountains. As punishment for a failed rebellion by the Districts 75 years prior, the Capital every year holds “The Hunger Games,” where one boy and one girl aged 12-18 are chosen from each of the 12 Districts. Those Tributes, as they are called, are thrown into a man/computer made world to fight to the death. Only one Tribute can exit the Arena.
The book–and the movie–is a mixture of oppression, big brother, romance, violence and more. It’s a lot to put in one book (though Collins wrote two followups to complete a trilogy), much less a 2 1/2 hour film. Yet Ross, along with co-writers Collins and Billy Ray, remarkably pulls it off. And while the film is long, it certainly doesn’t seem that way. In fact, I can’t remember the last two-plus hour movie I watched that didn’t drag in parts. ”The Hunger Games” doesn’t have a slow moment.
There are three big winners in this adaptation: Ross, an unlikely choice as director, pulled off a masterpiece. As readers of the book know, there is an incredible amount of graphic violence in the story. Ross had to tip-toe around the violence to keep a PG-13 rating without sacrificing the integrity of the book. And that’s exactly what he did. The brutality of the Games comes through without overt blood and gore.
Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the gruff-yet-caring Katniss, puts in a phenomenal performance. From steely eyed glances to slight smiles with emotions in between, Lawrence should edge her way onto the A-list after showing such range. Lastly, the fans. It’s one thing to have great pre-sales and $20 million in midnight showings; it’s another to do that and actually have people like the film so audiences will look forward to sequels.
Now if other studios could just take note of this film for future adaptations, we’d all be better off.