The newest movie adaptation of a young adult book was released over spring break. “The Hunger Games” opened to an amazing $19.7 million in midnight shows alone, and went on to win the weekend box office with a whopping $152.5 million domestically making it the third highest opening ever (trailing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “The Dark Knight”) and the highest opening ever for a non-sequel. It beat out every “Twilight” installment, as it was able to draw in the male audience the “Twilight” movies have been sorely lacking.
The story follows Katniss Everdeen, as she goes from District 12’s resident huntress to national icon as a participant in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are a reality show put on each year as a reminder, and punishment, for the civil war that decimated North America and led to this post-apocalyptic world. Each year, two tributes from each of Panem’s 12 districts go to compete in a televised fight to the death. The first half of the movie follows Katniss’ journey to The Capitol as a tribute, her training and her beautification, which is provided to make her acquire as many sponsors as possible. She makes her grand entrance as “The Girl on Fire,” and is instantly the one to watch in the Games. Leading up to the Games, she and her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, are trained by District 12’s only winner, Haymitch. With the catch line of the Games resonating in the ears of audience members, tributes are off to a bloody start. After the surprising end of the Games, the movie finishes with enough closure for the audience that, had it not succeeded at the box office as it did, would not have required a sequel.
Already there are talks of adapting the rest of Suzanne Collins books in the series, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” into movies. Rumors are swirling that Lionsgate will follow suit in the two-part movie finale craze started by the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” movies. Whether this is true or not, more movies are guaranteed with the box office results.
Collins wrote the script with director Gary Ross and writer Billy Ray, which pleased many fans. They saw this as an assurance the movie would stick to the source material as much as possible.
Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone; X-Men: First Class) played the heroine Katniss Everdeen. Her portrayal was excellent, and brought the character to life for the audience who had only read about her. Katniss is rewriting the idea of female characters, making them strong women, capable of defending themselves and others, instead of being damsels in distress, à la Bella Swan, and bringing that ideal to a new generation of women. The movie did not focus on the love triangle between Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), instead making it an asset to the flow of the plot, giving the characters depth and making them more than pawns in a game.
The movie garnered a PG-13 rating, although editing was required for the movie to be shown in the UK. Actors including Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, and Woody Harrelson play the high-profile members in the Capitol. The film is a strong adaptation and stands on its own without comparisons to the source material. Sequels are guaranteed to follow, and should the box office continue on its current path, the catch line of the games could very well hold true for Lionsgate: “Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
UPDATE: Gary Ross will not direct “Catching Fire.” Francis Lawrence, who directed “I Am Legend” will direct.