Audiences across the nation flocked to their local movie theaters in the very first few minutes of March 23 to see one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, The Hunger Games. But was the film worth the hype?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Both fans of the Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel and moviegoers experiencing the world of Panem for the first time became engrossed by the story of Katniss Everdeen on screen. Theaters were filled with cheers, applause, gasps, laughter, tears and sometimes a palpable silence as the film went on. “The movie had me crying, punching the air in victory, clapping and cheering on Katniss,” said Liz Seredinski, a freshman applied health science major and avid fan of the book series.
The Hunger Games takes the audience into the dystopian and futuristic version of the United States called Panem. Every year, districts in the country have to offer up a girl and boy between the ages of 12 and 18 as tributes to compete in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death that is essentially a cross between Roman gladiator games and the television show, Survivor.
The film does a good job of handling the inevitable violence so it does not exceed its PG-13 rating, but avoids sugar coating the brutality of teenagers being forced to kill each other. In one of the most memorable sequences of the film, the games begin in an initial bloodbath. However, the film does not focus on the gore. The shots capture the horror, panic and fear of the tributes as they both commit and view the atrocities before them.
From the very first frame of the film, the viewer is immediately transported to this grim reality. The film’s cinematography and production design does a fantastic job at truly making the world of Panem real. The audience gets an understanding of the poverty that those in District 12 endure in opposition to the futuristic grandeur of The Capitol.
“The film was a great supplement to the book. I saw it in IMAX and it looked and sounded incredible and very aesthetically pleasing,” said Jacob Munguia, a freshmen music major.
What truly makes The Hunger Games real to the audience, though, is the perfect casting that brought the novel’s beloved characters to life. Supporting actors Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson completely embody their respective eccentric characters that often serve as comic relief in the film without becoming caricatures. Josh Hutcherson’s performance of Peeta Mellark, fellow District 12 tribute and love interest for Katniss, does the much beloved character justice, capturing his goodness and sincerity.
The most remarkable performance, though, is that of Jennifer Lawrence as the film’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss supports the entire film as she is in nearly every frame. She truly becomes the role and by watching her performance, the audience feels what Katniss is feeling and is better able to follow her journey. Lawrence exudes the strength of Katniss but is able to show each flash of vulnerability, fear and desperation that reveals itself through her tough exterior. It is fascinating to watch her layered and subtle performance, a trait that is rare to find in young actresses today, let alone in a film based on a popular young adult novel.
Fans of the book are pleased with the film adaptation. Fans felt that, for the most part, the movie stays true to the novel. “Some crucial parts from the book were less emphasized in the movie, but they can develop in the next two films,” said Seredinski.
The film’s opening weekend was a happy one indeed. According to Fandango.com, The Hunger Games sold more tickets in advance than any other non-sequel film. The weekend box office broke opening weekend records, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with a staggering $155 million. This made The Hunger Games the best opening weekend not in the summer, and the third best of all time, beat out by The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
The Hunger Games is currently in theaters everywhere. After the positive response to the opening weekend, the odds for the sequel film, Catching Fire, already look favorable as the cast and crew prepare to begin production this September. The sequel is slated to be released on November 22, 2013.