Maybe a cruel teenagers murdering film will not take over Harry Potter torch, but it is a truthfully recreated brave and interesting idea.
Director: Garry Ross | Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson
Budget: 80 million | Box office: 644 million (6 weeks)
Studios, book sellers and industry watchers were putting extremely high pressure on this movie. From the announcement couple of years ago The Hunger Games at once was labeled „a hope after Harry Potter“. This holy grail was tried and failed to achieve by some earlier films, namely Percy Jackson, but The Hunger Games has a real chance just because it doesn‘t try to trace the same steps. The movie is also extremely important as an asset for recently grown Lionsgate, which purchased Twilight studio Summit Entertainment and is gearing to become a serious competitor in the top six league.
The Hunger Games idea is a really tough pill and I‘m wondering how Suzanne Collins managed to sell it to book publishers. The success of already three part series is even more amazing. It really shows the matureness of the audience (it would be interesting to know the split between target teenage audience and adults reading this) and interest in tougher more reality based idea. Many probably heard the story how the author got a glimpse of Hunger Games idea, when she was switching channels between a life news broadcast from Iraq and some reality show game. Combine it together, add spice of teenagers killing each other and, it seems, you get a real hit.
Japanese film lovers might trash the movie as a western copy of Battle Royale, but I believe Collins didn’t get inspiration from that. I haven‘t read the book, but with involvement of the author as a movie producer and writer, working together with writer-director, it‘s safe to say that the movie stays truthful to the book. The selection of director Gary Ross might look strange as his only previous works had totally different styles and topics – Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. But the movie somehow feels right. I loved the steady long shots in nature, the effects are minimal and unobtrusive (except for the dogs). Jeniffer Lawrence fits the role perfectly, but they will again have the same problem of too old actress if (when) the sequels come in. Josh Hutcherson (unknown, if you haven’t seen a beautiful and smart The Kids Are All Right) and Woody Harrelson work well as support too.
The couple gripes for me was a bit unclear beginning of the story and kind of dotted glimpses about the meaning of all this killing contest and wider conflict between the oppressed nations and lavish Capitol. That itself was overdone too. Even if it has to be like that according to the book, I think it wasn‘t necessary to have hideous hairdos and spiky costumes. Loved the furniture though, that might be the future or even the present for some people bored with common stuff.
The main question though is how actually the teenage audience are perceiving the movie. The book worked, but there everyone has his own world where the cruelty might not be as obvious as in the picture. I imagine if I was a teenager and with all-powerful marketing machine (the commercials were everywhere) believed that I‘ll be seeing something in the likes and level of Harry Potter, the reaction would be totally different. But I was not raised with live war broadcasts and reality shows, so today‘s audience perception might be perfectly fit for the heavy, cruel and disturbingly real nature of The Hunger Games.
The piling money mountain quickly convinced everyone about the sequel, so it’s already on schedule for production this summer and release next winter. Garry Ross couldn’t work on it, but that’s not bad news as the director’s chair is offered to Constantine and I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence.