The Hunger Games

Release Date: March 23, 2012

I sense...a lot of money in our future.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
8/12 Les Winan An excellent adaptation, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was a missed opportunity. The production value was lacking.
18/169 Max Braden I was most impressed with Lawrence and Hutcherson, and I think the characters were better on screen than in the book. Too much quick cuts and camera movement, not enough score.

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Nature abhors a vacuum. With the Harry Potter franchise winding down, young adult book lovers searched for the Next Big Thing. The Hunger Games was what they decided was worthy of the title. The three novels – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay – all became bestsellers with a movie adaptations of the stories an inevitability.

A bidding war ensued among the studios with Lionsgate emerging as the unlikely winner. This acquisition could do for them what Twilight did for Summit Entertainment. Lionsgate has never been a studio that sought box office Tentpole releases, after all. Their largest project is Fahrenheit 9/11, which earned $119.1 million during its theatrical release. A reasonable expectation would be for The Hunger Games to surpass or at the very least approach that total on opening weekend. Lionsgate has gone all in on this project, and they are prepared to reap their just rewards.

Why is The Hunger Games the story of the moment? The key is the premise, which is as commercial as any in the 2000s. An oppressive government has divided their country into a dozen regions. The ones closest to the capital receive preferential treatment while those at the outskirts are lucky to receive anything at all.

In order to remind the citizens of what happens to those who get out of line, the nation’s youth are pitted against one another in The Hunger Games. A boy and a girl from each region are forced to fight to the death. The winner of the 24 contestants achieves the type of celebrity we would reserve for Super Bowl MVPs. The other 23 contestants die horribly.

To populate The Hunger Games, a drawing is held a la Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. All children are forced to enter this competition once they reach a certain age; they are enticed to enter multiple times in exchange for basic necessities for their families. Katniss Everdeen lives on the outskirts of her country in District 12. Since her father passed, her mother has become withdrawn and unable to care for her two daughters. Katniss is forced to scavenge for sustenance not only for herself but also for her mother and her sister, Prim.

Fellow hunter Gale Hawthorne and her risk their lives in order to save those of their loved ones. They sneak out beyond the electric gates that signify the end of District 12 as well as the restricted area beyond. Gale and Katniss happily hunt there until Katniss suffers the misfortune of having her name selected for The Hunger Games.

Torn away from her family, Katniss is taken to the Capital. On the ride there, she is given advice from the only living winner from District 12, Haymitch, who is also the town drunk. Joining her is another District 12 boy named Peeta, who once gave her a loaf of bread and has a tendency to cause her heart to flutter. Yes, there is a love triangle a la Twilight, which is (part of the reason) why the story appeals to women. And there is enough violence in the flick to remind people of its thematic predecessor, Battle Royale, which is why men will want to see it.

The Hunger Games is part Survivor, part Twilight, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer and part Die Hard. This is going to be a massive blockbuster. And there will be three more films in its wake, as Lionsgate has already announced the intention to split Mockingjay into two movies. Get used to The Hunger Games. It’s going to be a key topic of conversation for the next five years. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Hunger Games
Main Cast Jennifer Lawrence
Supporting Cast Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Amandla Stenberg, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Director Gary Ross
Screenwriter Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Distributor Lionsgate
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Running Time 142 minutes
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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