No doubt, those who have read the books are going to get much more out of the Hunger Games films, but having watched the first installment last night, I think the franchise will do quite well among the non-readers of all ages and social groups.
Unlike Harry Potter, which targeted children early on, and Twilight, which is almost entirely geared toward young women, The Hunger Games has something for everyone. I’ve read criticisms that its themes have been seen before over and over, but I say there is a good reason for that—we like them. The Hunger Games blends them all quite well—think Gladiator meets Lord of the Flies with a bow-clenching teen heroine.
While the film is great in its own right, I was particularly impressed with how well the writers and director were able to adapt the story to the big screen. The film not only brings to life all of the major events and characters, it also manages to capture many subtleties and details that fans of the book will be delighted to see. And they do so without compromising the movie experience. Of course, there is no way to translate a first-person novel into a sensible two-hour flick, but they nailed the biggest challenges.
I have only a few critiques, particularly regarding the beginning. It opens with a few lines about the history of Panem, which I think cheapened the intro and wasn’t even necessary since it is restated several times afterward. And while it may just be the designer in me, I thought the font choices for the intro and the district identifiers were awful.
Secondly, while the relationship between Katniss and Prim is developed nicely, her mother and Gale seem like peripheral characters that Katniss forgets about the moment she boards the train. The sequence of events in District 12 feels quick and mechanical, lacking the substance that should make me care about the people back home. Is it evident to anyone who didn’t read the book what the three-fingers sign is all about? I will cut the director some slack though, since pacing the District scenes would have pushed the movie toward the 3 hour mark.
Lastly, the score could have been much better. There were good moments, but for such an intense and epic story, the music should have carried a more robust, dramatic tone—like the trailer.
In all, they did a stellar job. My assumption is that Lionsgate had no idea quite what a gold mine they were standing on until the last few months, so the budget was more modest than it deserves. After a record breaking opening weekend, expect the next installment to rock a lot harder.