While summer 2011 has yet to kick off, The Hunger Games is basically topping our most anticipated films of 2012 list.
1. A truly epic story told in the best way
What attracted me to the book was the premise, and the Battle Royale angle, although Suzanne Collins says the idea is based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. In the myth, Athens had to periodically send Crete seven youths as tribute. The youths were then placed in a labyrinth and devoured by the Minotaur. Starting with that basis, adding a post-apocalyptic setting and a dash of Roman gladiator games gave us The Hunger Games. Over the course of the three books, the heroine Katniss (a very modern Theseus), inspires a continent to rebel against the authoritarian government. But what makes the story here really interesting is that the story is told from a very limited point of view, consequently never losing sight of the relationships between Katniss and the other characters, grounding the epic events firmly in real human emotion. In this way, Katniss is like a cross between Hit Girl and Frodo Baggins.
2. It should have broad appeal to both genders
Honestly, I know more women than men who have raved about The Hunger Games (including Kristen Bell, apparently, but more on that in a second), but I suspect this is because I know more women who are willing to read YA fiction. However, once you start, you can’t help but be captivated by the story, as it is gripping from beginning to end. Additionally, I would liken it more to Harry Potter than Twilight, because although there is a love triangle that is central to the narrative, it is handled in a much more interesting way, and all three characters feel more like people than cardboard cutouts.
3. Collins never talks down to her audience
While starting from those roots of greek myth, The Hunger Games also addresses a lot of real world issues. While it is not as pointed as some other YA novels (Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother comes to mind), Collins addresses many issues, including responsibility to family, loyalty to people vs. loyalty to the military or government, freedom, control, and even the effect of televised war on the populace.
4. Gary Ross and Lionsgate are willing to spend the money to make it good
Casting Academy Award-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence earned a huge vote of confidence from me for this film adaptation. Especially since she was casted after the nomination was announced, it means she wasn’t cheap, so it looks like they are willing to spend the money to make this worthwhile. While some have criticized the production for ‘racebending’ and aging the Katniss character, I think the aging was necessary to achieve this quality (unless they had casting Chloe Moretz, who is likely to show age over the film series, despite the books being close together in time), and I don’t see race of any kind showing importance to the Katniss character. It’s not a defining characteristic. I don’t know much about Liam Hemsworth, other than that his brother is Thor, but I did enjoy Josh Hutcherson in The Kids Are All Right last year. And at least there is no hint of Lautner or that kid who is Number Four. As for Elizabeth Banks, while her movie roles haven’t thrilled me, I have enjoyed her comedic chops on both Modern Family and 30 Rock, which seems more like how I’d want her to play Effie Trinket.
5. Cool people want to be in this movie
Kristin Bell is awesome. Not only is she super cute, but she’s also super geeky for starring in the great Veronica Mars TV series, among other things. She is such a big fan of The Hunger Games that she is campaigning to play the role of Johanna Mason, a supporting character who doesn’t even show up in the first book! We’ve seen people campaign to play the main roles in geek films before, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen any big stars actively campaign to be a supporting character for a sequel that hasn’t even begun filming the first movie yet.
Have you read The Hunger Games? What are your thoughts on the upcoming film? Who do you think should play Haymitch?