03 FebThe Hunger Games (scheduled for release on March, 23 2012)

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Directed by Gary Ross, Produced by Lionsgate Entertainment, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Based on Suzanne Collins’ 2010 novel of the same name.

So I, obviously, haven’t seen the Hollywood film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling novel, The Hunger Games. But I would like to take this opportunity to express my affection for Collins’ trilogy and my fanatic excitement (and considerable wariness) regarding the upcoming film’s release. The Hunger Games are an annually televised competition where 12-18 year old girls and boys from twelve districts fight to be the last person left standing (or alive). When the lottery elects her younger sister to fight in the games, Katniss Everdeen steps forward and takes her place.

I read Collins’ trilogy over a two week period during winter break. The books’ action moves at a feverish pace, making them difficult to put down. What’s more, the characters are deliciously complex. I have to admit that I am a total sucker for badass girl protagonists in contemporary fiction, film, and television. I get a kick out of reading about young women who are physically tough and emotionally indomitable. Katniss is certainly one of the most engaging and complicated heroines I have encountered in recent fiction. It isn’t always clear why she acts the way she does (wait a minute, why did she just run into that war zone?!) or even how she feels about the two young men who love her, Peeta Mellark (a fellow contestant in the Hunger Games) and Gale Hawthorne (a childhood friend and hunting buddy). And yet, from the novel’s first references to her hunting prowess, I fell completely in love with her.

And this complex literary portrait of an alternately steely and vulnerable girl protagonist will be the yardstick against which I measure the Hollywood film adaptation. And perhaps this isn’t exactly fair. After all, Suzanne Collins had almost 400 pages, in the first book, to flesh out her central character. The film will have two hours and maybe some change. The casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss has me hopeful. Anyone who saw her critically acclaimed performance in 2010’s Winter’s Bone as Ree, a girl who hunts down her drug-dealing father in the snowy Ozark mountains, knows she has the acting chops to fully embody this role and to capture the character’s development throughout the trilogy (and it seems to me there is little chance that Lionsgate won’t order an additional two installments since The Hunger Games is already one of the most anticipated films of 2012). If only the casting of a gifted lead actress was enough to guarantee a film’s greatness (cue the trailer for 2004’s Catwoman, starring the recent Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry).

In the meantime, I would recommend the novels to anyone with a lust for pure entertainment and a strong stomach (the violence in all three novels can be quite graphic and disturbing). While the final novel may not quite be on par with the first two, it would be a shame not to read the series in its entirety. You won’t want to miss Katniss’s progression from scrappy survivor to rebel leader to battle-scarred warrior woman.

July 2012 Update: I thought the film was pretty good and the representation of Katniss Everdeen was well done. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was strong, as I hoped it would be. I wish I had felt more connected to her character, like I did when I was reading the novels (though I also remember, at times, feeling as though her character was difficult to understand in the books too). I also missed the chemistry between Katniss and Peeta, though I agree with many critics that that isn’t the most important part of her story. I would rather have the strength of her character remain in tact rather than the underlying sexual tension (for instance, in the cave scene) any day of the week!  Though I have to say, Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark is missing a complexity and a mystery that I feel are essential components of his character.


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