It’s almost here! We’re officially just two months away from finally seeing The Hunger Games movie! In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday that Lionsgate announced they were producing a film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s wildly popular dystopian YA novel. In other ways, it feels like we’ve all been waiting an INTERMINABLY LONG TIME to see Katniss Everdeen wield her famous bow and arrow on the big screen.
But book-to-movie adaptations can sometimes be a tricky business. For every Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, there’s a Golden Compass and a Scarlett Letter (Demi Moore as Hester Prynne, ’nuff said). The Hunger Games novel is beloved by legions of fans from around the world, so the film version has some very big shoes to fill. Here are five things that I think The Hunger Games movie absolutely needs to get right in order to make a truly successful leap on the big screen.
1. The Girl Who Was On Fire
This one seems obvious but it bears saying all the same. For the Hunger Games movie to work, the character of Katniss Everdeen must work. When Jennifer Lawrence was cast in the highly coveted role there were plenty of detractors—she was too blonde, too old, too round. I understood the naysayers, to a point. All they had to go on was the image of Katniss that they had built up in their minds, and Jennifer Lawrence didn’t look like the girl from the Seam that everyone had imagined. But all of those early casting complaints will be forgotten if Lawrence can embody the vulnerable courage and the fierce determination of a girl who incites a rebellion with just a few berries. The strength of the Hunger Games movie (and of the future of the series) hinges on Jennifer Lawrence—so let’s hope her performance is just as accurate as Katniss’ aim.
2. The Violence
Depicting violence in movies can be like walking a stylistic tightrope. Action sequences, so full of quick, stylized cuts and pulsing soundtracks, can sometimes look, well, pretty. Death can seem cool. But that’s exactly the kind of thing that The Hunger Games movie should avoid. Because it is this stylized portrayal of violence, packaged and sanitized for your viewing pleasure, that Suzanne Collins is criticizing in her novel. At its heart, The Hunger Games is a story about a barbaric government that forces children to kill other children on live TV. That violence, so heartbreaking in its brutality in the novel, must also be viscerally palpable in the film. But it should always feel ugly. Likewise, Katniss’ skill at killing (and boy does girlfriend have some skills), should never seem cool. One must always remember that The Hunger Games isn’t just the story of one girl from District 12—it’s also the story of a bunch of kids who never make it out of the Arena.
3. The Peeta Puzzle
A confession: I didn’t really care for Peeta Mellark when I read The Hunger Games. I know, I know, everyone loved the boy with the bread and I was a weirdo because I preferred poor angst-ridden Gale. But setting aside those personal preferences, I’m really interested to see how Peeta translates onto the big screen. The Hunger Games is told from Katniss’ point of view, so the reader is never quite sure what Peeta is up to; there’s a flashback of him giving her bread when they were children (which Katniss considers to be an act of kindness that saved her life), then he confesses his feelings for her in a televised interview, then he appears to side with the Careers in the Arena before he is badly wounded.
That’s a lot of emotional gymnastics to go through, and I’m very interested to see how Josh Hutcherson plays the character’s arc over the course of the movie, not to mention what kind of chemistry he has with Jennifer Lawrence. Can Hutcherson live up to the image of The Boy with the Bread that millions of Hunger Games fans have in their heads? He better, otherwise the next two movies are going to be...rough.
4. The Capitol’s Cruelty
In the lead-up to The Hunger Games movie release, there has been a lot of press about the costumes, hairstyles, and make-up of the Capitol. There was a Hunger Games themed line of nail polishes from China Glaze (with a coal black color called “Smoke and Ashes,” natch) and there’s a style website called Capitol Couture that promises, “Whether you’re a Capitol fashionista or a style-crazed District citizen, there’s only one place to turn for all the tips, tricks and trends you need to look your best.”
None of this is really surprising—The Hunger Games is a big studio movie, so there are bound to be lots and lots of product tie-ins (Hollywood studios will slap a movie’s name on just about any product if they think they can make a quick buck). But I really hope that this glamorized, aspirational take on the Capitol is strictly for promotional purposes. Because the Capitol of the novel is anything but glamourous and aspirational. It’s full of surgically altered monsters and pampered, oblivious souls who watch with glee as children kill other children. The Hunger Games promo machine can keep it’s “Capitol fashionistas”, but I’m crossing my fingers that the movie gives us a Capitol that is just as grotesque and insidious as the one portrayed in the novel.
5. Haymitch Abernathy
The drunk District 12 mentor could easily become a caricature and, quite frankly, the brief glimpses that we have seen of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch have me a bit worried. I mean, what on Earth is going on with his hair?! This is a man who has survived a Hunger Games and has watched the children from District 12 die year after year, for twenty-five long years. This is a man who, when a terrified Katniss asks him for advice, merely replies, “Here’s some advice. Stay alive.” He has no time for perfectly coiffed tresses! But I’ll ignore the long blond locks as long as Harrelson’s Haymitch is every bit as acerbic, wry, and broken as he is in the book.
So what do you think? What parts of The Hunger Games do YOU think the movie needs to get right? What scenes are you most looking forward to seeing on the big screen? Sound off in the comments below!
Jill Slattery is an avid reader, writer and consumer of all things pop culture. She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and a wonderful pooch named Albus Dumbledog.