Jan 29 2012 3:30pm

Katniss, Violence, Peeta, Cruelty, Haymitch: 5 Things The Hunger Games Movie Needs to Get Right

The Hunger Games movie posterIt’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.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen1. 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.

Katniss Everdeen on the hunt2. 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.

Katniss, Peeta, and Gale in The Hunger Games3. 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.

Effie in The Hunger Games4. 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 surprisingThe 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.

Effie, Haymitch, and Katniss5. 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.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Liz B
1. Liz B
I want to echo what you said about the violence. The people dying in the arena are children. All of them. Not just adorable Rue, but the Careers and the ones that never get names.

This movie needs to be really damn hard to watch.
Liz B
2. Lucy D
I hope the scenes w Katniss and Rue come off as moving on screen as they do in the book and they don't cut them down for time.
Liz B
3. Lafka
I haven't read The Hunger Games books yet, I actually had never heard of it before seeing promotional posters in Paris' subway for the movie (in theaters march 2012 if I'm not mistaken). I shall read it before going to see the movie, but I'm quite reluctant to, for I have the feeling that it is very much alike Takami's "Battle Royale", isn't it? I liked the novel, and enjoyed the first movie by Fukasaku _ though, given the first glimpses of The Hunger Games, I have the distinctive feeling that it's going to be more "glamourous" than the 2000' japanese movie. I hope not, because I agree with you Jill about what you said : violence, especially to children, should never be depicted as "cool" but rather shown as ugly as it really is.
Christopher Morgan
4. cmorgan
@Lafka, it is very similar to Battle Royal. But if it makes more sense, it's more westernized. Where Battle Royale is speaking about a generation of Jappanese youths and what is really going on, The Hunger Games, primarilly the first one, and then a little in the next to, reflects what it is that the West/USA values and what exactly that means in practice.

There is a whole lot more vapidness and pomp surronding Collins's games, Battle Royale, from what I remember of it, was more of a nessecary policing tool, everyone realizes that they are ugly but they deal with it. The Hunger Games are a policing tool, but they are also entertainment, broadcast to everyone's home nightly. Think of it as a Battle Royale meets 1984 with a healthy dose of the TLC network thrown in.

I agree on all things, espicially the capital and violence. I'm also with Lucy D in that they are really going to have to nail the Katniss/Rue scene in the arena. I'm also concerend with Kravitz as Cinna, I really enjoyed that character and feel there was a quiet dignity to him, that he realized what he was doing and did it willingly, and I'm not 100% sold that a man famous for "American Woman" can pull off restrained, quiet dignity and rebellion through art.
Liz B
5. Seleste deLaney
My biggest fear over the movie is that it was rushed. When they were still casting the leads less than a year before release, I had an OMG-why-are-they-rushing-this panic attack. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have to be truly IN this for it to work. Those were the two casting decisions that had the most people questioning the film, and if they don't become Katniss and Peeta, the film won't work on the level it needs to.

As for the violence, I both agree and disagree with you. If they show the deaths from the perspective of people watching on screen in the districts, there has to be some allowance for the capitol making it look flashy and stylistic. Same with Katniss's skills. She becomes the hero of the revolution, in part, because of what people saw on screen. They have to be awed by her skill and that should come through in the movie. However, when we're "in" the arena with the tributes, it needs to be more grisly and harsh. Viewers (especially those who haven't read the books) need to see both sides in order to understand the nuances of reverence people have for Katniss in later films.
Liz B
6. Anonymous
It would have been nice if they kept in the socioeconomic and ethnographic racial commentary about the welfare system, but casting already screwed that up. There's very little that can improve the movie now, in my eyes.
Vilmarys Collado
7. vilmarys
I agree a hundred percent with you! I really hope this movie is as dark as the book was and I'm worried that it won't be. I have already heard several people who haven't read the book say that the trailer looks awesome. I must admit that I don't see any of the darkness that I felt in the book. Haymitch is one that I feel will not live up to the book. He looked very put together in the trailer. One thing that they ABSOLUTELY need to get right for me is Rue and everything that happens to her in the arena. Hopefully it all goes well...keeping my fingers crossed! :)
Liz B
8. Chaosimo
I agree with 1 - 5. They are ALL very important. I think it is also important to catch the vibes of all the environments such as the quiet desperation of all those living in District 12. We have to feel the relationship Katniss has with Prim and her disjointed feeling for her mother. Each of these little things build who Katniss is and explains her choices.
Liz B
9. eilidhdawn
well heres hoping but lately hollywoods idea of dark seems to be a color palette and lighting change
Liz B
10. monica williams
The one thing that is most important to me that they get right in this movie is the character of Cinna. I love Cinna & his personalty & the fact that he seems to truly care about Katniss, which is rare in the Captiol. I also love the fact that he asked to be the wardorbe designer for District 12, he wanted to help Katinss before he even met it seems. The part I'm looking most forword to seeing and hoping that they don't get wrong is the part where Cinna tells Katniss to "spin for " when she is doing her first interview in the dress that has the jewles that make her look like she is on fire. The reason why this is so important to me is because I love the friendship that Cinna prevides for Katniss while she is staying in the Captiol before The Games. If the movie producers don't get Cinna right I will be pissed, plan & simple.
Post a comment