Hunger Games makes big splash, breaks box office records with debut
When fans flock to The Hunger Games this weekend, they'll be greeted with a movie that most critics agree is quite good. Though it's visuals don't always impress and some critics are worried that it doesn't do enough to appeal to male fans, the film has already broken box office records simply with its pre-sale.
Fans of The Hunger Games were rewarded in the early hours of Friday morning with the first installment of the books to be made into a blockbuster, big screen movie.
The three books, which have been wildly popular, will be released as a four-part movie over the next few years. The first installment was expected to be one of the most popular movies of the year. Advance sales for the film have exceeded $100 million.
If you’re not up to speed, the story centers on a dystopian future, where North America has been broken up into 12 oppressed districts and one glossy, privileged capitol. Each year, a boy and a girl from each district is selected by lottery, then put into an arena the size of a city, where they must fight to the death. The whole thing is broadcast as a month-long reality show.
Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday, said some of the massive pre-release hype for the movie can be traced to its themes, which are a universal concept for teenagers: it's you against the world.
"The world is a tyranny. Everyone is trying to get you to do the things you don't want to do and control your life. I think this appeals to the rebel in every teenager," Guzman said.
That theme, though, has led some educators to draw a line in the sand and say they don't belong in the hands of anyone younger than middle school.
Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway, said as a society we really underestimate what our kids can handle.
"I think kids can handle quite a bit when you look at what they're exposed to already on TV," Meinzer said. "If you look at the news, if you look at any of those things. This is very violent, the books and the movie, but it's also very critical of violence, The Hunger Games is actually looking at the violence and saying look how awful this is, not look at how fantastic it is."
Guzman said the film's producers worked hard to make sure the movie kept a PG-13 rating so that the book's younger fans could see it.
"I think they've avoided any real bloodshed or gore," he said.
Meinzer said the adaptation from book to film was challenging because of the sheer popularity of the books.
"You want to satisfy the book's fans, but you also want to bring in a new audience," she said. "I think one of the biggest challenges is how do we bring in male viewers."
One problem, though, that may come up there is that, according to Guzman, there's really not a male protagonist for men to identify with.
"That could be a problem. It could be something they'll fix in future episodes," he said.
He said the filmmakers focus a lot on Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, rather than on Josh Hutcherson's portrayal of Peeta Mellark.
Overall, Guzman said he would have rather had a tougher film than what he ended up with.
"I think there could have been one to make in here. I wanted a film that would have had some tougher critiques of the media and I wanted a film that might have been a little bit more impactful in terms of the violence," he said.
Meinzer, though, said the movie was "pretty great."
"I really thought they did a good job creating the arena world where they have to fight to the death. I thought they did a good job with character development. My biggest issues were really just aesthetic ones," she said. "Where have I seen these special effects before? Oh, that's right, The Ten Commandments. So, some of the special effects don't quite look up to snuff. Some of the details around the edges don't look as good as they should be. But, overall, aside from the aesthetics, I thought the movie was pretty great."
The kids will love it, Meinzer said, as will some adults.
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH Radio Boston.