Originally published in 2008, The Hunger Games trilogy has recently stirred up an abundance of interest selling over 26 million copies, with the first novel sat comfortably atop The New York Times bestseller list for more than 180 consecutive weeks since publication.
This comes at a time where a film adaptation – co-written and co-produced by Suzanne Collins herself – is teetering on the brink of release, anticipation steadily building for what many deem “the new Twilight.”
Whether this comparison is a fair one is, however, debatable. Despite the fact that both are arguably targeted to an audience of young adults, and include a love story – that is pretty much where the comparison ends.
Whereas the Twilight series are vampire-themed romance novels, The Hunger Games actually tackle profound themes – the likes of severe poverty, starvation, oppression, rebellion, social inequality, a Big brother nation and the effects of war – themes which are all arguably, and tentatively relatable to the every day existence of human beings. As such they raise interesting questions about our real lives, all the while serving the purpose of novels – that of an escape mechanism.
Lenny Kravitz, who plays Cinna in the film echoes this, suggesting that what makes the books and movie so interesting is that many of the issues are, in fact, current: reality television, violence, the 99 per cent versus the 1 percent.
These differences between the two are further pronounced in terms of the protagonists of the stories, as well as in the way gender relations are portrayed. Whereas the Twilight series focus on damsels in distress who wait on their male counterparts to come save them, Katniss Everdeen – the heroin of The Hunger Games takes matters into her own hands – morally complex characters finding themselves often caught in between the mutually exclusive right and wrong, with the divisions between the two more often blurred than not.
One thing that can be certain however is that The Hunger Games is the next big franchise – critics already lovingly lapping up the film, which is set to hit theatres March 23rd. And with the Harry Potter era having finally come to a close – it seems there is no better time, and no better protagonist for the world to adore.
Co-star Donald Sutherland expresses his views on just how important he thinks the story is:
“This script could make a film that actually motivates, energizes a generation of young people who have been – from my point of view – by in large, dormant. It can make them stand up and take political action. It could help them to recognize with this allegory the nature of the society they live in and the need for change.”
Set in a dystopian future where the United States has fallen apart, the Hunger Games are a reality show that wouldn’t actually seem too out of place on today’s television screens. Bar the fact that the 24 young contestants are in fact fighting to the death.
But whether or not the novel will translate well into film is the question on everyone’s lips.
Variety Magazine have criticised the cinematic rendition as not having taken the “artistic gambles that might have made this respectable adaptation a remarkable one.” But considering the film has been certified a PG13, this concern, and consequent criticism is a predictable one.
This is a concern echoed by The Hollywood Reporter who criticised it for softening the plot to ensure children would be able to watch it. This undeniably takes away from the thrill, hunting instinct and page-turning qualities that make the novel so powerful and popular – but which, understandably, would be difficult to translate to the screen.
The film is also criticised as not remaining “wholly true to Collins words,” a criticism which lovers of the book will undoubtedly strongly lament. This, however, is an aspect of films that are based on books that literature lovers must be getting used to by now.
Why? Because with film you are given a version of events, rather than fabricating your own. You are not allowed to come to your own conclusions, but rather given someone else’s. In a movie you are told what to think and how to feel and how to envision the characters. In a novel, they are (almost) as much your creation as they are the authors.
This is intensified by the fact that an entire story spanning hundreds of pages and delved into with as much depth as the author wishes to and can muster, must be condensed into an easy to digest one hour and thirty minute film.
That said, apprehension levels are equally as high as the expectations and excitement levels surrounding the release of the first film, which is set to hit theatres this Thursday.