Novel Adaptations: The Hunger Games

Article by Ria Amber Tesia

The Hunger Games is Hollywood’s latest book-to-film adaptation. I’m currently ploughing my way through the series and am already mid-way through Book 2. It has been some time that I’ve felt this way about a book. You know, where you can’t put it down and the pages seem to turn themselves. The books are so well written, it is easy to lose yourself in them. I was reading it in my local café  the other day on my Kindle and it took me a full five seconds to realise that I wasn’t actually in District 12 when the barista asked me if I needed a top-up and patiently waited for my bleary-eyed confusion to disperse.

I’m a voracious reader and always have my nose in books or film scripts, but it takes something really special for me to get sucked into an alternative world. I’m loving Suzanne Collins’s work and so are millions of others, as Collins was last month named Kindle’s best-selling author of all time. The Hunger Games has amassed an army of die-hard fans (HunGa-ites, if you will pardon the newly coined term), which leads me to ask – what can the success of the film be attributed to?

There are a number of key factors. First off, the film remains largely faithful to the book. I cannot stress enough the significance of staying as true as possible to a (soon to be) revered bestseller. You face upsetting hordes of fans, who these days are increasingly vocal if they feel their treasured book has been hard done by. (In this digital age where Twitter is King and Facebook is Queen, a few negative comments can quickly whip up a maelstrom and turn into a full-on PR disaster). The Hunger Games script was tight, the dialogue polished and the film-makers respected the book. They ‘got’ the tone of the book and managed to successfully imbue the film with the bleak dystopian tension that made the book so readable. 

The book stickler in me did protest at the fact that some instances were left out (I wanted to see Katniss receive her gifted bread from District 11 after Rue’s death). But I concede that bringing every single moment from book to screen is impractical and the film was a fantastic version all the same. Having Suzanne Collins on hand was a massive plus point (the author also co-wrote and co-produced the script). To have the source of the book as an information reserve and sounding board to bounce ideas off, was a shrewd move on part of the film-makers.

The foundation on which a film is formed has to be super strong too. Apart from having a solid script, a skilled and dedicated workforce is imperative to the success of the film adaptation. The Hunger Games film crew and cast reads like a who’s who of every script-writer’s dream team. From the innovative vision of acclaimed director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) to producer extraordinaire Nina Jacobson (One Day), not to mention the mighty clout of Lionsgate, the film has all the hallmarks of a bank-busting franchise that is already gaining comparisons to the financial reapings (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the Twilight series. The cast too are stellar, with all of them giving engaging performances under the watchful eye of Gary Ross. From Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific portrayal of Katniss Everdeen to Woody Harrelson’s capricious Haymitch Abernathy (you could actually smell the alcohol coming off him), this is a film that will be remembered for many years to come. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Josh Hutcherson would make a suitable Peeta Mellark (I was expecting him to be a little more macho). Yet Hutcherson’s performance is definitely noteworthy, as he downplayed his pitch perfect vulnerability that rendered his character as thoroughly likeable and a worthy contender for the affections of the feisty Katniss.

Smashing box office records (it has so far grossed $460 million worldwide) and judging from the still packed cinema theatre yesterday, the first film in the trilogy is set to be one of the biggest franchises in movie history. To aspiring screen-writers, take note how this film was turned from a brilliant book into an equally brilliant film. When writing or adapting your own screenplay, I wish you the very best of luck. May the odds for ever be in your favour…

See previous article; What makes a good film adaption? 


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