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Film Feature: Seven Things We Want From ‘The Hunger Games’

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CHICAGO – There are two big questions floating around Hollywood at the moment – “How hard is “John Carter” going to flop?” and “How big is “The Hunger Games” going to be?” Because director Gary Ross’ adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ uber-popular dystopian young adult novel has some incredible buzz surrounding its March 23 release.

Hunger Games
Hunger Games
Photo credit: Lionsgate

How incredible? Well, 2012 will witness the release of “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, “Men in Black 3”, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit”, the final “Twilight” movie, and a new Quentin Tarantino film, among other noteworthy releases, and yet there are pundits out there who are predicting that “The Hunger Games” has a chance at being the highest-grossing movie of the year. Even if that’s not true, the fact that it’s inspiring those kinds of conversations this early in the year speaks to just how anticipated “The Hunger Games” really is.

Is it surprising that so many people are getting so amped up about seeing “The Hunger Games” on the big screen? The three books in the trilogy – “The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire”, and “Mockingjay” – were a publishing phenomenon, spending a combined total of HUNDREDS of weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. But we’ve seen other hot, best-selling YA properties that were supposed to be the “next” “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” fall by the wayside before – “Percy Jackson”, “The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising”, “The Golden Compass”, “Beastly”, “I Am Number Four”, etc. There just seems to be something about the story of young Katniss Everdeen venturing into the Hunger Games for the love of her sister that has really connected with audiences around the globe, and there’s also a perceived confidence in the team that’s been assembled to bring “The Hunger Games” movie to life that’s unlike anything we’ve seen in a long while. (The scrutiny given to “The Hunger Games” casting process was intense, to say the least, as was the collective sigh of relief after fans got a glimpse of the first trailer for Gary Ross’ adaptation.)

And we’re giving into the hype too. Like the rest of the world, we want this movie to work. So, as we try and decide on whether we’ll be attending the premiere dressed as Haymitch or Peeta, here are our picks for the seven things we really, really want from “The Hunger Games” movie.

1. Keep It Centered on Katniss

Hunger Games
Hunger Games
Photo credit: Lionsgate

While we totally understand that “The Hunger Games” is being groomed as the “next big franchise,” we desperately hope that the filmmakers don’t get caught up in world-building and ignore one of the most intimate aspects of the books – namely, that EVERYTHING we encounter is shown through the eyes of young Miss Katniss Everdeen. It was a brave decision by Suzanne Collins to tell the story of “The Hunger Games” (and its subsequent sequels) completely through Katniss’ point-of-view, but the result was a fantastically intimate narrative where we spent the bulk of the story right in Katniss’ muddy, battle-worn shoes. We’re right there in Katniss’ head as she tries to piece together what’s happening, as she worries about her family, as she stresses about her feelings for the men in her life, and as she hopes and prays that her decisions will guide her safely through the gauntlet of the Hunger Games competition. We don’t learn anything as readers until Katniss learns it herself. Hopefully, Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and their co-scripter Billy Ray (“Shattered Glass”, “State of Play”) have found a way to replicate that experience on screen because Katniss’ sensitive, world-weary perspective was one of the major reasons we fell in love with the novels in the first place.

2. Give Us Some Great Gary Ross Dialogue

Hunger Games
Hunger Games
Photo credit: Lionsgate

While, yes, we think Gary Ross was a fantastic choice as a director for “The Hunger Games” movie, we’re almost more excited for the prospect of seeing what Gary Ross, as a co-screenwriter, contributed to “The Hunger Games” script. Because, while he is a formidable director, you might be forgetting that Ross has written (or co-written) a few movies with some really spectacular story structure and dialogue on display – namely, Tom Hanks’ “Big”, Ivan Reitman’s “Dave”, the vastly underrated “Pleasantville”, and “Seabiscuit”, to name a few. Each of those movies show off fantastic character work and cracker-jack verbal exchanges – “Dave” is easily Reitman’s most re-watchable movie since “Ghostbusters” – and we’re particularly excited to see the writer/director who brought such insight and vision to the teenage experience in “Pleasantville” hopefully bringing that same depth of vision to the teenage nightmare that is “The Hunger Games.”

3. Make Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch a Total Bad-Ass

Hunger Games
Hunger Games
Photo credit: Lionsgate

Have you noticed that, so far, “The Hunger Games” trailers have been suspiciously devoid of much footage of Woody Harrelson as Katniss’ Hunger Games mentor Haymitch Abernathy? Now there could be many reasons for that. The trailers may have needed to focus exclusively on Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss due to time constraints. Haymitch’s role may have been, regrettably, lessened in the scripting process. OR, and this is what we’re hoping, the filmmakers have PURPOSELY been holding back on Haymitch footage, because he’s the movie’s secret weapon. Haymitch doesn’t have the most active role in the first “Hunger Games” book – he spends much of the book stone-drunk until he becomes Katniss’ coach and conspirator right before the actual games – but he definitely makes a huge impression. He’s a big, wounded Falstaffian antihero, a guy who used to have ideals until years of oppression and heartbreak sent him spiraling into the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Throughout the story, he’s tough, funny, inappropriate, a jerk, a pitiable cautionary tale, an inspiring mentor figure – his character is so lived in and three-dimensional that he’s almost four-dimensional. Harrelson was an inspired casting choice for the role and, even with the lack of Haymitch footage so far, we’re really hoping that Gary Ross has been holding back with the Haymitch scenes because they have so much potential to be such epic memorable moments. Seriously, if done right, Harrelson’s Haymitch could be the Burgess Meredith to Jennifer Lawrence’s Rocky Balboa. Let’s hope that the best of Haymitch makes the final cut.

gaby0407's picture

I completely agree with all

I completely agree with all of these! I’m such a huge Hunger Games fan. I have high hopes for this movie!

Eryn's picture

I LOVE THIS ARTICLE

I LOVE THIS ARTICLE<3 omg it is honestly perfectttttt! anyone who tries to compare hg to twilight with a love triangle deserves a punch in the face. they compltely dispose of the whole point of the book and how the romance thing is just fuel to the fire. no where in the book is katniss completely driven by love, that just becomes an obstacle along her ultimate journey. EVERYTHING in the article describes exactly what i’m hoping to see. thank you!<3

Mrs. Coxon's picture

That first poster was awful.

That first poster was awful. As a Hunger Games fan who can stand back and not get brainwashed by anything Hollywood, that poster is just terrible. Lawrence doesn’t look like Katniss at all, dyed hair and big cheeks and all. In that poster she just looks.. blank. “Oh, I’m shooting a picture for the poster, whatever, no need to put any sort of emotion in my face, people are gonna love me just because I’m Oscar nominated and Suzanne supposedly chose me herself.” Whatever. The smart ones out there know you only got the role because you had a “very long audition alone with the director.”

Rodger's picture

The Hungers Games

It was a decent movie that was unfortunately spoilt by all the negative publicity it received due to all the prejudices comments made about the black actors.

I guess many people had their own perception of what they expect the characters to look like.

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