The Hunger Games opens March 23. It’s expected to earn anywhere between $70-$100 million at the North American box office alone.Jennifer Lawrence has been so widely praised she can already – I kid you not – be considered a potential Best Actress Oscar 2013 contender. As for Gary Ross’ film version of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling novel – which Collins herself helped to adapt to the big screen – things are a little iffier.
Reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive – though mostly positive with reservations. Sometimes, strong reservations. There have been favorable comparisons to Twilight, even though The Hunger Games is quite different to the vampire-human love story in terms of tone and feel.
True, both are adaptations of books written by women (Stephenie Meyer wrote the Twilight Saga book series), both are centered around a female character (Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan), both feature more than one love interest (Josh Hutcherson / Liam Hemsworth, Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner), both feature nasty villains, and both have led/will lead to sequels. But that’s about it.
In addition to Winter’s Bone‘s Jennifer Lawrence, The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song‘s Liam Hemsworth, and The Kids Are All Right / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island‘s Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games features Movie 43 / Man on a Ledge‘s Elizabeth Banks, Rampart / The People vs. Larry Flynt‘s Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada‘s Stanley Tucci, Salvation Boulevard / The Healer‘s Isabelle Fuhrman, MASH / Ordinary People‘s Donald Sutherland, American Beauty‘s Wes Bentley, Snow White and the Huntsman / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ Toby Jones.
The Hunger Games director Gary Ross’ two previous features were Best Picture Oscar nominee Seabiscuit (2003) and Pleasantville (1998), both starring Tobey Maguire. Preceding the film on March 23 screenings will be the teaser for the Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner fall entry The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, directed by Bill Condon and adapted by Melissa Rosenberg.
Below are snippets from several reviews of The Hunger Games, which currently has a 100 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics, though figures will surely change once more reviews are posted online.
“Dystopian sci-fi, tense action-thriller, soapy teen romance, grim social commentary: The big-screen adaptation of The Hunger Games certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, and although it’s mostly successful, one can’t help wishing the film could have better integrated its different tones and agendas. … [T]his much-anticipated film is anchored by Jennifer Lawrence’s strong central performance, which helps compensate for a somewhat derivative storyline and worldview.” Tim Grierson, Screen Daily.
“The Hunger Games is that rarest of beasts: a Hollywood action blockbuster that is smart, taut and knotty. … [I]t’s a compelling, lightly satirical tale of a post-apocalyptic entertainment industry, set in a dystopian US in which the terrified contestants are selected via lottery and second place does not exist. …
“Riffing off her recent role in Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence gives a performance of stoic, solemn intensity as Katniss, the coalminer’s daughter who finds herself schooled in the art of killing …” Xan Brooks, The Guardian.
“Probably the greatest achievement of The Hunger Games, and there are many, is that in adapting a phenomenally successful teen novel its creative team have produced something that works as a film, not just as an adaptation of a book. There’s no required reading before entering the cinema in order to ‘get it’, and it’s well above the ‘all your favourite bits but with pictures’ business that has become the accepted standard. … The Hunger Games as a novel has been dissected, expanded and retooled into something intelligent, immersive and powerfully current.” Olly Richards, Empire.
Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games was directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), from a screenplay by Ross, Shattered Glass / Breach‘s Billy Ray, and Suzanne Collins based on Collins’ own novel. The sci-fier/adventure drama set in a post-apocalyptic world stars Winter’s Bone / X-Men: First Class / Devil You Know‘s Jennifer Lawrence, The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song‘s Liam Hemsworth, and The Kids Are All Right / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island‘s Josh Hutcherson, Movie 43 / Man on a Ledge‘s Elizabeth Banks, Rampart / The People vs. Larry Flynt‘s Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit‘s Stanley Tucci, Salvation Boulevard / The Healer‘s Isabelle Fuhrman, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain‘s Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild‘s Jack Quaid, MASH / Ordinary People‘s Donald Sutherland, American Beauty / Loveless / The Time Being‘s Wes Bentley, Snow White and the Huntsman / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ Toby Jones.
“The arrow hits an outer circle of the target in The Hunger Games, an amply faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ monster young-adult best-seller that could have used a higher blood count in more ways than one. As she did in her breakthrough film Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence anchors this futuristic and politicized elaboration of The Most Dangerous Game with impressive gravity and presence, while director Gary Ross gets enough of what matters in the book up on the screen to satisfy its legions of fans worldwide.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter.
“The first novel in Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy is a futuristic fight-to-the-death thriller driven by pure survival instinct, but the creative equivalent of that go-for-broke impulse is absent from director Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games. Proficient, involving, ever faithful to its source and centered around Jennifer Lawrence’s impressive star turn, this much-anticipated, nearly 2 1/2-hour event picture should satiate fans, entertain the uninitiated and take an early lead among the year’s top-grossing films. Yet in the face of near-certain commercial success, no one seems to have taken the artistic gambles that might have made this respectable adaptation a remarkable one.” Justin Chang, Variety.
“The perils of allowing a successful author to adapt their own work for the screen are demonstrated once again in this absorbing but cluttered take on Suzanne Collinss’ highly regarded post-apocalyptic teen epic. This is a gripping, impressively mounted action movie - but its adherence to finicky details in the novel means that there’s not enough time to fully explore Collinss’ complex world or the characters who inhabit it. Jennifer Lawrence … excels as Katniss …” Tom Huddleston, Time Out London.
“What’s remarkable is the lack of cheese. Tacky effects, corny dialogue and creaky performances are all shown the door. We repeat: not the new Twilight.
“If not wholly true to Collins’ words (missing in action: the mayor’s daughter, the Avox girl), it gets the spirit bang on; like its source, this is both credible science fiction and a teen tale that doesn’t patronize or pander to its audience.” Matthew Leyland, Total Film.
“Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, the saga’s hero … Lawrence wholly embraces the film’s emotional currents and makes the more outlandish material – a fusion of sci-fi and soap opera that shouldn’t work – resonate in a real and centered way. Her Katniss isn’t a cardboard saint, but rather, a fully-drawn character. Much as the first Twilight film was improved by Kristen Stewart’s performance, where she clearly had not been told she was in a vampire movie based on a horrible book, no one clued Lawrence in that she could coast.” James Rocchi, Box Office Magazine.
Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.
Isabelle Fuhrman / Alexander Ludwig / Jack Quaid / Leven Rambin / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.