I am convinced that Hollywood keeps bashing out these literary movie incarnations just to make me look silly! Okay, so maybe those 'in the know' in Hollywood don't actually know who I am but again I am faced having to write a blog based on the first of a trilogy of novels I had never heard of while the rest of the known world seems to be already in love with and, in awe of the stories written by Suzanne Collins that chart the plight of a population from a not too distant future in North America, now split into 12 Districts after a historic revolution. Having lost, as seeming punishment each District must annually offer up one boy and girl (against their wishes) aged between 13 & 18 as a sacrifice or 'tribute' as they are known to attend as contestants in the Hunger Games - a deadly seek and destroy game where only one can survive to the applause of the city residents.
To break this down for the non-literate or anyone over 30 years old, think of it as "The Running Man" meets "The Fifth Element"? Is everybody on the same page? Good, we will continue.
Sadly, I was not too taken with it initially but before you lynch me, stating its the next big thing and is going to make Twilight look like yesterdays laundry let me explain why.
Over the past few years I have seen first instalments of The Golden Compass and the Last Airbender, both seemingly quite good but alas, having parts 2 & 3 axed due to a poor turn out in cinemas. This one though apparently has the legs, taking a whopping $155m in it's opening US weekend alone, 3rd behind Harry Potter Part 8 and the Dark Knight! So maybe this one wont go away as I initially might have guessed.
I first thought that the kids having to take part would all be treated as prisoners but in all honesty it was the opposite - although a fight to the death and feared in the individual districts its a real heroes welcome for the contenders as they are treated to a fortnight of 'celebrity' during their induction to the media and their subsequent training that sees the overall winner collect great riches and accolades for their victory. Something treasured by those in District 1 who are trained specifically for the honour whereas for our stars of the movie hailing from District 12 its quite the opposite - an almost certain untimely death and one dreaded among the parents and their kin.
My comparison are definitely accurate, more so the Fifth Element one for the costume, pomp and ceremony from the higher classes which almost mirrors characters seen in the Bruce Willis classic whereas the Running Man part may be better described as Gladiator but you'll need to draw your own conclusions.
The cast is awesome though - the main two contenders from District 12 are the stars of the books portrayed brilliantly on screen by Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class) and Josh Hutchinson (Mysterious Island) with a back room ensemble including Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz and an almost unrecognisable Elizabeth Banks (Miri from Zak & Miri make a Porno as well as much more) as Effie Trinket.
The big news is the cutting of 7 seconds of footage that allowed the classification board to award this a 12A from a 12. Seemingly to allow a far wider audience into it. Well, whatever they did actually cut from the final presentation still wont make me take my 8 year old along to see it as its kept a lot of the violence that made this such a winner in the first place. Kids still die, squirrels still get skinned and Lenny Kravitz still manages to reasonably act quite well which was a pleasant surprise but for any parent, I'm convinced that 10 is about the max for this movie.
Then there's the actual end of the movie. Having not read the books I cant express my opinion on how closely it relates, I can tell you it seems wide open for a sequel so it looks like they've not closed it all off in one go and I suppose time will tell if part 2 ever makes it to the big screen. At this time - none of the cast on IMDB are listed as being in pre-production, at least not this side of 2013 so for all you die hard fans out there, its fingers crossed.
As far as trilogy's go it has potential. The back story and the characters were believable and well acted. It was brilliantly cast and I completely bought into the class difference and the games themselves. As a first try, it did pretty well, but the real test will be if the rest of the story makes it to the silver screen - for that we will have to wait and see.