“The Hunger Games” grossed a whopping $155 million domestically over the weekend, making it the third highest opening film of all time behind “Harry Potter and the “Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “The Dark Knight.”
The profits have nearly doubled the film’s $80 million production budget, exceeding the expectations of Lions Gate executives.
In a marketing method, which is becoming increasingly popular amongst big name studios, “The Hunger Games” finds success by bringing a best-selling novel to the big screen. As seen with the “Harry Potter” series and the “Twilight” saga, filmmakers have the promise of a widespread, pre-established reader fan base, and continue to take full advantage.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl in a post-apocalyptic America now called Panem, which has since been overrun by drought, famine, poverty, and an oppressive government dictating the 12 districts making up North America. Each year, two individuals are randomly selected from each of the districts to partake in a barbaric, yet televised kill or be killed competition. When Everdeen’s younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), is selected for combat, Katniss quickly volunteers to take her place to represent District 12, alongside Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
Katniss and Peeta begin their training for the event, but to their dismay, they are informed much of their competition has been training for the games their entire lives. With only one survivor to be chosen each year, Katniss and Peeta find trust in their assigned mentors, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), who have previously come out as victors of the competition.
Following their training, Katniss and Peeta are thrust into the wilderness, an already dangerous environment made even more formidable by Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), and his group of technicians who use futuristic technology to add threatening elements to the woodlands arena, home of the 74th annual hunger games.
Some form alliances, while others seek solitude as their strategy in prevailing as the lone victor amongst the 24 selected combatants. Katniss finds herself outnumbered and, despite her skillfulness with a bow, under trained. The staged environment allows the whole world to watch, and for Katniss, winning the game will be the only way to save her life and honor her district.
The film is successful for a number of reasons, most apparently because it adheres to the interests of a widespread demographic of viewers. There is action, sci-fi, romance, drama, and an abundance of suspense to appease males and females, young and old.
“The Hunger Games” introduces a fascinating futuristic world, beautifully shot, with quality acting and a pace that scarcely slows.
Furthermore, the film brings a likeable underdog into a life-threatening situation, giving viewers someone to relate to and someone to root for (one of the golden ingredients of a good movie).
To the credit of the novel, the script is unique yet complete, sealing a successful film while allowing a sequel and ultimately, a trilogy, as planned by Lions Gate.
As with many films based on novels, “The Hunger Games” has the ability to attract a mob if it betrays its literary roots. Though I have not read the novel, my understanding is there have been no slayings or theater fires thus far. Vehicles have maintained their upright positions, and there has been no mention of creating a real-life death arena for the filmmakers. Hopefully, for their sake, they get the sequel right as well.