Following the recent release of the teaser trailer and my own very recent completion of the books, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the upcoming film adaptation of The Hunger Games, slated to open March 23, 2012. While I can’t deny that I await this film with much excitement, I have to say that my excitement is tempered—and somewhat overshadowed—by apprehension.
Anyone who has read the three-part series by Suzanne Collins is well aware of this simple fact: the series is dark. There’s no getting around it. Throughout the course of the storyline, children and young adults are sacrificed, mutilated, tortured, sent into battle, and driven insane. Now, anyone who has not read the books is probably backpedaling in horror. Well, don’t. The books are extremely well-written and engaging, the characters are three-dimensional and deftly crafted, and the series makes a rather sophisticated commentary on the effects of war and totalitarianism on human behavior. In short, this is not a series you’ll want to overlook.
I bring up the bleak, violent aspects of the book not to scare anyone, but to raise the question: How can one manage to faithfully adapt a work of young adult fiction so unrelentingly grim and gory while keeping it viewable for its intended audience? To anyone who suggests that the violent scenes be simply omitted, I would argue that that would defeat the point of the movie. The Hunger Games, at its core, is an unflinching look at what happens when a society loses all respect for human life. To gloss over the consequences of the series’ central lesson would be insulting to the creator as well as the fans.
Another solution: Resort to off-screen violence when the time comes to depict a grisly death. However, if one applied this idea too liberally, innumerable significant events would take place off-screen. This route simply wouldn’t permit the movie to retain the emotional impact the book sports by not shying away from heavy themes.
To make myself clear, I am no opponent of dark children’s fantasy. My favorite books and movies growing up most certainly fall into this category and I will tirelessly defend the inherent value in presenting children with darker themes in a thoughtful, non-threatening way. I simply wonder how a book as violent as The Hunger Games could be successfully translated into a worthy film counterpart.
In any case, we’ll have to wait until March to see how the adaptation fares. May the odds be ever in this movie’s favor!
Watch the teaser trailer: