Translating a book–especially a popular one–to the big screen is a tricky thing. If you’re in need of confirmation on this, just look to the Harry Potter series, where the movies were just as often accused of getting it wrong as they were praised for getting it right. Should the filmmakers be more concerned with producing a good movie or being slavishly reverent to the source material? That’s a difficult question to answer. For my money, the film must be able to stand on its own while not entirely disavowing the core of what made it popular in the first place. The cast and crew must continuously walk a fine line between winning over a new audience and alienating the old one.
That having been said, let’s take a look at the most recent trailer for The Hunger Games.
Let me preface things by saying I’ve read all three books. Like others, I have an idea in my head in regard to what the characters look like. However, I’m willing to forego these images in favor of talent. Is Jennifer Lawrence older than the Katniss in my imagination? Yes. And yet I can’t say that I had another actress in mind for the role. Maybe Hailee Steinfeld from the Coen Brothers’ take on True Grit, but then Katniss is both an incredibly physical and emotional role. Judged solely on her performance in the trailer, Lawrence seems to have the chops.
The balance of the cast certainly contains a few surprises. Lenny Kravitz? We’ll see. Donald Sutherland elevates almost everything he’s in, while Elizabeth Banks is often underutilized. I still wonder if Hutcherson and Hemsworth might have been better served by switching roles, but only time will tell. I only have one real qualm. Though I respect Woody Harrelson as an actor, that foppish hairdo isn’t exactly doing it for me. I still think of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen’s The Comedian) as the ideal Haymitch. Harrelson’s got his work cut out for him in swaying my allegiances.
As far as the story is concerned, I appreciate that the trailer acts primarily as set-up. We’re not given a vast amount of footage from the actual event. The odds are slim, but I hope this is the last trailer we see prior to the film’s release in March. If this doesn’t intrigue viewers, then nothing will.
Perhaps the saddest part of this trailer for me is something most audiences might not even notice. Where is the creator recognition? Admittedly, Lionsgate is under no obligation to spotlight the writer of the original novel, but wouldn’t it have been nice to see Suzanne Collins’ name featured for even half a second? For that matter, why wouldn’t you put writer/director Gary Ross’ name on there somewhere? He’s only the guy behind such hit movies as Big, Dave, and Pleasantville. Strange.
On a final note–or notes, as the case may be–, anyone else feel that the trailer’s final piece of music, though part of the story, is also reminiscent of another film series already mentioned in this post? You can bet that didn’t occur by accident. Hopefully, things work out for the makers of The Hunger Games even half as well.