I am not at all ashamed to declare myself as one of the countless people who watched The Hunger Games on opening day. In fact, many millions of people bought tickets (many of us in advance), and The Hunger Games is showing very promising early box-office returns with a projected likely $150 million weekend, which (if true) would beat every one of the opening weekends for the respective Twilight Saga movies. Of course, this success isn’t at all unanticipated because Hunger Games caters to a much wider-reaching audience than the tweenage girls (and their mothers) that swooned for Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. At the very least, The Hunger Games has already achieved the fifth-best opening day ever and the best opening day for a non-sequel movie:
Building on a strong midnight launch, The Hunger Games had one of the best opening days ever at an estimated $68.25 million. That ranks fifth on the all-time list behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($91.1 million), New Moon ($72.7 million), Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($71.6 million) and Eclipse ($68.5 million). It wound up slightly ahead of The Dark Knight ($71.6 million), and also topped Alice in Wonderland ($40.8 million) to set a new record for a non-sequel.
The Hunger Games looks even more impressive when subtracting its $19.74 million midnight gross–throughout normal business hours, the movie earned $48.5 million, which is actually more than Deathly Hallows Part 2 made in that time ($47.57 million). In fact, The Hunger Games only ranks behind Spider-Man 3 ($49.8 million) and The Dark Knight ($48.7 million) in non-midnight opening day grosses.
The Hunger Games received a strong “A” CinemaScore, and should finish the weekend with anywhere from $135 million to $160 million.
[From Box Office Mojo]
While there were indeed unreasonably high expectations for this movie, I felt little to no disapointment at all where the cinematic product was concerned. Mostly, I appreciated that the screenwriters paid special attention to the fact that while the book is written in first person (from the perspective of Katniss), the screenplay demanded some careful modification to translate it to the big screen so that it would satisfy both readers of the books and neophytes alike. The final result was not only true to the source material but also added and subtracted to the original story to subtle but great effect. What follows is slightly spoilerific, so consider yourself warned. SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
First of all, the acting was superb with the three “leads” — Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta), and Liam Hemsworth (as Gale) — all doing their jobs as well as the script would allow. Even more stellar were the supporting players, which included Stanley Tucci (as Caesar Flickerman), Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (as Haymitch), and Lenny Kravits (as stylist Cinna), who all threatened to steal the show but knew how to reign their performances before it became too much. Of course, Haymitch wasn’t nearly as crotchety and drunk as he was in the book, and the movie made him a much more sympathetic character as well. Mainly, this difference was due to time constraints, which was the main weakness of this adaptation, but director Gary Ross did a phenomenal job of pacing the story and pushing it towards a timely conclusion. Of course, The Hunger Games wasn’t a perfect adaptation, but it came damn close.
When it comes to additions to the book, I enjoyed the fact that the movie contained numerous “behind the scenes” moments that showed the gamemakers before and during the games themselves. Not only were there some extra moments that showed Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) being interviewed by Caesar and being grilled by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), but we also got to see some fairly deft arena manipulation from the games’ control room. All of these moments added to the experience and also eliminated potentially prolonged moments of expository hangups from the mind of Katniss. While these new revelations may have tied up a few minutes of the movie, they also broadened the scope of the story and enhanced the experience.
However, I also found that the movie also eliminated a few necessary elements from the story for time’s sake. Unfortunately, the character of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was shortchanged quite a bit and received an abridged opportunity to show his motivations within the games as well as his reasons for falling for Katniss. On the other hand, we got to see more than expected from Gale (Liam Hemsworth), including his reactions to Katniss’ behavior within the arena, than the book originally dictated. So I guess it all balances out in the end, and Hutcherson did a great job with the opportunities presented within the script. Overall, his Peeta could’ve used more screentime and opportunity to develop the character for the audience, but Hutcherson was believable even if the screenplay didn’t do him many favors in explaining his motivations as more than a lovesick puppy dog.
Ultimately, the movie was as satisfying an experience as fans of the book could possibly hope for. I cheered in all the right spots, and I cried when Rue (Amandla Stenberg) met her untimely end. The special effects were a bit uneven — although the fire wall of the forest looked very believable, Katniss’ “Girl On Fire” dress left something to be desired. Also, while the interpretation of the District 12 setting felt perfect, the Capitol experience didn’t seem fully fleshed out. However, these little omissions are mere trifles compared to the success of the overall movie. Will I see it again? When it comes out on DVD, my order will be placed.
UPDATE: Box Office Mojo is reporting that The Hunger Games will finish the weekend with an estimated $155 million take. That would put the movie in third place for best opening weekend of all time behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight.
Photos courtesy of AllMoviePhoto