The early 2010s was a big time for young adult and teen fiction, especially in film. The wizard school films had just come to an end, the Twilight saga was closing up, and studios were looking for the next big series to adapt. There were a number of popular titles that they could pick from, and a lot of these would make their way to screens over the next few years. But the one that would move things away from magic and supernatural creatures to post-apocalypses and teen rebels was The Hunger Games.
Written by Suzanne Collins in 2008, The Hunger Games tells the story of Panem, a nation that has formed in the remains of a war that destroyed North America. Here the surviving population is split into twelve districts, with each district producing something that is needed to keep Panem running, such as coal mining, fishing, or lumber. Unfortunately, many of the districts live in poverty, whilst the Capital lives a life of luxury and extravagance. In order to keep control, the Capital holds the Hunger Games once a year, where two children from each district are randomly selected and forced to fight for the death on live television. When her younger sister is drawn for the games, a teenage rebel named Katniss volunteers in her place. Now Katniss finds herself travelling to the Capital, where she will have to kill in order to survive.
Upon the release of the book in 2008, The Hunger Games quickly found itself on the bestseller list, selling hundreds of thousands of copies globally. The book found an audience with teen readers, especially teen girls who connected to the central lead female character of Katniss. The book soon spawned a number of imitators, some of which would also go on to get movies over the next decade, and teen dystopia became the new big thing, with supernatural romance titles making way for stories of plucky teenage rebels overthrowing corrupt governments.
Thanks to the popularity of the book it was no surprise that the film rights were soon picked up, and in 2009 Lionsgate became attached to the project, alongside the independent film production company Color Force, who acquired the rights to the film just weeks before. Over the next year the script was adapted by Collins, who wrote the screenplay shortly after completing the third book in the series. Due to the book being written from the point of view of Katniss, several new scenes were added to the film in order to expand the story and provide extra context for the audience. Other changes included the removal of a subplot about enslaved people in the capital, details about how Katniss received her iconic mocking-jay pin, and a few side characters that were removed.
Once the film entered production the casting was announced to huge fanfare, with fans following rumours closely to try and find out who would be playing their favourite characters. After several rounds of casting it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence, best known for her role in X-Men: First Class would be playing Katniss, with her two love interests being played by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Other cast members would include Elizabeth Banks as the over-the-top Effie, the escort for Katniss from the Captial, Woody Harrelson as former Hunger Games survivor and trainer Haymitch, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the head of the Capital.
Upon release the film quickly became a commercial success, earning a worldwide total of $694.4 million against its budget of $78 million. The film was a smash hit, and the rest of the series adaptations were quickly announced, with it being revealed that the final entry in the trilogy would be getting split into two films. The film received positive reviews from critics, though some criticism was levelled at the over abundance of shaky-cam, something that would be dropped entirely from the subsequent films.
Thanks to the huge commercial success of The Hunger Games,Lionsgate knew that they had a big thing on their hands, more than tripling the budget on the second film in the series; something that definitely showed on screen, as the production value of the other movies in the series took a big jump going forwards. Despite being a huge success, and kick-starting the next big teen franchise, The Hunger Games kind of became a victim of its own success. With more money being poured into the other entries, with more and more lavish production values and special effects, and stories that become grander in scope, the first entry in the series has ended up feeling the most dull in comparison. It feels smaller, cheaper, and less visually entertaining than the others.
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Despite this, The Hunger Games began something big, a trend that would see other, similar books making their way to the cinema screens, such as Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave. Despite there having been big teen book adaptations before this, this became the point where other studios began to want to capture some of this magic, and was the start of a lot of these projects. Perhaps because it was the instigator, or maybe just because it was better, The Hunger Games ended up being one of the most successful and popular YA movies around.
The Hunger Games was released in the UK on 23rd March 2012.