Oh the agony of being a fan! Specifically a fan of those gotta-read serial books that recapture a youthful ardor for deep, long reading that we’d mostly thought gone in these quick-burst internet times. I’m speaking of Harry Potter, of Game of Thrones, and, most pertinently to the moment, of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games novels, the first of which, called The Hunger Games, has just been turned into an at times thrilling but too often frustrating feature film.
The agony part comes when, all popcorned up and sweaty ticket holding, one is finally in the theater after a long and arduous wait, ready to watch whatever magic has been conjured from such treasured pages. In The Hunger Games’ case, there isn’t much joy to be expected — this is a brutal, unrelenting story about a dystopian future world in which children from once-rebellious outer districts are forced to compete in to-the-death gladiatorial combat for the delight of the cruelly whimsical denizens of a wealthy, oblivious Capitol. But there is certainly the hope that the filmmaker, in this case director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), has figured out how to present the story in a way that satisfies what fans already have living large in their heads. It’s a tough assignment, and also a nerve-wracking experience for the fanboy viewer — what if they get this wrong or omit this or elide that? Then the whole thing will be ruined! Not just the movie, but in some strange way the book too, the whole thing of it will be tainted by a manifest motion picture that just didn’t get it right. We board this expectations rollercoaster over and over again, sometimes to be pleasantly surprised (Harry Potters 3 through 7.0), but other times, all too often in fact, end up dismayed (The Golden Compass).