I recently finished reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and I can’t get over how ripe the story is for movie adaptation. Seeing as the first cinematic installment hits theaters next year, I’m apparently not the only one who wised up to the potential of these dystopian novels. Although the task of adapting the first book into a screenplay already went to an Oscar winner instead of me, I still find myself pondering how I would write the script and what reference movies/books I would use in addition to the original source material. The more time I dreamily devote to this idea, I realize there are a surprising number of relevant predecessors that may influence the way “The Hunger Games” movie is made. In case you’ve got an insatiable craving like me and simply can’t wait for The 74th Hunger Games to begin, here are some films that might hold you over…
- “The Running Man” (1987) – Much like Collins’ novels, this film centers on a TV game show in which contestants must literally run for their lives. The defining characteristics of this movie, however, are that it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and has a production value that screams of the 1980s. Big hair and spandex aside, the film actually strikes a good balance between comedy and action, and I found it really entertaining to take note of all the parallels between the futuristic world of the movie and that of Collins’ writing.
- “Gamer” (2009) – Instead of running for their lives on national TV, the incarcerated criminals of this Gerard Butler vehicle are real-life pawns in a deadly video game. Although this film never quite comes together due to editing missteps and a few other factors, I can’t help getting the sense that the script and cinematography once had a lot of potential. Watching it and willing myself to overlook its flaws, I find myself hoping that the upcoming “Hunger Games” movie borrows a few things from the general aesthetic and mood of “Gamer.”
- “Fifth Element” (1997) – A hectic future landscape and an exploitative media machine clearly link this Luc Besson film to the above-mentioned movies, but the real reason it’s making this list is its villain. Gary Oldman’s evil character is in this movie is exactly the way I envision Collins’ character President Snow. Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich ain’t too shabby in this sci-fi/action flick either.
- “Quiz Show” (1994) – While this drama is tonally a huge departure from the other movies on this list, I think the characters’ struggles with a rigged game show strongly relate to certain emotional elements of “The Hunger Games.” It may take place in the 1950s and may not be remotely dystopian depending on how you view that time period, but this Robert Redford (directed, not acted) piece would be a must watch if I were adapting Collins’ work.
- “Surviving The Game” (1994) – Do not watch this movie unless you have a serious soft spot for both Ice-T and Gary Busey, or unless you’re the famous screenwriter Gary Ross…This movie is about a homeless man who’s suspiciously invited on a very deadly hunting expedition with some scheming wealthy people. Although I felt it was a waste of my hour and thirty minutes, the flick did produce the happy side effect of reminding me about a Richard Connell short story called “The Most Dangerous Game,” which I read back in junior high. Connell’s story has the same premise as this b-movie, but the fact that the 1920s work of fiction is somewhat of a classic makes me think it had some bearing on Collins as she wrote “The Hunger Games” nearly a century later.
Psst: Another short story that reminds me of “The Hunger Games” is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – have you read Jackson’s story, and what did you think? Have you read “The Hunger Games” and do you have an appetite to see it on the big screen? I would love to hear your thoughts and anticipations! Leave a comment.