A sci-fi allegorical tale about a dystopian future in which adolescents battle one another to the death so as to prove the power and influence of a totalitarian government doesn’t exactly scream teen-friendly material on paper. Yet, The Hunger Games trilogy not only fits that description, but has also tapped into the under-18 constituent of readers with great success.

Pleasantville‘s Gary Ross is directing The Hunger Games adaptation and plans to deliver a movie that avoids being branded with an R-Rating from the MPAA and yet still retains the brutal power and atmosphere of author Suzanne Collins’ source material.

Being labeled “the next Twilight” is kind of a mixed blessing, but Ross feels that The Hunger Games‘ teenage supporters deserve a chance to see 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen’s struggle to survive a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world on the big screen – without restrictions. As the filmmaker said to EW, “It’s their [the 12- and 13- and 14-year old fans] story and they deserve to be able to access it completely. And I don’t think it needs to be more extreme than [PG-13].”

That won’t be an easy task; Hunger Games contains some rather graphic scenes of carnage and reflects the gruesome nature of its influences, which includes that of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, as well as Collins’ personal experience (she was a child when her father was sent overseas to fight in the Vietnam war). Producer Nina Jacobson’s claim that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels and Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy are “as different as night and day, with very little in common other than the youthfulness of their protagonists” is indeed quite accurate – even though the Twilight finale, Breaking Dawn has its own adult-content related issues.

Bella and Edward take the next step in their relationship in 'Breaking Dawn'.

Minimalism is not often the strategy employed by most Hollywood horror productions nowadays, but there’s an undeniable power to implied violence. Films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom disturbed many a moviegoer back in 1960 and still pack a punch today, yet both contain little to no bloodshed or gratuitous onscreen violence. A number of contemporary foreign auteurs and indie filmmakers employ the same tactics used in those older films to heighten the impact of their own work – perhaps none more notably than Michael Haneke, creator of the acclaimed Hitchcockian thriller Caché and the self-reflexive thriller Funny Games.

Hunger Games features plenty of disturbing material and easily lends itself to an adults-only movie adaptation, but making the film version a gory R-Rated affair would miss the point of Collins’ source material. Part of the novel’s ability to unnerve is due to the fact that readers are forced to envision the horrible events and violence themselves – instead of watching scenes where performers are splattered with fake blood or lose limbs via the magic of prosthetics. If Ross leaves the violence more to the viewers’ imagination, it could better communicate one of the story’s primary themes (i.e. that real-life carnage is disturbing and not a form of entertainment).

Pre-production work on the cinematic version of The Hunger Games is ongoing and the project is not expected to reach theaters until 2012. In the meantime, share your feelings about a PG-13 adaptation in the comments section below.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

“Katniss and Peeta” Image via Hunger Games Fans