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Review: The Hunger Games Official Illustrated Companion

When photos from The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion surfaced on Tumblr from lucky early shoppers on the East Coast in early February, I couldn’t help but look at them. I know people had mixed reactions, some being upset at spoilers and others having a feast with their eyes. For those worried about being spoiled with their book experience that first day the pictures surfaced, not to worry because the book actually contains much more than what was initially flying around Tumblr.

I read through the entire companion and found it absolutely fascinating. Written by Kate Egan, Suzanne Collins’ editor at Scholastic, this companion brings to the Hunger Games fandom a wonderfully composed guide of the book’s journey from Suzanne Collins to Scholastic to Lionsgate and soon to the world. While fansites can piece together all the information gleaned from interviews and Q&As to come up with a rough picture, Egan provides you with the real thing; a true insider’s look into the rise of The Hunger Games.

Separated into six parts (History, Cast, Places and Props, People, Filming, and Legacy), the companion is fully illustrated, immersing you into the original story and the upcoming movie all at once. The History section gives you insight into the book’s publication and how the first three people to ever read the book were simply astonished over what Suzanne Collins had created. From there, it takes you through the steps producer Nina Jacobson took to make sure she was the one to produce the film and then on to the way the book moved the executives over at Lionsgate. Then Gary Ross. It’s flat out amazing and awesome just how far back you find true fans of the series bringing the story to the point it’s at today.

Part 2, Cast, covers the journey the producers, writers, and Gary went through to find their star cast. Now it wasn’t just the editors, the producer, the executives, and the director that were fans. Their stars were fans. The tributes were fans (Isabelle Fuhrman says she burst into tears when she was cast.). A particular favorite part of mine from this section is the behind the scenes photo of Gary laying in a field with Jennifer and Liam. (below)

Part 3, Places and Props, follows the extensive process behind finding the right look for Panem in North Carolina. Digital renderings of District 12 and the Seam provide you with a unique look into the vision they had going in for the Seam and the eventual final set shows you just how amazing set decorators can be. There’s a really cool photo of a tree constructed in a warehouse to film an Arena scene. Perhaps Katniss’ tracker jacker scene?

They provide photos of models of the avenue of the tributes and the Capitol train station and even give you a pre-CGI image of the Gamemakers’ control room (the Gamemakers sit at empty green screen counters). Gary Ross talks about the building of the Cornucopia and how they decided to stray from the book in this area and how the final product was something he was particularly proud of. Sadly, I can’t say I’m sold on the look of it just yet.

Being a rather obsessive Hunger Games food fan, I was extremely happy to see several pages dedicated to Capitol food. I thought it was amusing how they mention coloring quail eggs, as I’ve used this technique to make cute bentos many times.

Part 4 covers the processes the various makeup, hair stylists, and costume designers went through to achieve looks for everyone and everything, from Katniss’ braid to Haymitch’s hair to Seneca Crane’s beard. This section includes some seriously gorgeous stills of Capitol citizens and even gives you a glimpse of gems stuck to Katniss’ bare shoulder. Prepare to be unnerved when you see Caesar Flickerman’s teeth in all their glory. One look at the makeup room with dozens of chairs and mirrors gives you a glimpse of the magnitude of the Capitol production. The details of this section are laid out in large type quotes captioning photos.

Part 5, the Filming of The Hunger Games, gives you page after page of behind the scenes photos of the production, including a lot of great shots of a rather foxy Gary Ross. Part 6, Legacy, is the shortest section in the entire book but wraps up the companion nicely, including a touching photo of the Everdeen sisters embracing on Reaping day.

Overall, the Official Illustrated Companion immerses fans into the production timeline of the film without being overly riddled with spoilers and cleverly managing to keep the Arena cloaked in secrecy. When I first saw the cover for the book, I admit to being let down, but the cover by no means reflects the quality of the pages inside. I happily recommend this to any fan of The Hunger Games that’s eager to take in every possible detail of the movie. For people determined to wait until the movie is out, I recommend having this ready for you when you get home from the midnight premiere because this is the best look you’ll get into the making of the film you’ve just seen come alive on the big screen.

Disclaimer: A review copy of The Hunger Games Official Illustrated Companion was sent to us by Scholastic. The opinions expressed above are our own.

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All posts under the "Crystal Watanabe Archive" were originally written by Crystal Watanabe and posted on Original comments have been deleted and discussion closed.

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