‘The Hunger Games’ Movie Review
Opening in the most screens for a non-sequel movie in history, The Hunger Games is likely to break various box-office records. Based on Suzanne Collins’ ultra-popular novel, many have predicted the franchise as the next Harry Potter or Twilight. So, does the adaptation live up to the books? In short: of course!
The Hunger Games primarily focuses on 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she tries to live through the annual Hunger Games. Set in the unknown future, the Games are the corrupt Capitol’s way of reminding each of the 12 districts what will happen if they revolt. As punishment, they are forced to watch a male and female from each district fight to the death arena-style. Twenty-four “tributes” go in, one comes out.
When her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is selected at the annual Reaping, Katniss volunteers herself. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is drawn as her male counterpart. Of course, no movie would be complete without a love triangle, leaving Gale (Liam Hemsworth) on the outside looking in.
Previous Games winner Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) trains the two in survival tactics and strategies of surviving the elements, each other, and themselves. The process is torturous, but the people have seemingly no way of escaping the Capitol’s control, lead by the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
The ride to the finale is highly cinematic, making Collins’ adaptation a magnificent choice for a film. Although the book suffers from a simplistic form, it also makes it hard for a movie to screw it up. Among all movie adaptations, this seems to be one of the most common criticisms.
One major difference, though, involves the narrative style. In the book, we’re stuck with a first-person narrative, which makes it difficult to see events that don’t involve Katniss. In the movie, we get exterior scenes that could add to the film. I was scared of its effectiveness, but the first scene involving President Snow and Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) shows it can be done well. This scene also showcased what Sutherland could bring to the movie.
Like the book, the first third focuses on setting up the actual Hunger Games. These events pale in comparison to the actual action. It’s fun to see it visually, but we’re eagerly waiting for what we all know is coming: the Games.
Also like the book, the film showcases Katniss’ personality. Yes, she’s a tough, loving girl that we all want to survive. However, she is equally as stubborn, making some of her decisions (or indecisions) frustrating. This isn’t a knock on the book (or movie), since a “perfect” character wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Katniss is frustratingly fun to watch. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class) was really the perfect choice for the role. At first seeming emotionally-numb, Katniss transforms into the survivor she needs to be, even though her social inadequacies dominate her personality. Of everything in this film, I’m most satisfied they could pull of Katniss.
Once the action hits, director Gary Ross does a fantastic job of creating camera movements that make you feel right in the thick of things. Whether we’re watching Katniss flea through the forest or endure a tracker jacker attack, the cinematography is excellent. Created and marketed as a “tentpole” production, Ross thinks outside the blockbuster box. This is something I particularly appreciate.
At a sprawling 142 minutes, The Hunger Games seems more like half its runtime. The premise is undeniably suspenseful. However, the relationships that go along with the action are hit-and-miss. The Peeta-Katniss dynamic seems a little too cheesed-up, while the subtlety of the Gale-Katniss one seems to win out. I do admit, though, I felt the same thing happening in the first book (and my feelings changed by the end of the series).
Move over Harry Potter and Twilight. The Hunger Games are here to join you. With an accessible and engrossing premise that has themes of poverty, war, and political corruption, the film lives up to the hype despite a particularly rushed ending. It’s bound to get plenty of haters (like all pop culture phenomena). However, I’d be hard pressed to find a fan of the book that doesn’t, at least, enjoy the film. Really, it’s the fans that deserve this visual adventure anyways.
The odds are in your favor to enjoy this movie.