Movie Review: The Hunger Games
As I sat in my screening waiting for THE HUNGER GAMES to start, I realized I hadn’t been this excited since the final HARRY POTTER film. Let me get this out of the way right off the top, as one of the most anticipated films of the year and from someone who is a huge fan of the books, THE HUNGER GAMES does not disappoint.
Every year children ages 12-18 must enter their name into a drawing where one boy and one girl will be chosen from each of the twelve districts to enter THE HUNGER GAMES. Here these 24 children or tributes rather must fight to the death with only one victor, televised for the world to see.
After her twelve-year-old sister’s name is chosen at the Reaping, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), in a heroic gesture, steps forward and volunteers to take her place. Along with her fellow tribute from District 12 Peeta, they must find a way to survive as long as possible. But before entering the games, they must be prettied up and groomed for display as they are paraded around through costumes and interviews for the wealthy to observe. Judging on their looks, skills and personalities, odds will be given, bets will be placed and sponsorships will be chosen. To help them along the way is their caring creative stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and their drunken mentor, the only past winner from District 12, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). Getting them ready won’t be easy as the games are at a different location in a different environment each time. From weather conditions to vicious animals and insects, the game’s conditions can be controlled almost completely by the game master Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and his crew.
I regularly dislike reading books before seeing the film because quite frankly it ruins the movie. There is so much freedom in a book because one’s imagination is limitless. How is someone else’s vision (in this case, director Gary Ross) supposed to cram our beloved story into roughly two and a half hours while achieving every one of our expectations? Let me ruin the surprise, he can’t. But as someone who has read and loved the excellent novels by Suzanne Collins from which the film was based on, I was less upset with what was left out and more impressed with what was added. Other than perhaps feeling rushed at times because of too much content, Ross did an amazing job fitting and combining scenes to make sure the story flowed for film. In fact, the movie breezed by, full of memorable scenes and absent of a dull moment.
The hand held shaky camera at the beginning was perhaps at times a bit disorienting, but still very effective as it captured the surreal and confused frightened feelings these children must have while waiting to find out if their name will be chosen. Stripped from their homes and families only then to be forced to enter into a battle to the death. The production of the Capitol where the clothing, makeup, food and building structures inhabited by the wealthy are elaborately grand in color, style and gaudy overindulgence is nothing short of spectacular. But where THE HUNGER GAMES really separates itself from another inferior popular teen book to film series (TWILIGHT) is the inventive writing and terrific acting.
Covering social issues within class and leadership while still providing entertaining action and relatable characters, the story is top notch. The actors are all perfectly cast and all turn in strong performances. Lawrence, Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as Gale all have a deeper presence that anchors the film as the three young leads. While Harrelson and Donald Sutherland as the evil President Snow give a much needed veteran presence for support. But the standout for me was Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the Ryan Seacrest of the games. From gut bursting laughter to solemnly pretending care, His jovial understanding of showmanship as he interviews each tribute is pitch perfect. His emcee commentary throughout the games is not only entertaining but also a clever way for the audience to understand what exactly is happening.
THE HUNGER GAMES is a violent dark film about children dying and people being entertained from it. It’s a hard PG-13 but I think it handles the issues seriously and cleverly while providing a strong heroine for females with bravery and moral lessons for everyone. Using proper musical cues through a singular singing voice, techno beats or even silence, THE HUNGER GAMES is emotionally stirring and entertainingly riveting.