Review - The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012), PG-13, 142 minutes - A year ago, an old college friend had recommended that I read The Hunger Games. I did, and I couldn't put the book down (or either of its two sequels).  After reading the trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I eagerly waited for the movie that had been announced that would star a very good young actress named Jennifer Lawrence who had received a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars for Winter's Bone and who had also been in last summer's blockbuster X-Men: First Class.  This all lead to Gary Ross's big screen adaptation ranking #2 on my most anticipated movies of 2012 list earlier this year and it didn't disappoint.

For those not familiar with the books, The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian nation known as Panem (basically a post apocalyptic North America) in which the all of the rich and privileged folk live in the Capital which runs the country.  The rest of the country is split into 12 districts, each with a different specialty that provides a resource for the country as a whole (i.e. District 12 is the mining district).  At one point in the distant past, there was an uprising in which the poorer districts revolted against the Capital.  The Capital overcame said revolt and implemented The Hunger Games each year, picking (by lottery) one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district to fight to the death in a customizable arena until only one remains.  The games are broadcast throughout the nation a la reality television.  I don't want to get into the plot too much more because it is hard to talk about with out giving away too much.

I thought that Jennifer Lawrence did a very good job bringing Katniss Everdeeen to life.  I feel that her role in Winter's Bone really prepared her the part of Katniss as both roles are quite similar - young, strong women who are already the primary providers for their families for varying reasons.  I must admit that I was a little bit leery when it was announced that Josh Hutcherson was playing Peeta Mellark, but he absolutely nailed it - nice guy next door, underdog, unassuming, clever, and love-struck.  The dynamic between Katniss and Peeta didn't feel forced at all (other than in the way it was supposed to be I mean), Lawrence and Hutcherson work well together.  The rest of the cast was also quite good. Especially Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Ceasar Flickerman), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), and Donald Sutherland (President Snow).

Gary Ross not only directed The Hunger Games, but also wrote the screenplay along with series author Suzanne Collins and they kept it very faithful to the source material.   I felt that they did a great job portraying the varying views of the games throughout Panem,  from the pure enjoyment of entertainment for those in the capital to the downright horror and struggle for survival in everyday life for the poorer districts.  A few things were left out of the movie as one would expect due to time constraints, but really nothing major.  The origin of Katniss's mockingjay pin differs from the book, but the change fits with the story so it doesn't upset anything.

There is quite a bit of violence for a PG-13 rated movie, so if you've got any younger ones who want to check it out, you may want to give it a preview first.  I mean, it is a movie about teenagers fighting to the death so you've got to figure there would be some right?  Most of the carnage takes place off screen because of the way that it was edited, but it is most definitely implied.  And in a couple scenes there is a good amount of blood splatter.  That being said, The Hunger Games is absolutely worth checking out.  If you haven't read the books, then don't worry, they set up everything that you need to know.  If you have, you'll be pretty happy with how this film turned out.  For me, it lived up to the hype that had built up over the past year, and I can't wait for the sequels (two books, rumored to be split into 3 more films).











*****SPOILERS*****

- Although it differed form the book, I kind of liked the fact that the mockingjay pin was used as a gift between Katniss and Prim.

- I really liked how they used the short flashback scenes to show how Katniss and Peeta knew each other before they were tributes.

- They cut out quite a bit of the training sequences from the book, but they fit all of the important parts in - the animosity between tributes, Katniss encouraging Peeta to show off his strength to gain some respect, and of course the great shooting-the-apple-from-the-pig's-mouth scene.

- Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly good as Cinna in limited screen time.  It was subtle, but when he showed Katniss that he snuck her mockingjay pin into her jacket before the games, he just looked like he knew more, like he was a part of something bigger (as we find out in Catching Fire and Mockingjay).

- He also had limited screen time, but Liam Hemsworth was a good selection to play Gale.  I think he'll do well as Gale's role expands in the sequels.

- The Avox's really don't play a role in the film version of the story.  They appear in one of the games-prep scenes before Katniss meets Cinna, but their characterizations are not explored at all like they are in the books.



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