Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012)
142 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson

Grade: B+

Like every highly anticipated film, there were dozens of questions surrounding The Hunger Games prior to its release. What parts of the beloved novel will be omitted in the movie? How will the film portray the futuristic world of Panem? How violent will Gary Ross’ adaptation be? Is anyone besides teenage girls excited for the release?

Having read the trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins, I can say that The Hunger Games did not disappoint. Yes, the premise is an extreme one: forcing twenty-four children a year to fight to the death in order for the government to keep control of its Districts, while having the entire thing aired for the nation to watch. But the film succeeds as an entertainment along with a social commentary on reality television and a totalitarian state.

At the center of attention we have Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence). She helms from District 12 and cares for her family that consists of her younger sister Prim and her mother, who hasn’t been herself ever since the death of her husband during a coal mining accident. Katniss and her best friend Gale hunt everyday to provide their families with food and to trade for other necessities. At the annual reaping, Prim’s name is announced as one of the contenders of the 74th Hunger Games. Desperate to protect her sister, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place, a gesture that has never happened in District 12 before. So the games begin.

The film quickly runs through the pages in the novel devoted to explaining the preparation to The Hunger Games. The Capitol is a glamorous place, one that Katniss has never seen before. She is advised by her mentor, Haymitch (Harrelson), to make friends so sponsors will help her win, but her thick skin and edgy personality isn’t one that easily warms anyone’s heart. She’s fortunate that her District 12 counter-part is Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), because he’s as charismatic as they come.

The strength of the film relies on the characters, which is why two-thirds of the film focuses on the preparation to the slaughter-fest rather than the events in the arena. This might disappoint those who clutter the theaters expecting a blood-bath like Battle Royale, but at the end it is certainly the right decision. And Katniss is the most engaging character of them all. Her difficult childhood taught her the survival skills to make an impression during The Hunger Games, but it’s her kindness and big heart that wins over the world watching.

With a cast that is led by the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence, along with veteran actors Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland, no one worried that the acting would be anything but top-notch. Even Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth were a delight in a movie full of talented young actors. Their acting chops will definitely be put to the test in the following films and I am eager to see how they manage.

While the material isn’t all new (Battle Royale, The Most Dangerous Game), the whole picture is quite the spectacle to experience. And fans of the novel, despite minor changes here and there, the movie adaptation stays very faithful to the book. Ross decides to shoot in shaky-cam during the majority of the violent sequences to blur out the spilling gore when knives are being plunged into a teenager, which is why the film was leniently given a PG-13 rating.

There’s no doubt that Jennifer Lawrence will be launched into stardom from her role as Katniss. I’m a bit skeptical to how Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson will hold their own during scenes with Lawrence in the upcoming, more dramatic films of the trilogy, but then again a great actor always makes everyone else look good. She was already an incredible actress as she shown in Winter’s Bone and Like Crazy, but she’s about to be everything that her character is in The Hunger Games: The Girl On Fire.

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