The Hunger Games is a science-fiction film directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), based on the best-selling young adult novel by Suzanne Collins. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic country of Panem, where twelve boys and twelve girls must participate in an annual death-match called The Hunger Games, a televised event in which the “tributes” must fight to the death until one remains standing. It follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her little sister’s place in the games. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. Distributed by Lionsgate. (Running Time: 142 minutes)(Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images all involving teens)
Hunger Games throws you right into the poverty-stricken District 12, with Katniss doing her best to provide for her family by hunting squirrels and other animals to trade for other necessities. And soon enough the young men and woman from the district–between the ages of 12 and 18–are brought forward to be picked. Then the fast-paced tale never lets up, as we are propelled into an overly-colorful futuristic city, fine-dining, and charismatic style.
I have not read any of the Hunger Game books, so I can only speak for other friends who have told me that it was loyal to the original story, and it made sense in the spaces they had to cut out. I thought it was a somewhat clever concept. Teenagers forced to compete in a future-times Olympics who have to fight to the death to win (notice the slight sarcasm in that statement)! But I hear the story gets even better as the series goes on.
One good factor the film had was in its casting. Jennifer Lawrence caught my attention in her “contemporary performance” in Winter’s Bone (2010), which achieved her first Academy Award nomination. So I have been paying special attention to her, and look forward to where her career will take her. But in this film, she delivered a believable, but simple-acted part. There is one shot near the beginning that she is in complete shock, which I thought was very impressive. Just that look. Than we move down the line to an actor quickly rising up my list, Stanley Tucci. An underrated actor, who is incredibly universal. I was so amused with his extremely charismatic, very script-witted part that he handled perfectly. And Donald Sutherland as the bad guy?–I did not know what to expect. He gave off a very subtle, very controlled bad guy, which was appropriate for the story.
An issue I had with the film was the camerawork. It was too shaky. Now, granted, it could have been a lot worse–like The Hurt Locker (2009). Though I can see that Gary Ross wanted the audience to feel like this was a claustrophobic, very roller-coaster movie, the jerky camera movements distracted me at some of the crucial scenes. The editing was occasionally choppy as well. But the film was lit well, and I believe it is the first film I have seen on the big screen filmed on the “newest-best-thing” in digital filmmaking, the Arri camera.
I tip my hat to the costume/makeup people, for being brave to design such outfits and wigs. Geez…I was caught off guard by that much–well, pink and purple and sparkles. James Newton Howard’s score was not bad; my favorite aspect of it was the very elementary Mockingjay notes sung by the actors.
Perhaps in the end I’m being a little too judgmental on the production side of things. In my opinion, I was distracted by some of the failed spectacle–even though some stuff was pretty impressive–but was paying most of my attention to the actors. But I would see it again, don’t mistake me! There were some compelling moments of the film I was caught up in, and at the end, it does a good job of hooking you into seeing the next installment in the series, which should be coming out next year sometime, titled Catching Fire. In the end, 4 out of 7 stars. If you are planning to watch this sometime soon…
…”May the odds be ever in your favor.”