Starring: Gary Ross
Directed By: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
After reading this series last year, I couldn’t wait for it to come to the big screen. While some movie buffs cast it aside as being a kiddie version of Battle Royale, this story is on a far grander scale and chalk-full of potential. Add to this the casting of the very talented Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, and let’s break some Twilight records.
For those if you that don’t know the plot already, it’s a rather darker “young adult” story. Following an age of war and famine, North America now consists of the country Panem, split up into 12 districts and a Capital. After a rebellion by the districts, the Capital instituted an annual event called “The Hunger Games.” A man and woman between the ages of 12 and 18 is sent from every district to fight to the death until a single victor remains. In the “coal-mining” District Twelve, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) cares for her mother and sister by hunting for game with her best friend Gale (Hemsworth). It’s her bravery and fight that keeps them alive, and when her sister Prim is selected for the upcoming Games, it’s those same traits that propel her to volunteer.
This movie is very good, but for those that read the book, there may be some slight disappointment (as there always is). The most significant positive trait of the Hunger Games is Jennifer Lawrence. While she may have been unknown to some before this movie, those days are gone forever. Lawrence breathes passion and genuineness into every scene, every line - and considering she is basically in all of them, that helps the movie out a lot. There are a number of scenes that could have been average or even cringeworthy due to writing/other actors, but Jennifer saved them almost every time. Outside of her fantastic performance, the Hunger Games obviously has a lot going for it in the screenplay. Suzanne Collins herself helped write the screenplay, and in doing so brought a deep and thrilling story from from the pages of her book to theaters. With the amount of interesting characters (while there isn’t near enough screen time and development for some of them) and the seemingly impossible reality, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Lastly, I’d like to mention something I both liked and had a problem with - the violence/grittiness of the film. In making it PG-13, they obviously weren’t trying to make something as gruesome as Battle Royale, but I didn’t want them to soften up the source material. In hindsight, though, I feel they were able to show enough violence to properly show how barbaric it was, yet keep our focus on the characters and their emotions. This ties in to my main problem with the movie - what to cut from the book and what to keep.
Sure, a 6 hour movie would have been enough to show every worthwhile scene, but unfortunately most people wouldn’t sit through that. Ross and Collins seemed to approach this assuming most viewers hadn’t read the book - honestly a fair assumption, but a strategy that sells the readers short - therefore, there are a number of extended scenes to establish the setting. Curiously enough, though, District Twelve and the characters there are passed over rather quickly to get to the Capital. In doing so, the viewers don’t learn nearly enough about Katniss’s background as the readers of the book did.
Overall, The Hunger Games was an extremely entertaining film. It’s not a perfect movie adaption, but outside of The Lord of the Rings there are very few. Lawrence gave an outstanding performance that should providence a solid foundation for the rest of the series - one that will be very welcome in erasing Twilight from everyone’s memories. With fluid action, unique characters and a fascinating world, The Hunger Games earns an 8/10.