- User Rating: Excellent
Bang For The Buck
Pros:Pretty much everything, with acting leading the way
Cons:Nothing too large
The Bottom Line: The Hunger Games meets or exceeds all expectations, making it one of the first must-see films of 2012
Until last year, I had never even heard of The Hunger Games, let alone been a part of the craze surrounding it and the other books in the trilogy. Frankly, if it hadn’t been one of the free books available to read as part of the Amazon Prime program, I might never have been introduced. Once I started reading, I was hooked, unable to stop myself from finishing one book after another until I was consumed with the story. So naturally, when the film adaptation of The Hunger Games was released last week, I had to face the masses to see how the story would work on screen. Not surprisingly, the movie was every bit as good as I might have hoped.
The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of North American called Panem, where the rich and powerful Capitol rules over 12 poorer subservient surrounding Districts. In the past, the Districts attempted to rebel and were ultimately crushed by the Capitol. As punishment for the rebellion, every year a boy and girl is selected from each district to compete in the Hunger Games, a bloody fight to the death where only one can survive.
It is in this world, in the coal mining area of District 12 that Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) lives a desolate life with her sister Prim and their mother. Her world is turned upside down when Prim’s name is selected to be the “tribute” for the 74th annual Hunger Games, leading Katniss to volunteer in her place. She is joined by the male selection for District 12, Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson), as they are whisked by bullet train off to the Capitol.
Once on the train, Katniss and Peeta are introduced to their “mentor” Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson), the only tribute from District 12 to have previously won a Games before. A perpetual drunk, Haymitch seems less inclined to help than to stay inebriated upon first meeting. Soon, they are at the Capitol, where they quickly realize that putting on a good show is more important than anything else…at least until it is time for the Games to start…
It is hard not to walk away from the film completely impressed with the product that was put on the screen, whether you are a fan of the books or not. I have read the books from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I went to the movie with my brother, who not only hasn’t read the books but didn’t so much as have an idea as to what the premise was going in, as he wanted to be completely surprised by the experience. He loved the film as well. So if you are holding back because you are intimidated by a lack of previous knowledge, don’t worry. The film gives you more than enough background to enjoy the story.
One of the biggest strengths of the film is the acting of the main stars. Jennifer Lawrence is already a certifiable star at age 20, with her performance in Winter’s Bone in 2010 being only a signal of incredible things to come. She perfectly embodies Katniss here, showing her full emotional, especially when she is in the confines of the arena. Harrelson is also remarkably good as Haymitch, though I’d be hard pressed to find a role that I don’t think he would be able to handle, let alone a sarcastic alcoholic with an emotional edge. Even Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly effective as Cinna, even if I found the Cinna/Katniss relationship a little forced. The one person that didn’t impress me at all was Liam Hemsworth as Gale, who seems incapable of acting his way out of a paper bag.
The pacing of the film is very good, with a nice balance of both the build-up to and the actual Games themselves. I was afraid that they would try to sensationalize things for the masses by focusing too much on the violence and the action, leading me to be pleasantly surprised by the overall storytelling of the movie. The camerawork is strong as well. For all those who complained about the “shaky cam” views of the violence in the arena, my retort would be that it is likely a necessary evil as a way to negate how much blood and gore could be shown while still maintaining the necessary PG-13 rating for maximum theater crowds. In any circumstance, I still thought the film was very well shot from start to finish.
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with The Hunger Games and can’t wait until the end of the 2013 for the next installment to hit the big screen. With great acting, good direction and solid storytelling, there is something for everyone, whether you are a die-hard fan or new to the series. 4 out of 4 stars
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Movie Mood: Action Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing