Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games review

The Hunger Games is the first book in Suzanne Collins' best selling trilogy. The book is set in a dystopian society where an evil dictator rules and forces two tributes, a boy and a girl, from each of the twelve districts to the hunger games, a televised fight to the death that reminds the districts that they are helpless to the power of the capitol. The Hunger Games was first published in 2008 and instantly became a sensation. The rights to the book were bought by Lionsgate, a mid-major studio that's largest hit came in the form of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Lionsgate brought in Gary Ross to direct and co-write the script with author Suzanne Collins. They cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and filmed in North Carolina with an $80 million dollar budget. The book had the potential to be as massive as Twilight or Harry Potter, but for every successful adaptation, there is also an Eragon or Percy Jackson. But The Hunger Games falls into the first category. The Hunger Games has become an excellent film and stays faithful to the book, while putting its own touch on the story.

As most people know, The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), who volunteers for her sister Prim (Willow Shields) at the reaping for the hunger games. Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta (Hutcherson) are put into an arena and forced to fight twenty-two other tributes including the brutal Cato (Alexander Ludwig), the vicious Clove (Isabel Fuhrman) and others. Katniss is helped by her drunken mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) before the arena and is assisted by the young Rue (Amandla Stenberg) while she is in the games.

The film's pacing is fantastic and where the book is slow, the film speeds it up. The book is told in first person, and the movie changes that so that we can follow what's happening outside the arena while Katniss is stuck in the games. Some people have complained that the film moved too fast through scenes, but I think they did just fine. The cast is amazing. Lawrence is powerful as Katniss and Hutcherson is good in some scenes, but not as good in others. The supporting cast is even better. Elizabeth Banks is fantastic as Effie Trinket and the best part is Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Perfect. Wes Bentley also gets a ton of screen time as Seneca Crane, a character only mentioned in the books.

The violence is also handled quite well. The cornucopia scene is probably the most violent, but the shaky camera work prevents any focus on gore. The violence is not really showed as much as suggested. The worst ever shown is Cato snapping the neck of a young tribute. Other than that, the violence is not shown viciously.

The capitol is amazing and some of the most wonderful set designs I've seen. District 12 is also handled quite well. It shows the horror and harsh conditions some of the poorer districts go through excellently. The reaping is extremely powerful. The horror of kids get picked to essentially die is bad enough to read about, but worse to see actually happen.

The movie is also extremely faithful to the book. All the important scenes and set pieces are there and all the stuff that is different are just small details. The Hunger Games is an excellent film. Gary Ross did the near impossible: make an emotional, gritty and violent movie that's faithful to the book while appealing strongly to the masses who haven't read it. The Hunger Games will enter the success column of Hollywood movies adapted from books and it won't be long before we see Catching Fire and Mockingjay on the big sceen.

THE FINAL GRADE: B+                                           (8.4/10)

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