It feels pretty surreal that I’m writing this review right now. I’ve waited years to see the film adaptation of The Hunger Games, and last night, it finally happened. It’s plainly obvious that The Young Folks love The Hunger Games. Our first review ever was for the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. Since then, we’ve reported on almost every piece of movie news involving it. So, I definitely can’t say I’m unbiased. I’m ridiculously biased. I’m obsessed with these books, characters and now, movie. The film is simply incredible. Filled with strong performances, The Hunger Games is everything fans hoped it would be, and it will have everyone (including non-fans) asking for more!
If The Hunger Games have somehow managed to slip your radar, here’s a basic rundown of what it’s about. The story follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman from District 12. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where the United States is no more, and a country called Panem has risen. Panem is separated into 12 districts, each specializing in their own industry, and the Capitol, where the wealthy and powerful live. In an effort to maintain order and prevent war or rebellion, every year the Capitol hosts The Hunger Games, a tournament that takes two kids, one boy and girl, from each district and puts them into an arena to fight for the death. The winner of the Games is the last kid to survive, and he/she will win wealth and prosperity for themselves and their district. On Reaping Day, Katniss’ little sister is chosen from a lottery to be District 12’s tribute. Knowing that her sister is unlikely to survive the Games, Katniss volunteers for her sister and is entered to represent District 12, alongside Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutherson), in the Games. They are rushed to the Capitol, where they must impress audiences and sponsors, in order to receive aid while in the Games. After all the interviews and prep, The 74th Hunger Games begins! Who will die? Who will survive? It depends if the odds are ever in their favor.
If you’ve read the books, you’ll find that the film is very faithful to the book. Not only does it completely capture the essence of the story, but it enhances it. After watching all the trailers and clips, I thought I knew the vibe the film was going for, and I was completely caught by surprise. It was different, in a good way. Right from the beginning, I could sense that the movie had a different tone than what I expected. It felt realistic. Like very realistic. As if this was a documentary or news coverage. Director Gary Ross effectively makes the audience feel like they are right in there with Katniss. Frankly, it’s terrifying.
At two and half hours, the movie never drags. In fact, it’s paced briskly. You’re given so much, but at the same time, it’s not overwhelming. I particularly like that because it’s easier for non-fans to understand. I always felt like the Harry Potter or Twilight movies were more like compliments to the books. The Hunger Games manages to stand on its own. It’s such a clean adaptation. Parts are added for cinematic effect, others left out to keep the plot moving well. One of these I absolutely love was how well everything was pieced together. The setup and the way they integrate different elements into the story was brilliant. They used those pieces from Katniss’ past at the right moments, it works so effectively.
Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast knock their performances out of the park. They were all fantastic. Lawrence really grounded this movie with her portrayal of Katniss. It was deep, intense and emotional. Josh Hutcherson was the perfect embodiment of Peeta. The chemistry between Lawrence and Hutcherson was dead on. There’s one scene where the two are just staring at each other, and I’m telling you, the audience was in complete awe of them. While Gale isn’t showcased as much in this movie, he definitely has a presence, and Liam Hemsworth does an excellent job playing him. We get to see a little more of Haymitch, played by Woody Harrelson, than I expected. And I loved it! I knew from the beginning that Woody would be a great Haymitch and was proven more than correct. Elizabeth Banks’ Effie is played off as more of the comic relief of the film and she nails those scenes. Lenny Kravitz was sweet and amazing as Katniss’ stylist, Cinna. Stanley Tucci is a big scene-stealer as host, Caesar Flickerman. Donald Sutherland is subtly menacing and calculating as the evil President Snow. Once you get over Seneca Crane’s awesome facial hair, Wes Bentley offers a good performance as the Head Gamemaker. Amandla Stenberg is definitely a scene-stealer as Rue, one of the youngest tributes going into the Games. The rest of the tributes are great and menacing, especially Isabelle Fuhrmann as Clove and Alexander Ludwig as Cato.
There’s so much to love about this movie, but there were also a couple things I wasn’t too crazy about. I’m going to issue a brief **SPOILER ALERT** so I can mention what in particular I didn’t like. For one thing, I’m not a fan of shaky cam. Much of the movie is filmed that way, and it took me a while to get used to it. And yes, I understand why Ross chose to use that method. It did add to the film’s realistic feel. Just I, personally, could have been happier with less of it. Another thing I didn’t like was how they cut to Gale’s reaction when Katniss kisses Peeta. It not only re-enforced the love triangle, but it took away the focus from Katniss and Peeta. Because the pacing was fast, the relationship between Katniss and Peeta didn’t really get a chance to develop as much as it did in the book. I thought the cave scenes would really show that off, and the cuts to Gale looking jealous, was a bit annoying. Finally, I thought that they got a little Catching Fire with us with District 11’s reaction to Rue’s death. Having District 11 violently rebel and riot just didn’t feel right to me. I wanted a more meaningful and powerful reaction to Rue’s death. **SPOILER ALERT OVER**
Even though I point those things out doesn’t mean they are a big deal to me. The Hunger Games is a near perfect movie. It’s more than worthy of being such a big and successful franchise. As a Hunger Games fan, I’m very proud of this piece of cinematic work. Gary Ross, the cast and crew did a wonderful job on this film. I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel, Catching Fire. But in the meantime, I will head to tonight’s midnight release and maybe see it a billion more times after that. Don’t miss your chance on seeing one of the most thought-provoking films of 2012 so far! Trust me; the world will be watching.
The Hunger Games hits theater Friday, March 23rd at midnight!