Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
I haven't written a film review for this blog before, but I figured The Hunger Games causes enough excitement in the book-reading community to warrant it. I just got back from seeing the movie - one of the benefits of having a journalist in the family is advance press screenings, so I was able to see The Hunger Games a few days before its release.
The good news is, I liked it. It's good and often it's very good. Jennifer Lawrence is awesome; she is an amazing actress and she nailed everything. She had exactly the right chemistry with all the other characters: Prim, Cinna, Rue - and Peeta and Gale. Obviously many things from the book are condensed for the movie, but even though Katniss and Gale only have about five minutes of screen time together, you still got it - that they are best friends, maybe more - and that's entirely due to how much Lawrence can convey with only a few words and gestures. The other actors are fine, but it's difficult to point out anyone else as a standout. It's totally Lawrence's show, and as she's the lead, that's how it should be. There's no doubt that this Katniss can inspire a revolution.
The nature of life in the districts and in the Capitol is very well portrayed; there are lots of 'scene-setting' moments that convey how poverty-stricken and hopeless the people of the districts are and how thoughtlessly hedonistic the Capitol residents are. In establishing the world of The Hunger Games, the film doesn't have the benefit of Katniss' narration explaining everything, so it includes several scenes between President Snow and Seneca Crane, where they discuss things instead. This works well for setting up the later installments. I remember finishing the first book and wondering where the story would go next, but the movie makes it clear right off who the villains are, what their agenda is and why Katniss is a threat to them.
Because I'm one of those annoying people who always say "But the book was better!" I do have some complaints. I know things have to be cut down in a movie, but I still think Katniss and Rue's relationship is totally rushed. However, I looked over at my sister (someone who hasn't read the books) and she was crying, so I guess it does what it's supposed to do - I was just disappointed not to get to see some of their scenes. I really liked the change the film makes to District 11's reaction, though. As I said, the movie does a great job of setting up the whole story.
The other thing is something I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's only the general feeling you get after finally reading or watching something that has been so hyped. Because while The Hunger Games is good, it's not the best movie ever made or anything. And rightly or wrongly, that disappoints me slightly.
Still, I think fans will be pleased and the movie did the books justice. Things have been cut or shortened (the Games only seem to last a few days, instead of weeks) but overall, I think everything important to the trilogy as a whole is there and the relationships feel right. As an adaptation, I think it's a success.
Rating: 4 stars