Soul stirring characters and a futuristic premise make it riveting. So let the games begin.
Welcome to The Hunger Games. The odds are certainly in favor of them destroying the box office numbers. They have basically everything a film needs to appeal to a wide range of audiences; even those who have never cracked the pages of your books. Soul stirring characters and a futuristic premise make it riveting. So let the games begin.
The story seems violent in theory; a yearly televised game where 24 teens battle to the death until only one remains victorious. 12 oppressed districts have to offer up their young people as a way of paying tribute to the Capital for past rebellions. When Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) steps up to take the place of her younger sister during “the reaping” she must use her hunting skills and the advice of her mentor (Woody Harrelson) to survive. Also from her district is a young boy named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Together they try to form alliances while showing the Capital that the games will not define them.
It is hard to critique this film and not talk about the popular book series from which it comes. A large majority of people who flock to see this have read and love the books. But to compare it isn’t fair. Books are always better. It is common understanding. So what works for the film as a standalone piece? First and foremost the performance by Lawrence. It is spectacular. She completely embodies everything that Katniss is in written form. That is vital because without it the movie has no heartbeat. Unless Jennifer 100% nails her part the rest of the film is just pomp. The filmmakers can afford to fudge a little on the other characters but this one had to be solid, and it is.
Also, audiences will appreciate the way the writers handle the violence and dark theme. This could have been an R rated blood fest but instead they keep the focus on the main thing; Katniss and her survival. The quick pans and edits keep the blood shed to a minimum. It is still there and you get the point of the games but it isn’t sensationalized. You are able to separate yourself from the fact that kids are killing kids. Plus, like in the books you realize that they are forced to do this by a corrupt political society and not for the joy of sport; even if the game creators promote it that way. The other dynamic characters from the book are here, even if different than in your head. The gaudiness of the Capital and its citizens is captured fairy well. Stanley Tucci is a wonderful Caesar Flickerman, but Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) needed even more flamboyance.
Now for what doesn’t quite work. There is a loss in the film of the undercurrent of sadness and depravity of the Districts. There are scenes in the film that quickly pass by and you plead for them to stop and explain how powerful those moments are. Whereas the book so perfectly conveyed the raw emotion of some acts, you lose that on the screen. Without the solid backstory and explanation of why people in the districts do certain things, and why they are so rebellious even in their subtleties, the impact on screen is diminished. Though the film is good as a whole, some of the most potent moments go unnoticed. If they decide to release the next two books in movie form these elements are significant.
As mentioned, THE HUNGER GAMES is rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens. Have your kids read the books? Then take them with no concern. Do they want to see it for the hype? Then you have to know your young person. The books are full of political and social undertones that your kid needs to understand. Granted those over 14 are completely safe, but you need to take these things into consideration with the 13 and under members of your family. Adults will enjoy this as well. They will be better equipped to grasp the severity of what is being asked of the parents in the districts. Regardless of your age it is highly recommended (though not a deal breaker) that you read the book first. Having the back story and character emotion will certainly enhance the viewing experience. I give it 4 out of 5 tiny parachutes. They got the main things correct and that makes it action packed, heart pounding, and redemptive.
Review copyright 2012 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.