The Hunger Games: A Review

After over a year of waiting for the movie to come out, I have finally joined the millions of fans who saw the big screen adaptation of one of the best young adult trilogies of this generation. Needless to say, I am a huge huge fan of the literature so I had high hopes that the film will do the books justice.

The plot of  The Hunger Games revolves around the dystopian society of Panem, which is composed of 12 districts and controlled by the Capitol, where the rich and influential plot and manipulate the people with their promises and bravado. Each year, two tributes, a boy and a girl from each district, are chosen to represent their home in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death competition among all the tributes televised Big Brother style to serve as punishment for the rebellion that happened 74 years ago and remind the citizens what power the Capitol yields against those who try to go against them. During the reaping ceremony,  16 year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take the place of her 12 year old sister Primrose, who gets chosen as tribute, while Peeta Mellark, the mild mannered baker’s son who once saved Katniss from hunger by throwing her a piece of bread, becomes her male counterpart. In a battle where only one victor will emerge, their only hope lies with Haymitch Abernathy, their drunkard mentor, and the only person from their district who survived the games many years prior.

The plot was pretty much set from the beginning so the only thing in question for those who read the books was the execution. For me, the cast did a stellar job, especially Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. She was mostly weepy for the duration of the movie but her approach was quite understandable for someone faced with the possibility of death in the hands of her ruthless competitors. Josh Hutcherson also proved his detractors wrong by turning up a great performance as Peeta, whose vulnerability and easy charm is a stark contrast to the surly teenager roles he has been used to playing the past. Liam Hemsworth’s Gale Hawthorne is a bit of a change from the Gale in the books as the literary character is more intense and brooding. Hemsworth’s Gale is a bit more optimistic and charming in the short time he is exposed in the movie so that was a refreshing change. Word of warning, Team Gale fans would not find much to root about for their guy in this installment. Woody Harrelson was awesome as Haymitch. His dry approach to humor is a great combination to his lines. But the standouts for me in this film were newcomers Willow Shields as Primrose Eeverdeevn, and Amandla Stendberg as Rue, who turned up strong dramatic performances as Katniss’s sister and Hunger Games ally. Their scenes were actually some of my favorites in the entire movie. Very touching.

In an ensemble like cast like the tributes, there really isn’t much to expect exposure-wise, since there will be many (24 to be exact, minus the disposable characters) vying for moments throughout the movie. Alexander Ludwig (Race to Witch Mountain, The Seeker), and Isabelle Furhman (Orphan) had their fair share of face time but hardly registered because of the speed of the killings, which I will comment on shortly.

I was expecting a lot of bloodshed and brutality because that was the type of book The Hunger Games was. It had no mercy in its depiction of carnage because it wanted to emphasize how little the members of Capitol valued the lives of the young tributes from the districts. This  clicked with the readers on an emotional level and got them involved in the story. Unfortunately, the movie was very stingy when it came to the details of the killings (perhaps in consideration to young audiences) but in sanitizing the scenes, the movie lost some of the momentum that should have been established on the audience at this point.

I also felt that some important parts of the games were ommitted, and that most of the scenes focused too much on Katniss and her running. I understand that there was a strong tendency toward this happening as most of the book dealt with Katniss’s experiences, thoughts and feelings but I felt that filmmakers should have embellished a bit more on his part in order to sustain the sense of urgency that the Hunger Games should have.

I must give credit, however , to the depiction of the Capitol and its people, and the contrast to their excesses compared t the poverty in the lower district was a good way to get the message of inequality across. I did imagine the mining district 12 to be more grimy though.

All in all,  The Hunger Games was a good enough movie, but not as awesome as I expected it to be. It was not a bad effort per se but it could have gone the extra mile just to solidify its following. I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed. I would very well stick to The Hunger Games in my imagination, for now. For my fellow fans, may the odds be ever in your favor.

To check out my review of the book, click here.

To check out my entry on casting choices, click here.

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9 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: A Review

  1. I did my review/discussion of the film with Didion of the Feminema site. We both thought that Director Gary Ross was probably given the word that they wanted those tickets sold. Meaning the rating had to support the ability of 13 year olds to go to the movie without their parents. So the film was sanitized for just the economic reasons.

    Not having read the books, I had questions but over the long haul of the film, they weren’t all that relevant. For me, the movie was about Katniss with a clear subtext voiced whenever President Snow (Donald Sutherland) spoke. I was also shocked when the games received rule changes on the fly, and when the the people who I thought were in charge of monitoring and tracking were actually involved in creating circumstances to alter the outcomes.

    We gave the film something like a 4.0 on a 1 to 5 scale, or B+, or an 86 grade.

    I liked your review because of the statement you amde about how the dress and style of the Capital was so starkly different than the way folks lived back in the poorer districts. Meaning that inequality seemingly was at the heart of the story yet it wasn’t the story which was really the strength of Katniss’s will and determination.

    jmm

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    1. Thanks for dropping in JMM. I had the feeling that they had to tone down some of the scenes from the book because of audience considerations, and its probably because I read the books that I felt a bit shortchanged. No complaints on the approach and the acting though. Everyone was great 🙂

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