The Hunger Games Review

At long last, The Hunger Games movie is here. Whether you are excited because you have been waiting for this moment since you finished the book, distraught with anticipation, or because you’re sick of the hype, your wait is finally over. Personally, I was skeptical – as an avid book lover, I feel that Hollywood movies based on books often find a way to solidly ruin them.

I will admit, after seeing the movie, I was uncertain as to whether I liked it. Had I not read the books, I felt that I would have wholeheartedly enjoyed what I had just seen. However, after some deep though and serious consideration, I must acknowledge that while the movie does deter from the book (heavily in some places), the movie is definitely a treat for any fan, both those who have read the books, and those who have not.

In the books, we follow the story from Katniss’ point of view, often noting her true emotions and thoughts through a heavy string of inner dialogue. One thing that was concerning to me was how this would be portrayed in the movie, especially as this has much to do with things that happen later on in the series. While Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) remains the focal character, and certainly the one you root for, the viewers are not privy to her inner thoughts, something which actually plays surprisingly well into Katniss being a more relatable character on-screen.

In addition to making Katniss more relatable, the ability to separate the storyline from a singular viewpoint allows the viewer to feel less restricted by the perspective. I think that the movie took advantage of this point and expanded on the ability for the viewer to insinuate certain things that were blatantly spelled out in the books. Overall, this created a heavier element of anticipation throughout the plot, as plot points and character motives were revealed more slowly.

Because of the shift in perspective, there were things that the viewers were privy to that the book did not divulge. For instance, when the Tributes are in the arena during the games, we watch as a team of uniform-clad Capitol minions control the horrific scene below, all under the watchful (and all too eager) eye of head Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley).

The slow, plodding pace of the books has been replaced by quick, almost choppy cuts. At first, I was annoyed and confused by this directorial choice; however, once the actual Hunger Games began, I was grateful for the cuts, as the subdued the brunt of the brutality. That being said, if you are eager to see this movie for the blood, guts, and gore, stay home. First off, these are children – and for being someone who watches Saw without flinching, the death of the extremely young kids really got to me (yes, I cried).

For such a young cast, the emotional presence was something that both surprised and impressed me. Obviously the content is fairly mature, which I thought might have caused some of them to push too hard to convey the complex emotions that come with both fearing for your own life, but not wanting to kill an innocent child such as yourself; however, every actor matched the necessary emotion with the intensity and depth that it required.

I was particularly surprised by the performance of many of the Tributes, specifically Rue (Amandla Stenberg) and Cato (Alexander Ludwig). I don’t want to give too much away, so all I will tell you is to watch for their scenes, as each have their time to shine.

As for the rest of the cast? Stellar, superb, ridiculously talented– any positive adjective you can think of describes this cast to a “T.”

Jennifer Lawrence – I guess I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am, but she really pulled it off. Just enough relatability to be more likeable on screen than she was in the books, but still that slight edge of mystery that makes you wonder what else is going on in her head.

Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth – each was cast perfectly in their roles as Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. I have to say, seeing the movie solidifies why I am on Team Peeta. Josh Hutcherson just has this indefinable, infectious energy that permeates the screen. Gale’s presence in the book is pretty slim, so it was no surprise that his presence in the movie was fairly spotty as well; however, I think Hemsworth did a really good job in his portrayal of the “maybe friend, maybe more“ Gale.

The rest of the cast, though they play more of a supporting role to the larger story, each delivered a truly memorable performance. The list is long, but all of them deserve recognition. Stanley Tucci ‘s performance as Caesar Flickerman was refreshing and provided a bit of lighthearted banter to balance out the heavier, dramatic plot points. Additionally refreshing was the presence of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. His presence on screen was easy and effortless, and his interactions with Jennifer Lawrence solidify why he was such a good choice for Katniss’ confidante.

Additional cast members include Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. Bentley’s performance as the head Gamemaker was perfectly unsettling, and the addition of his intricately designed beard gave me the chills. Sutherland was a fine choice for President Snow, and I think that will become even more evident as the sequels come out.

The Capitol inhabitants look as though a unicorn barfed on the cast of Star Trek, and while it is completely ridiculous, it somehow totally works. A prime example of this would be District Twelve’s escort, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). From the costumes, the wigs, and the makeup (and a prosthetic nose?), Banks completely disappears into a whorl of frilly frocks, 18th century-esque wigs, and cakey white makeup. Though insane, she looks amazing, and she plays the part of the uptight capitol goon flawlessly.

In addition to this elaborate web of frills and floof, the additional costumes, makeup artistry, and special effects are quite incredible. Everything from Katniss and Peeta’s costumes during the parade to Katniss’ fire dress , and from Peeta’s camouflage to the Muttations is pulled off with serious flair.

Almost everything in this movie is pulled off splendidly – and apart from the changes that are made from the book, it was a really enjoyable movie. I know I have heard a lot of people questioning what at age it is appropriate for kids to see this movie – and really, while it is up to the parents, the filming was done in a way that gives the younger kids (think pre-teen) the opportunity to see this. The PG-13 rating is “for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens.” I would say that the violence is attributable to something like Star Wars or X-Men, so I would consider that when thinking about letting your 11-year old see the movie.

While I am kind of sad to think that I now have at least eighteen months before Catching Fire comes out, I am grateful to be done thinking about this movie for awhile. All of the hype has gotten to me, I’m afraid. Still, I think that if the series continues in this direction, the odds are ever in their favor that this adaption will have been a successful one.

The Hunger Games – 8.5/10

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