Screenwriters: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Based on the novel "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
What was once known as North America has fallen into pieces, and Panem has taken its place. It is a nation that has been divided into twelve impoverished districts, ruled by a wealthy and authoritative Capitol. In response to past uprisings, the government has devised a cruel punishment in the form of an annual, televised event. Two children from each district between the ages of 12-18 are hand picked to fight to the the death until there is only one left. This is the Hunger Games, a film based on Suzanne Collins's novel of the same name.
The story focuses on the Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who impulsively volunteers to participate in the 74th Hunger Games in place of her younger sister who was originally picked. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, has also been chosen from her district, and together they head to the Capitol, preparing to fight for their lives in front of a nationwide broadcast.
While this kid-killing concept will definitely get people talking, it's been done before. The allegorical concepts that illuminate the development of the United States are something worth mentioning, but that isn't highlighted on screen too well, primarily because that's overshadowed by the "game" itself. While Suzanne Collins has built such a rich world with deep themes, none of that was really focused on. Instead, we get a movie about a girl name Katniss, and her will and determination to survive.
Still, without any profound messages, I found the Hunger Games fairly entertaining and enjoyable. It never gets boring, and Jennifer Lawrence leads a cast to this film's greatest strength: the performances. From small roles like Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Seneca Crane (Wes Bently), everyone did a great job in portraying their respected character. Lawrence, who plays a strong-willed, beautiful and devoted Katniss (a formula to a protagonist you can't help but root for), shows us she can be courageous and completely frightened when needed to be. She definitely gives us a masterful performance, both physically and emotionally, all coupled with a fantastic supporting cast.
The movie puts us in a dystopian future that does not look too promising, as people are living in hunger. But the moment we are are introduced to Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), an overly cartoonish looking character, I was scared to think how the Capitol, and its citizens, would look like. Well, once Katniss and company arrive to the city, we are introduced with Tim Burton-eqsue costumes and hairstyles, and I was taken away from the gritty, serious nature film had established. Sure, these colorful characters may have been a device to represent pompous, overly arrogant rich folk, but this could've been executed in a much better fashion. Colorful hair styles and bright glittery make-up kind of made everything unintentionally comical at times.
But aside the odd choice of costume, possibly the worst visual elements of the film were some of the set pieces, which were obviously shot using green screen and a lot of special effects. So how bad were they? Well, I've seen a lot better looking sets on cable television. It's strange, with a property that's as popular as The Hunger Games (which many predicted to gross over $100M its opening weekend), one would think more money would go into this. Unfortunately, the movie had to suffer with a $78 million dollar budget.
Wielding such controversial issues like kids murdering kids, the movie did a great job in showing the brutality of the kills, without exposing too much to make this deem "gory." Each death scene was nicely shot to give that shock and awe moment, all while still keeping the film's rating at a PG-13 level. It's a shame they weren't able to do so without having such shaky camera work. I'm uncertain if this was intentionally done to hide some of the gruesome fatalities, but it took away from a lot of the action, most notably the opening scene when everyone is brought to the hunting grounds. It's hard to keep track of all the action when what's in front of you in constantly dizzying out of control.
And while this movie may have one of the most touching moments on screen this year, that level of emotion never returns by the end. Even with the eventual love arc between the two leads, nothing reaches that midway peak. By the end of the film, we are left with a rather underwhelming finale without any sort of gratifying conclusion.
Sure, I understand that this movie is left open ended for two more films in mind, but as a standalone, The Hunger Games wasn't able to finish strong. Maybe when the other two installments release, I'll be able to look at it as a whole and appreciate the world and story that Suzanne Collins has created. That isn't to say this was a bad film, but I as expecting a lot more given the hype that this has received. Amazing performances (most notably that of Jennifer Lawrence) and an overall enjoyable movie, but at the end, I was still left unsatisfied.
7.3 out of 10
Review by: Richard Fagel
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