Friday, August 17, 2012


Written by Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross
Directed by Gary Ross
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

President Snow: Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

Having just finished reading the incredibly addictive Suzanne Collins novel, and having fallen completely in love with the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, in the process, I could barely breathe before seeing Gary Ross’s film adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES. I was downright giddy going in. I was also horribly worried that the whole thing would just fall apart before my eyes. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen but what if it did? I would be crushed. Forget about me though. The legions of fans that have been intensely anticipating this film would revolt. I exaggerate but you get my point. And so, I found myself holding my breath quite often throughout the film - either the action was incredibly tense or I was worried the novel’s more delicate nuances and pivotal moments would become missed opportunities. And so that you can just sit back and enjoy the incredible ride without the worry I went in with, I assure you in advance that THE HUNGER GAMES will satisfy all of your cravings.

Now, THE HUNGER GAMES isn’t just for people who have the read the book, y’know. For those of you out there who haven’t, the global hysteria over the film must seem a bit bizarre. This is likely especially true when the trailers elude to some form of fight to the finish tournament, reminiscent of THE RUNNING MAN, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fortunately, there is way more to it than that. Taking place in the North America of the future, now known as Panem, the “Hunger Games” are an annual sport where one boy and girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, are chosen from each district to compete in an arena until only one is standing. There are 12 districts in all and each one is worse off than the last. The games are a reminder from the ruling Capital, where no one goes without, to the peasants in the districts of their failed revolution from years past. The games remind them that they do not really matter, but yet they are forced to not only participate in them but even follow them and celebrate them. Katniss (played here by the mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence) is the “tribute” from District 12, one of the least likely to come out alive.

Of course, when a series of novels is as loved as THE HUNGER GAMES is, the film adaptation is always greatly scrutinized for inaccuracy and loyalty to the original text. In the novel, Katniss is always the focus. We never leave her perspective at any time. The film cannot do this. Instead, it shows the viewer the other side of the games. While Katniss describes her disgust for the barbarism of the games in her own head in the novel, here Ross must show us what it is she is repulsed by. The change in point of view keeps the pace brisk, which is perhaps one of the greatest changes in tone from page to screen, as well as one of my only disappointments, albeit slight . By staying in the games at all times in the book, there are days when nothing happens, where dehydration is a real threat. As this would bore film audiences, the action has to be broken up. As a result, some moments can feel a tad rushed (I won’t say which ones; you’ll see) but the intention to honour the original work is so honest and pure, that all is quite easily forgiven. Besides, this isn’t the book. This is the movie and it finds its own tone, one that is at times, quiet and contemplative, while disarming and profound at others.

To some, THE HUNGER GAMES might seem like the next big tween craze but it is the furthest thing from that really. Yes, Katniss is torn between Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the man she enters the games with, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), the man she left back in District 12, but this is not another TWILIGHT. Katniss is a complicated character with a complex background that makes her reticent to love, makes her fiercely guarded, and Lawrence does the character great justice. She has moments where she embodies both strength and fear simultaneously and you wonder why anyone ever had any concern she wasn’t right for the part. Thanks in great part to her performance, as well as Ross’s sturdy grip on the rest of the film, in today’s context, THE HUNGER GAMES is a commentary on the increasing global class divide and our continued desensitization to violence. It is also a thrilling experience. I have not read the second or third books in the series but something tells me there is another uprising coming before long. This is good too because after filling up on THE HUNGER GAMES, you will be left starving for more. In fact, it left me ravenous.


Tippi said...

I was surprised to see such a rave review, since you had just read the books and loved them. I thought the movie was just fine, at best. The only moment that truly worked for me was the audience riot in District 11.

Otherwise, it felt very... sterile. I feel like Jennifer Lawrence's tough-guy delivery would have worked better with someone to play off of; Hutchinson was just a completely bland, blank slate. No chemistry there at all, no emotional resonance in the performance. The conflicted relationship with the mother didn't play well at all either, which I thought was a big loss.

Also I thought it looked surprisingly cheap. Everything filmed in the Capitol (the arena, the fire, the costumes) was terrible.

I think I would have forgiven most of that if there had been any chemistry at all with Josh Hutchinson. He was just so incredibly bland to me, and (so it seemed) to Katniss! Without any tension between them half the plot of the movie falls flat!

Screen Junkies just posted a new Honest Trailer that I think sums up everything perfectly:

Black Sheep said...

I just watched this again for the 3rd time last night and I have to say, I loved it even more! When rereading my review, it is clear to me that I was deeply influenced by my reading of the book at the time. With enough distance now to judge it solely as a film, I believe Gary Ross and the entire team did an incredible job of honouring the original story while doing what had to be done to make it a successful film in its own right.

I was convinced by Hutcherson but that may just be because I'm a sucker for that face. And, while I can appreciate where you're coming from, I think the film definitely earns its praise.