Review: “The Hunger Games”

It was only a matter of time before another young adult book franchise took a shot at the fame of “Twilight.” Fortunately, the latest series, “The Hunger Games,” is nowhere near as frivolous as Stephenie Meyer’s vampire angst-fest.

For all 2% of you who haven’t read at least the first book, the story follows Katniss Everdeen, a skilled hunter from the impoverished District 12. Each year, Panem (what remains of North America) collects tributes from each district to compete in a fight-to-the-death tournament called the Hunger Games.

After her sister is chosen to be one of these tributes (read: corpse), Katniss volunteers herself. This is where the story really takes off.

I’m going to try to do my best to give a review on both how good of a film this is as well as how faithful of an adaptation I believe it to be. Something for everyone.

As a film, “The Hunger Games” is an interesting thriller at times and noticeably well put together. There is action and danger for the guys and enough romance to make some girls think it’s actually a chick flick.

Director Gary Ross puts together a quality flick despite having been out of the directing chair for nearly ten years. It doesn’t have the signature that a Tim Burton or David Fincher type might bring, but it works as a blockbuster.

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence since watching “Winter’s Bone” last year and couldn’t help comparing her character in this film to that. Katniss Everdeen isn’t a character that I would trust to just any young actress but Lawrence is very competent in the role and it’s a good portrayal for loyal readers.

Most of the supporting cast is also top notch with notable performance by Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and (of all people) Lenny Kravitz.

If I were to make any gripes about the film, the first would be the use of shaky cam. Turns out, it’s just as annoying as it was the first time it was used. I’m all for adding a component to amp up the film or make it feel more like I’m there, but I also don’t like headaches. Two reasons why it was probably added here are A) the previously mentioned “reality” effect and B) to make some of the violence less appalling for younger viewers. Regardless, it detracted from the games.

There also could have been more fleshing out of the characters. Rue, in particular, could have used another scene. This leads me to gripes concerning the adaptation of the book.

The film failed to mention the significance of the mockingjay. Yes, it’s Katniss’ pin, but it stands for even more. I’m okay with the exclusion of the Madge character, but when the trilogy’s finale is called “Mockingjay,” it’d be nice if people knew the association.

Secondly, Peeta was poorly adapted from the book. Josh Hutcherson does better than I would’ve thought with the material, but I would have liked a few more lines from the book and more growth with his character.

Lastly, and it really is a minor point, I thought the Careers too closely resembled teenage campers you see at the beginning of a horror movie. The arrogance was there for sure, but they were too relaxed and buddy buddy with each other. They were going to have to kill each other after all.

These few gripes aside, “The Hunger Games” was both a good adaptation as well as a worthy sci-fi action film. We can’t always get every detail from the book included, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rest of an adaptation.

Grade: B+

Come back later this week for reviews of “John Carter” and Oscar-winning documentary “Undefeated.”

Happy viewing

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4 thoughts on “Review: “The Hunger Games”

  1. I agree with pretty much all of what you said. I was taken aback by the shaky camera. Made me a bit sick. I loved Rue as a character (and Madge) and was sad that she wasn’t fully developed like in the book. I also didn’t like that they glazed over the mockingjay- never really saying what it was, which is such a huge part. I didn’t like Hutcherson as Peeta at all. As an actor he didn’t fit the description set up in the book. And he took a far more…how to put this, passive tone in the movie. He was pretty much a pansy that got hurt and then had Katniss take care of him. While, yes, that happened in the book, he was a much stronger character in the book. I also was sad that they didn’t include Katniss getting the bread from Rue’s district. But overall it was a good movie- similar to the Harry Potter movies: it can be enjoyed as it’s own, but if you want to understand all the little moments you have to read the books.

    • I missed the bread from district 11 scene, but I think I can understand why they wanted to sow the seeds of revolt for the future films. I doubt it will ever happen, but I’d love to see this as a mini-series so we can get all the little details.

    • I know what you mean. One thing I failed to point out in my review is that the pacing also seemed a little lopsided. The first half of the film is slow, setting up the story, but then the second half flies by. Before you realize it, the movie is over.

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