When I first heard that The Hunger Games was going to be adapted for the screen, I decided not to read the books. The series is pretty popular, and it caught my eye. However, I really wanted to see how to watch a book-to-film adaptation without having read the book. Seeing Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians, my mind would compare and over analyze every aspect of it. I wanted a different kind of experience for a change. With Twilight and Harry Potter ending it was only a matter of time before the next big series came out. An ample amount of hype was following this, and my expectations were getting higher and higher; especially because I saw this around two months after its initial release. You can say it surpassed my expectations, but at the same time you can say it disappointed me. It couldn’t pass a point to push it over the top. Still, it was exciting and made me want to see the next installment.
In a post-apocalyptic future, North America is composed of twelve districts that are under control by the totalitarian Capitol. Each and every year, one boy and girl must compete in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death for the amusement of the Capitol. This also serves as a harsh reminder of the districts’ failed rebellion. Katniss Everdeen’s (Jenifer Lawrence) little sister is chosen as one of Districts twelve’s representatives, she volunteers to switch and compete herself. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is the other representative. Both Katniss and Peeta get the “guidance” of a sort-of-drunk former winner, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). The competition is brutal and only one can come out alive.
Gary Ross wouldn’t have been my first thought or pick to direct. The biggest challenge for this is how the tone and pace should stand. Should there be an even mix of dark and light? Also, how much exposition and how much action? These are some of the questions I had. The tone was mostly serious; the bleaker atmosphere worked for the movie. Pacing was an issue. Cutting back and forth between the action and “talking” felt forced; that change never flowed and it took me out at certain times. The tone could have been helped with a really fantastic script. Ross knows how to work a camera, though. There are some fantastic shots. Scenes are just filmed with such care in general, you can tell he didn’t slack off for a second; it would have been easy to do so. Ross also made it a good experience for people who’ve read the book and people who haven’t – going off myself, my friends and cousins on that.
Where the screenplay falters is in the characters (save for Katniss) and hitting you over the head with the same message. Tension hit me quite a few times when Katniss was involved, no one else is developed or given much thought in the least. Furthermore, it was obvious that every competitor was going to die except the main characters. Social criticism plays a major factor. I always love when a movie can be entertaining and work on a deep level. The Hunger Games works solely on an entertainment level. The same message is pointed out every other scene, At one point I wanted to shout, “I GET IT.” It was fine when first brought up, but then just repeated over and over again. A thing the script does right is keep me engaged in the beginning when everything is setting up. Any comedy thrown in worked; never a full laugh, but not a single joke went without a chuckle. One thing I was mixed on was the love story. It never felt genuine; some parts worked, and some didn’t – depended on the dialog and performances.
Jenifer Lawrence was a perfect choice for the role. I have yet to see her disappoint, or miscast in a disappointing movie. Here, she played on all elements of the character perfectly and makes you believe her character. Josh Hutcherson was mixed. There are scenes where he drags down everything, then he would make a scene. Consistency was the biggest problem. Hutcherson has a lot of potential – some is tapped into this performance. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks stand-out in the supporting department. Any time either of them are on screen, they are excellent. Stanley Tucci is great as well, giving a really fun performance. Liam Hemsworth doesn’t get anything to do, so it seems unfair to judge him. I’ll simply say he was fine. Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Willow Shields, Alexander Ludwig, and Donald Sutherland chime in as well. Overall, the cast helps a lot.
Action-wise, The Hunger Games does a solid job. It looked great and was filmed well. Tension was built, making for some fairly intense fighting sequences. I thought the opening one was staged with great effect that helped create a string mood (I did see one-person breathing softly in the aftermath, though). It’s a big, accomplished making the violence work with this subject while maintaining a PG-13 rating. I was shocked at a few parts, not that bad, but surprised this movie went to that length.
Games is a billion past a billion times better of a franchise starring a female protagonist than Twilight. First installment is good, hope the next one “catches fire.”