March 23, 2012 has finally arrived. Let the GAMES begin! If you haven’t heard by now, there is a new movie phenomenon sweeping the nation entitled The Hunger Games. Based on the book by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tell a bleak story of life in Panem, the new country created after North America has been destroyed by war, famine, riots. Panem was created with 13 colonies. An uprising occurs and the 13th colony gets destroyed. To show the other colonies that the Capitol is in control, the Capitol made the hunger games. These games would pit 2 tributes from each of the colonies, one boy, one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 in a fight to the death. This keeps the colonies in line so they will always remember that rebellion is bad. The Hunger Games is a trilogy of books with the movie following the first book. The books became an instant hit and international best seller. Katniss Everdeen(The Girl On Fire) was on the lips of all the fans.
Jennifer Lawerence was cast to play Katniss Everdeen, a young girl from District 12, the coal mining district. She lost her father in a mine blast and takes care of her little sister Primrose and her ailing mother. She helps get food by hunting and keeps the family clothes by selling part of what she hunts in the marketplace. Her friend Gale helps her hunt and one day wants to run away from the District and escape the iron hammer of the Capitol. Katniss is a strong female lead and Jennifer plays her to perfection. She was tremendous in the movie Winterbone and brings over the strength needed to bring Katniss alive on the big screen. After seeing the movie I couldn’t picture anyone else playing the role of Katniss, the Girl on Fire. The character volunteers herself as tribute in the Hunger Games so her little 12 year old sister Primrose would not have to go and fight. The male counterpart of the tribute from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson. Some may remember Josh from movies such as Zathura, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Kids Are Alright. Josh brings a lot of heart to the character of Peeta who goes off with Katniss to the Capitol to get ready to train for the upcoming Hunger Games.
The story of the games itself is a brutal story, plagued with death, sorrow, war mongers, not what we would call a happy story. Some compare it to other novels such as Battle Royale, a story where Japanese students get sent to an island by the government each year to compete in a tournament to the death, Stephen King’s The Running Man. There are similarities in The Hunger Games but it stands on it’s own as good story. A story worth reading.
The cast in the movie are great. All strong performances across the board from the leads to the supporting roles. Donald Sutherland made a great President Snow, Elizabeth Banks was Effie Trinket personified, and Woody Harrelson brought Haymitch to life. That is where the good of the movie ends unfortunately. Now I saw this movie twice. The first time I took it in and felt it was good but needed some work to make it great. After the second showing I was less enthused about the film.
Now I’m not saying the movie is a total waste of time, it isn’t. It is a decent companion to the book. Does it stand on it’s own as a movie for someone who goes in that hasn’t read the book? I don’t think so. I feel that if you go into the movie without any knowledge of the story or haven’t read the book you might come out confused as to what was going on. This is not to say the story is complicated, because it’s not. I feel it is this way because the movie felt rushed. I felt there was a lot of things from the book that were just glossed over that would have made the movie flow better. A lot of the relationships you get from the book don’t convey over in the movie because the writers and the director give them no time to develop on screen. This is where I think the movie falters and falls hard. In the book Katniss has her beloved designer Cinna, played in the movie by Lenny Kravitz. While reading you see how close they become and much of a friend Cinna becomes to Katniss, in the movie I felt that doesn’t get conveyed at all. You get the sense that yes he’s her designer but nothing really more. Also in the book you feel how hard life is in District 12 and the struggles Katniss faces on a daily basis just to keep her and her family alive. In the movie District 12 gets rushed right through. You see scenes of the miners going to work, the dirty people that live in the town, but not enough time is given to get the feeling that Katniss, her family and the people of the town are in dire need. There isn’t that emotional attachment that you get from reading the novel, and it’s too bad because the novel is a great read.
Gary Ross tries his best to bring the novel to life on the screen but ultimately fails in doing so. The battles in the arena are brutal but most of the tributes you don’t really get to know. One of the biggest faults in these scenes is how one death is handled. I won’t give away anything about this scene for those who haven’t already read the books, but this scene in the book was powerful and I was expecting it to be just as powerful on screen, but like everything else I felt it was rushed and just wasn’t handled the way it should have been and came off flat. One thing I also noticed and felt during the second viewing of the movie that it felt like a SyFy Original Movie or a direct to DVD feel. I know the director was going for more of a live handheld camera feel to make it seem grittier but I found that it just came off amateurish and tv-movie like. I hope for the next one Gary Ross ditches that style.
If you plan on seeing it this weekend or sometime soon I would suggest catching up on the material or reading the book itself before venturing in. Those that do go see it, good luck and may the odds forever be in your favor.
I give this movie a 2 out of 5.