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The Hunger Games

A film directed by Gary Ross based on the book by Suzanne Collins

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"May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!"

  • Mar 23, 2012
Rating:
+4
There were few novels as striking and unique as The Hunger Games when it debuted.  When I first read the book a couple of years ago I'd have never thought it would become a phenomenon... much less become a movie.  Not only did I ever think it would become a movie (my first thought was, "How would they do it?") but I certainly didn't think it would become one of the finest films I've seen in some time.  It is a movie that tackles big themes.  Asks big questions.  The movie, like the book, is not your typical Young Adult film.  There's nothing supernatural going on here.  There are no wizards and there is no magic.  And best of all, there are certainly no vampires or werewolves.  The Hunger Games is a different beast entirely.  One I'm sure some would be surprised to see, given incredible it is.

By now most people know the premise of The Hunger Games.  It takes place in the land of Panem.  A nation that is ruled by the capital and that is surrounded by twelve districts below.  Every year each district must offer up to "tributes."  One boy and one girl.  These tributes will all participate in The Hunger Games.  A deadly game in which all 24 tributes will be thrown into an arena and fight to the death as a reminder of the Capital's authority over the districts below.  The victor gets honor, fame and rewards... if they survive.  Our story centers on Katniss Everdeen, the girl who winds up in the Hunger Games along with Peeta Mellark.  They are the two tributes from District 12 who will go into the arena and battle to the death. 

The film gets off to a slow start.  First showing us what it is like in the districts below.  Most notably it is District 12, because that's where Katniss lives.  And for the time being she has done everything she can to provide for her sister and mother.  Ever since a tragic accident took their father away, the mother hasn't been quite the same.  Every now and then she sneaks outside of the confines of District 12 to hunt with her friend Gale--who has grown quite close to her over their years as friends.

As the 74th Annual Hunger Games approach, it is Primm's first time being in the drawing.  And when she is eventually called in the drawing, Katniss volunteers to take her place to protect her sister.  The boy who is called is Peeta Mellark.  The two are then whisked away to the capital where they will live in luxury and train for The Hunger Games.  Among them are several other boys and girls.  All between the ages of 12 and 18.  All of them are thrown into the ring.  All of this is done to the delight (and malice) of the capital.  The games will be broadcasted on televisions all across Panem and every district will be watching to see if their tribute comes back.  There can only be one victor, however, and every person in the capital has a horse in the race.  In the end, however, it is done for the sake of entertainment just as much as it is for the Capital to showcase their own authority.  The crowd must be given a show too. 

From the outset it may seem like there is a lot to swallow in The Hunger Games, but their really isn't.  While moral lines will be drawn and you'll begin to question yourself, you'll never find anything in The Hunger Games too difficult to follow in the slightest.  It's a straightforward story, but one that takes it's time to flesh out the important characters.  The first half of the film spends it's time introducing us to Katniss and Peeta while also showing us just how life in Panem and the Capital really are.  We see the tributes train amongst each other and showcase their skills.  All of them doing this in the knowledge that they'll soon be going up against each other in what can literally be described as mortal combat.  And as we build to the inevitable hunger games, we really do begin to get drawn into this world.  The districts look just as murky and rundown as you'd expect.  With characters looking grimey and miserable.  It looks hopeless.

Yet in the capital we see characters who are dressing funny and taking advantage of a luxury that those in the districts don't have.  We feel just as alienated in the capital as the tributes who must partake in the Hunger Games do.  The film does a very good job at setting the mood and tone and really bringing Panem to life. 

The only thing in this opening half that some may take issue with is the idea that some of the characters will simply remain as nameless warriors who are thrown into the ring needlessly.  Obviously there isn't enough time to go into each character individually.  On the other hand, it also puts emphasis on the point that they ARE nameless to the capital and that they ARE warriors that our main characters shouldn't be expected to know and form alliances with.  That's not to say you won't find characters outside of Katniss or Peeta to like.  Although they are not exactly the tributes.  Rather they are characters that support Katniss and Peeta.  Characters such as Cinna or Haymitch.  There is also a tribute or two you'll get to know a little.  The point is that the movie never loses focus that it is Katniss and Peeta's story. 

The second half of the film are The Hunger Games themselves in which things begin to turn ugly.  It is where we see the horrors of war unfold.  One of the things the book was very good about was making sure the audience knew we were experiencing violence among children... but it never glorified it in the slightest.  In fact, the book was rather tame on descriptions when tributes would die or get stabbed.  It was never gruesome but we knew what was going on just the same.  The movie has a harder time doing that, but you'll be surprised at just how little the film shows.  That's not to say it isn't violent.  The Hunger Games is incredibly violent at parts.  It hides most of it by doing quick cuts and edits so that we never really SEE anyone get killed or that we don't see much blood.  But when we're actually watching the games unfold you'll definitely realize just how dark the movie is.  And it's enough to make you care about the main characters and the supporting cast.  You won't ever find yourself rooting for the death of any one tribute.  You will, however, find yourself wanting Katniss and Peeta (and even some of their other tributes) to survive for as long as they possibly can.  Why?  Because the movie does a very good job of getting the viewer to understand that what they are being subjected to isn't fair.  Even Kato, the tribute that the film clearly wants you to hate, you have sympathy for.  After all, he's trying just as desperately to survive as Katniss.  In short, there are no good guys and bad guys in the midst of the hunger games... there are only innocent children being punished for a conflict in the past.  All moral issues aside, it makes the film EXTREMELY powerful.

Generally speaking, I'm not one to care if a movie is like the book it's based off of.  I've always believed if you wanted the book... you should just read the damn book.  I'm not about the change that now.  But I do like to point it out for people who may actually care about that.  As you can imagine, certain things had to be cut or altered.  Meaning, not everything from the book made it in.  This should be expected.  And we already know someone out there hates this movie because it wasn't exactly like the book to a tee.  It's not going to be.  And indeed, there are a few differences... because film is a totally different medium.  Some of them are actually good changes and we'll get to that.  But first, I will point out that the movie is actually quite close to the book.  Sometimes disturbingly so.  Gary Ross and his team clearly understood the book and it shows.  There are a few things that are left on the cutting room floor, but it definitely succeeds as an adaptation.  It succeeds much better, however, at just all around being a film.  The guys behind the film never seemed to lose track of the fact that they ARE making a film and thus what's left out isn't a big deal.  And what's changed is actually welcome. 

The next part is in bold because it contains a spoiler and should only be read if you've read the book or seen the movie:

!i!i!iSPOILER ALERT!i!i!i!
There is one noticeable thing that the movie actually does BETTER than the book.  It is how it portrays Rue.  Not that she wasn't portrayed well in the book... but those who actually read the book will like what's done here.  The actress for the part is perfect and her playful cutesy appeal makes her among the best characters in the film as a whole.  Despite hardly getting to know her, she is probably the most sympathetic character here.  When she finally meets her untimely death, it's actually hard not to cry because of how well she is portrayed in the film.  The book was unable to move me to tears during Rue's demise but here... it's impossible not to cry.
!i!i!iEnd Spoilers!i!i!i!

There are some parts here that are done notiecably well for a film.  The editing and quick cuts are done miraculously well.  The traumatic nature of what we're seeing really comes to light.  Likewise, it adds tension in some of the tense moments.  The cinematography may be some of the most rewarding bits.  It is as though the audience is being taken for a ride in some of the Hunger Games most definine scenes.  Lastly, the music is a real treat... bringing emphasis to the emotions.  If there's anything we can all say for certain, it is that The Hunger Games doesn't disappoint on a production scale. 

That being said... the movie will most certainly not be for everyone.  Even with the absurd fanbase, those who haven't read the book are likely to be shocked--horrified, even--at what takes place in the film.  The child soldier theme that takes place here is not one that can be explained within the entirety of one film (or even a single book).  As a result, The Hunger Games is most certainly not for the very young.  This isn't the kind of movie you take your ten year old to see.  Rather it is for the older child.  Not because of the content of the film... but because of WHY it's there and WHAT is there to say.  What I'm getting at is that there is most definitely a mature message being played out here and that it is not the kind of movie to go see because it's "violent" and "cool" but because it will actually challenge the audience who sees it.  And if there were ever a time when the adage, "Beat them over the head with a sledgehammer," were true... it is certainly in The Hunger Games. 

Let's face it, for some people it is going to be way too hard to swallow.  And while the film does a great job with quick edits and keeping the gruesome deaths on the downlow... it is still the idea that we are watching children in combat... and some movie goers simply aren't a fan of that sort of thing.  And indeed, we in the audience are SUPPOSED to find it horrifying, but even bigger is the "why" behind it and what it's supposed to be all about.  Obviously, without the other two parts of this trilogy here you're not going to completely see why.  In fact, some people in the audience who haven't read the books are likely to be disconnected and wondering what the point of what they just watched was.  The ending leaves us with much to be desired.  And it should as there is more to come.  It's a trilogy and thus this is only part one.  It's not conclusive and doesn't actually offer up any answers just yet.  Some audience members will not be able to help but be a little disturbed by what they see here and won't particularly like that they'll be left with burning questions.  And indeed, while it is handled well... it still feels somewhat like the movie "just ends" before it has a chance to really say anything.  The books were this exact same way, however.  Most of the big moral questions and biggest twists and turns don't even come up until the second and third books and I pressume that the movies will be similar.  And with how well this movie is done you're definitely going to see the next two books adapted and get the answers you desire.  That doesn't stop the fact that movie leaves off on a strange cliffhanger without really answering a lot of questions for the audience. 

That's not a complaint mind you.  If there were really any complaint I had about The Hunger Games it would be that the movie feels a bit long.  It clocks in at two and half hours or so.  And while you won't really feel it during the second half, you will in the second.  But just the same, there is some good humor here to help things along.  There is also a lot of good acting and charming characters as well.  Thus, the length is really just a small complaint.  The movie isn't flawless but it's hardly a mess either.  We care about the characters and we understand that Katniss is actually a complex character.  She's not a Mary Sue like Bella Swan and she's certainly not weak and useless (if anything, for once we get to see the woman actually be the hero without having to be saved).  We care about Katniss because she's human, not because we're being told we HAVE to.  And that's important.

Go see the Hunger Games.  It's an incredible movie and perhaps the first awesome movie of 2012.  It is most certainly the most rewarding movie I've seen in a while.  And while some of it can be hard to get through, it is every bit as enjoying as it is meaningful.

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March 24, 2012
Quite an enthralling review! I can tell that you really loved the source material and the film. I am glad that you mentioned Rue, that was truly a heart-breaking moment. Good points made as well. Would you believe I saw some parents take their kids to see this today?
March 24, 2012
I almost forgot....I've been wondering if you have reviewed the new Resident Evil game. I wanted to read someone's opinion if I should get it being a RE fan and all....
 
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More The Hunger Games reviews
review by . March 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called
“The Hunger Games” had been getting a lot of press and ‘hype’ when word had gotten out that Suzanne Collins’ novel (published in 2008) was going to be adapted into the big screen. Director Gary Ross adapts this dystopian world along with screenwriters Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray into an action-drama. I have to admit the book had garnered quite a following, and this film has been heavily anticipated. I have seen several threads about the controversy due to its similarities …
review by . September 16, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    "The Hunger Games" is based on the first book in the best-selling young adult self-titled trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins. I have never read any of the three - "The Hunger Games", "Catching Fire", and "Mockingjay" - and the film really does me no favors. Based on fan feedback, I will not for one second believe that this adaptation reflects the quality and depth of the novel; because the film falls short in both departments. But as always, I'm here …
review by . March 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Hunger Games is the first of three books written by Suzanne Collins, the other two being Catching Fire and Mockingjay. With a huge opening weekend predicted there is little doubt that the studios will green light the other two movies to have them made as soon as possible. For those who have not read the book I suggest you do as not only is it a quick read but frankly this movie is made more for fans of the book than it is for someone going in knowing nothing about the series. …
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'The Hunger Games' 'Two Jews On Film' Go To Battle Over This Futuristic Dark Fantasy (Video)
               By Joan Alperin Schwartz      I'm sure by now almost everyone is familiar with the story of 'The Hunger Games'.  The book was the first in a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins and all three novels have been on the bestseller list for several years.      But for those people unfamiliar with the story of Katniss Everdeen, the 16 year old girl who competes in The Hunger Games...   …
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Tasty.
THE HUNGER GAMES 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 …
review by . March 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         That The Hunger Games is so timely and intelligent is precisely the reason why it’s also so frightening. It depicts a time and place in which the failures of mass society are exploited for the entertainment of the privileged few. In this case, it’s in the form of an annual competition to the death, one that’s captured via hidden cameras and aired for the rest of the world to see. Whatever they call it in this alternate reality, …
review by . April 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      There's something about this movie that makes me like it more than I should. I don't know what... but I know it's there. I've never read the books so when I saw it I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately for me I was pleased with the product and it's like it became one of my guilty pleasure movies.      The Hunger Games strives away from the usual and synthesizes elements that are rarely common in movies like these. The story serves …
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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  • The Hunger Games
  • Opened March 23, 2012 | Runtime:2 hr. 22 min.
  • PG-13
    Intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says Iffy for 13+. Read More
  • Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister's place to enter the games, and is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy when she's pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
  • -fandango.com
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    Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

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