Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

When it comes to writing a review for "The Hunger Games", I first have to ask both of you who are reading this a couple of questions: Have you read the book of the same name and how sensitive are you to violence (though, not technically on-screen violence)? If the answer to the first question is yes, then you probably are expecting some violence. If your answer is no and you don't know what the storyline of The Hunger Games is, let me explain. The setting is a futuristic North America torn apart by war - a dystopian nation known as Panem. The victorious Capitol has divided the rest of their nation into 12 districts, each charged with the task of providing something useful to the citizens of the Capitol. The real conflict is the annual tradition of the "reaping". This consists of two children (a boy and girl) between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district who are chosen by a lottery-type drawing to compete in "The Hunger Games", a gladiator-style fight to the death in front of a nation-wide audience. Only one of the 24 tributes chosen will be a victor. This is seen by the Capitol as an honorable sacrifice, a belief that isn't exactly shared by the citizens of most of the districts. 

Katniss Everdeen, a brave and selfless girl that lives in District 12, volunteers herself when her 12 year old sister is chosen. Her unique circumstances provide us with interesting insight into the Hunger Games as well as the slow build to an inevitable uprising. Not only that, but there's finally a romance story that's interesting, complex, and not trite, starkly contrasting some other teen novels that shall remain nameless... Anyway, having read and loved these books I had as high of expectations as anyone. Like the other fans, however, I was a little nervous that they might Twilight it up and emphasize the "love triangle" aspect much more than what actually happens in the book... well, so much for it remaining nameless. I could go on and on about how much better this turned out than the vampire-drama I just mentioned, but I think that would cheapen what The Hunger Games is by mentioning them in the same sentence. Just to be clear, this is NOTHING like that! Let's talk about what this movie is: This movie is a gripping, universally appealing, tense and taught thriller. This movie is a spell-binding, brilliant premise that stimulates thought as well as transports the audience to another time and place. 

The acting is terrific, with great performances from supporting actors Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci. The best work, however, was done by Jennifer Lawrence. She is the perfect Katniss. She nails the strength, the vulnerability, and the pain that her character goes through in this film. I also loved the little touches Director Gary Ross added that really put you in the moment. For instance, after a large explosion in the arena, all sound is replaced by a soft humming sound, which is how I'd imagine the aftermath of an explosion would be. Despite a few technical complaints (the chariot ride in particular) this is a masterful film and it's as well adapted a screenplay as I can remember. I'd even put it up there with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in terms of paying tribute (no pun intended) to its source material. Overall, this is a great movie,  one that I couldn't stop thinking/talking about... seriously, just ask Lara. I can't recommend "The Hunger Games" enough! Four stars.

THE HUNGER GAMES is rated PG-13 for violence, intense scenes, and mild profanity.