- 2 hr. 22 min.
- Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Directed By: Gary Ross
- Written By: Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross, Billy Ray
“May the odds be ever in your favour (of not ruining a successful book franchise)”
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil 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. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. 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.
Gary Ross, who directed “Seabiscuit,” takes the reigns of this teenage coming to age – I mean dystopian fantasy-thriller and does an apt job not ruining the book for the millions of fans. Ross drops us into a distant future where from the ruins of North American, a strange nation of Panem has sprung. Lead by the Capitol, the twelve districts each send two of their teenage children (one boy, one girl) to fight to the death. The children are called ‘Tributes’ and the event is called ‘The Hunger Games’. The event is televised and is somewhere between a national sport and a cruel punishment for an uprising the districts had many years ago. Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence of “Winter’s Bone, and X-Men First Class” is a coal miner’s daughter, a rugged girl with hunting and gathering knowledge that volunteers as Tribute after her sister is tapped for the games.
Lawrence does an adequate job as Katniss and allows the target audience (13-30 women) to quickly associate with her throughout the film. The subtle hint of Twilight like soap opera between fellow district twelve combatants Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss with a guest appearance by Gale (Liam Hemsworth) was quickly dispelled through periods of intense violence, and of course watching the futuristic environment come to life. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) also provide the film with some strong secondary acting.
Ross’ blurry pans and shaky camera work actually benefits him here (why he used it in earlier dialogue scenes is something I’ll never understand) and we all watch with beady-eye intensity as the characters brutally slay each other in the true gladiator style (At one point, I did, indeed, feel like a Roman) The killings would have a more lasting effect if we knew the characters a bit more – this is where Ross’ oversight on the importance of the first half of the movie really disappoints. Even blurry CG monsters are forgiven as long as they kill efficiently, and before the death scenes can get old the movie mercifully ends. If the next two movies can keep the same intensity and appropriate use of violence, we might have a successful franchise after all.
As with any book adaptation, whether you have read the novel or not has a huge effect on your appreciating of the film. Leaving the theater wondering if the first half introduction to the world could have been better is not a feeling that the novel lovers should have to experience. If Ross is to blame for the sloppy introduction to the world then he makes up for it in the second half with superbly well done violence of teenagers killing each other. We must not forget Ross did this intense action thriller with a PG-13 rating, something that is not easily done. We are hooked the moment the actually games start and as an audience we do not want to leave that arena and that’s a huge compliment.
- Well Cast
- Intense Action
- Didn’t deviate from the Book
- Great Environment
- Good Pace
- Hint of teenage soap opera
- Ross sure does like his blurry quick pans and shaky handheld camera work doesn’t he?
- Did I mention the teenage soap opera qualities?
- Didn’t quite feel like the start of a great series
- Sitting in the theater with 80 teenage girls
Enjoyable dystopian fantasy-thriller, that does well with a PG-13 rating.