John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Hunger Games

Genre: Action and Adventure, Drama

Director: Gary Ross

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Amandla Stenberg, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jacqueline Emerson, Paula Malcomson, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Leven Rambin, Willow Shields, Lenny Kravitz

MPAA-Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens

Release Date: March 23rd, 2012

The new film The Hunger Games opens up with “the treaty of treason. This treaty– between the Capitol and the twelve districts in a post-apocalyptic North America– establishes the creation of the hunger games. In these games, two representatives from each district are sent into battle to face each other for entertainment. These tributes– as they are referred to– might fight and kill each other until one winner is left. And, of course, these games are televised nationwide so that viewers can watch the bloodbath unfold.

Based off Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book, The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy. As a fan of the original novel, I was impressed by how successfully the book was adapted into a film. There are several major differences between the book and the film but the heart of the story is still intact in this likely blockbuster.

The story focuses on Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), whose younger sister is chosen to participate in the games. In an act of courage and selflessness that define her character, Katniss volunteers in her place. Peeta Mellarck (Josh Hutcherson), who has a history with Katniss, is chosen as the second representative from District 12. As the story continues, these two teens are trained by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a former champion of the games who spends more tie drinking than reminiscing about his hard-fought victory.

Of course, the latter half of the film focuses on the games themselves where Katniss and Peeta have to fight against twenty-three other tributes in their bid to be the sole survivor.

Taking a page from both Survivor and Big Brother, the story is a compelling one. And these characters are well-defined. Lawrence, an Oscar nominee for her performance in Winter’s Bone, takes on the lead role with admiration and strength. In both Bone and Games, she creates a character with little money but with an enviable abundance of nobility.

Director Gary Ross has done a remarkable job creating a brilliant setting for this story. Trying to replicate the details of the book, he has created a beautifully-crafted land in which these people live. District 12 is a cold and desolate world where the poorer individuals live while the Capitol is a lush and brilliantly-crafted land of opulence and vanity. The make-up and the costumes in this movie are a marvel to behold.

Where the film fails is also where the book stumbled,. The games are formulated with certain rules that are established early on. These guidelines are concrete. But in The Hunger Games, some of them fall by the wayside leaving readers– or viewers– disappointed that a story with such clear rules ultimately violates them.

Additionally, some of the relationships in the film aren’t as well-developed as they should be in a piece like this. For example, Katniss’ kinship with a young tribute named Rue is underplayed in the film leaving viewers a bit chilled by some of the emotional scenes that later take place.

But these are minor quibbles for a movie that does so much right and deserves its inevitable reception as a blockbuster motion picture.

“The just want a good show. That’s all they want,” Katniss’ friend Gale states early in the movie. And for moviegoers, The Hunger Games definitely provides it. Some of the darker elements– such as the violence and the concept of the games– may turn off some viewers but others will likely be thrilled to see a movie that so carefully honors its subject material.

Review by: John Hanlon