Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, I am sure you’ve heard about The Hunger Games. The books are being read by just about everyone and the inevitable film adaptation has been made. But is it any good? In one word … YES!
Now I haven’t read the book by Suzanne Collins, the first in a trilogy. I managed to read a few chapters but life took over and I wasn’t able to finish it before the film’s release. So my review is solely on the film, as I can’t state whether it was faithful to the source material ect …
The film takes place in the future, where North America has collapsed and become Panem. Panem is a country that is divided into the Capitol and 12 Districts, each ranging in wealth and poverty. Each year, an event called The Hunger Games takes place, as part of a reminder (but really an intimidation by the government who controls all) of the past, they randomly select a girl and boy from each District known as Tributes to take part. They must eliminate each other and he the only one left wins and fortune awaits, the Games are also broadcast for everyone to see. From District 12 we meet Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers for the games in place of her sister. She joins her District 12 counter part Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as they train together and go into the games knowing they will likely die.
The premise is rather brutal, as The Hunger Games are an event where teenagers are forced to kill each other. Most of the people of Panem (unless you are rich) are have no hope, no money, barely any food and basically fend for themselves. It is a government controlled and repressed place, and trust me this aspect will certainly get you involved in the film. The rich who live in the Capitol (a place most will never see) are the ones who thrive and are basically puppets to the government. The politics in the first half of the film are fantastic, it isn’t too complex but it is certainly interesting and it really drives the film.
The main character of Katniss is the focus, it is after all her story and we’re with her all the way. We also get quite a bit of time with Peeta as well, and everyone else is really supporting but most get decent face time. I had no problems with this as it was done perfectly. I didn’t feel like any development was rushed or ignored, it really was paced well and it is engaging. Katniss and her interactions with others as well as her will to survive is such a strong spot. As soon as you meet this character you’ll be in love with her.
Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic; director Gary Ross wasn’t lying when he said she owned this film. I loved her, she brought all the right elements to Katniss, a tough and selfless individual, one of the best and strongest female leads I have seen for a while. While Liam Hemsworth wasn’t in it much, he was really good as her best friend Gale (I expect he has a bigger part to play in the sequels). Josh Hutcherson was a real surprise, I wasn’t overly sold from what I had seen of him in previews but the guy owned the role as Peeta. I thought he played it perfectly, and the chemistry was certainly there with Lawrence. Woody Harrelson was amazing, his character of Haymitch (A former District 12 victor) was great and Woody was perfectly cast. I liked Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, a kind of mentor and helper for Katniss, he had this soft touch that worked. Elizabeth Banks stole all her scenes as Effie, as flamboyant as they come, she played it perfectly and her timing was fantastic. Stanley Tucci was incredible; I don’t even want to say anything because you just need to see him! Donald Sutherland did well, he’s an amazing actor and he played his role with just the right amount of beef. A big surprise for me was Wes Bentley (loved the beard), I really hope this is the first sign of a good and solid come back, he rocked this role and he really feels like a new man.
The action in this film is brutal; the games themselves are brutal and hard to watch. The killing aspect was a lot more intense than I had expected and younger viewers might be distressed by it (heck my mother even had a hard time with some scenes), but there are so many other reasons why the games are brutal and you’ll see why. This part of the film was differently paced and it worked, we’re right in there with the people viewing and we don’t miss anything. I guess one slight downside is because we’re with Katniss, we don’t really get to know the other competitors and perhaps if we had their deaths would have hit harder. The relationship that forms between Katniss and Peeta was strong and I think it was handled really well. However with that said, the best bonds and the chemistry between the actors was on fire, was with Katniss and Cinna and Katniss and Haymitch. These really help build up the story and characters, without which the film would have suffered.
The look and feel of the film was great, from the dire and sad look of District 12 to the vibrance of the Capital, it looked amazing. The grand scale of events leading into the Games was also impressive, and the sort of talk show-esque stuff was actually incredibly entertaining. The script was a good one, and Gary Ross was clearly the right man for the job. I enjoyed this film so much, I am still thinking about it and that means something! I am eager to get the sequel, and see where the story leads.
The Hunger Games has a strong story, great characters, amazing performances, solid direction and script and it looks fantastic. You really can’t go wrong with this, from teens upwards this has such a strong appeal, I really can’t recommend this enough to everyone.