Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games (The Film)

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland

Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins

Directed by Gary Ross

Release Date: March 23, 2012

America is gone; now a new nation known as Panem is divided into 12 districts and a Capitol that controls them. Each year, the Capitol requires that each District have a lottery to send off one boy and girl to compete to the death in a competition known as THE HUNGER GAMES. In District 12, Katniss Everdeen has volunteered to take her sister's place in the games. May the odds be ever in her favor.......

Adapted from the popular novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is both praised by fans and seen as plagiarizing other authors, such as Stephen King and
Koushun Takami (author of Battle Royale). I, howver, only see a great dystopian story with similar themes and concepts. When I read the novel, I was fascinated with a world built upon send children not only to fight one another, but "dance" for the amusement of the rich and powerful of the Capitol. So, with a novel that is both popular with both children and adults, a big budget adaptation was inevitable. 

Before I continue reviewing the film, please be aware I will be comparing it to the novel and THERE MAY BE SPOILERS. 

Since the movie is PG-13 in America, the violence seen during The Games was toned down or done off-screen, only to show the horror of what was happening by Katniss's reaction. Sure, The Hunger Games movie won't be as visually bloody as Battle Royale, but it's not really meant to be. The violence is only used to showcase the brutality and shock of children fighting to the death, and I believe the screenwriters and director did a successful job of getting their action without overly disgusting the audience.  A

As the novel was originally written in a first person narrative with Katniss relaying the story from her POV and her thoughts, the film obviously had to adapt so that Katniss is more of an active character. The movie eliminates some small moments and one-or two characters, but the overall plot remains in tact, In fact, one of my favorite additions is using the Game Room to showcase what Seneca Crane (played by Wes Bentley) and the Gamemaker's do to record the games and influence the action to challenge the Tributes, but to entertain the audiences of Panem. In a way, it reminded me of the Moon Room of The Truman Show, another great movie about "reality television". 

There are only two minor problems I had with the movie. The first is the casting of Donald Sutherland as President Snow; in a word, he's not terrifying. In the novels, Snow is meant to be seen as a dictator, someone who is bright and happy in front of the world, but deadly and threatening to his enemies. However, Sutherland just can't showcase Snow as nothing more as a minor nuisance. His character made me chuckle more than fear for Katniss's life. The second are the terror dogs. They're CGI, and not particularly good computer graphics. 

For Hunger Games fans, you'll love this movie. Everyone else, this is a great commentary on reality television, the deception and control of media, and a great science-fiction film.

Rating:* * * * of 5 stars

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