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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

May the odds be ever in your favor.
 

by Jennifer Bay and Karissa Barrows, Editors

I was given The Hunger Games boxed set of books for my birthday.  At the time, I had vaguely heard of it but knew nothing of the story.  After blazing through the series, I have waited impatiently for the release of the first film by the same name.  Karissa, conversely, had not yet read more than the first thirty pages of the first book at the time we saw this movie.  (She did, however, finish reading all three books in two days after seeing the film.)

I am one of those people who generally hates movies based on books, mostly because I love reading and directors tend to scrap some of the best material to put in something they think is better and of course, it never is (damn you, Harry Potter directors!).  You can imagine my apprehension walking into the theater for this, one of the most hyped films of the year so far.

The Hunger Games was the first novel-based movie I’ve ever felt satisfied by.  I did not feel that anything was missing, at least not anything important to the story.  It was as if everything I imagined in my mind came to life on the big screen, and I could not have been happier.  THANK YOU, director Gary Ross.  We are forever heartbroken that you are reportedly not on board for the next three films.  (COME BACK TO US!!!)

The story begins in a sort of wasteland.  The story is that there was a great war, and only thirteen districts and the Capitol were left at the end.  Eventually, the 13th District tried to rise up against the Capitol and were destroyed.  Since that time, the Capitol has had a Hunger Games every year, picking a boy and a girl from each of the remaining districts to fight in a Battle Royale of the Capitol’s design.  Only one can win.  The Capitol does this, they claim, to remind everyone of the people who tried to fight and were lost.  For some districts, it’s even considered an honor to be chosen.

Katniss Everdeen lives in no such district.  A teenager from District 12, the poorest district left in their world, she has no time or taste for the Capitol’s games and thwarts them quietly at every turn (she is an avid hunter, for example, though hunting is forbidden in the district).  She acts as a mother figure to sister Primrose (Willow Shields) and a confidant for best fried Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and has generally had to grow up far faster than any kid should.  When her sister’s name is picked as the female tribute for District 12, Katniss does the only thing she can do to save Prim’s life – she volunteers as tribute, a first for District 12.  The action only gets better from there.

The acting was superb.   The cast was a great mix of unknowns and established, but they all were perfect in their role.  I couldn’t help but laugh every time Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci – Captain America: The First Avenger) appeared on screen – I’m used to seeing him in more dramatic roles and him as the charismatic Hunger Games announcer was a great choice.  Elizabeth Banks’s (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) portrayal of Effie Trinket was perfection – I always loved Effie’s complete ignorance of the situation, like District 12 should be so honored to be afforded the lap of luxury for just a few days.  When I first heard that musician Lenny Kravitz was cast as Kat’s designer Cinna – one who Katniss describes in the books as the most normal “Capitol” person she’d seen yet – I raised my eyebrow for a moment before deciding that Kravitz’s soft spoken demeanor would fit with Cinna perfectly, and I wasn’t wrong.

Relative newcomers Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss), the above mentioned Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta Mellark) kept up with their veteran co-stars with ease.  Although Jen’s been in several smaller roles, most people reading this review will recognize her as young Raven/Mystique from X-Men: First Class.  She plays the desperate Katniss beautifully – I mean that in a good way.  Her desperation to save her sister from going into the Hunger Games, to live, to keep Peeta alive, etc.  It was subtle and powerful at once.  I am going to enjoy seeing where her career goes from here.  Hutcherson is also not completely new – we’ve seen him in Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bridge to Terabithia – and he does an amazing job as the self-deprecating, love-struck Peeta.

 

“I’ll never let go, Jack!” – Wait…wrong movie. :-/

The directors did a top notch job at tension.  I’ve read the books, so I knew the things that would happen, but even I couldn’t rid myself of the knot in my stomach when the contestants are all standing on their platform, waiting for the moment they can step off and the Hunger Games can begin; I felt MY adrenaline surging, like I was going to have to choose fight or flight at any moment.  Jennifer Lawrence’s wild look of fright in Cinna’s direction just before she begins to ascend up the tunnel to her platform was absolutely perfect in getting that dread across, so much so that Karissa felt it right along with her.  The musical scores never overpowered the scene and I never felt like any one character was outshining another – it was cohesive.  I loved seeing the animals in the arena, the trackerjackers and the wolf like beast (muttation).  I do wish they had gotten across the significance of their appearance, though, which is only evident in the book.  I appreciated that the screenplay occasionally showed the Game Makers (one of which is portrayed by St. Louis native and friend of Karissa, Eric Hennig) putting things into the arena – I believe most of this is explained by Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson in the film), District 12’s mentor, in the book, but this was a great way to help people understand the power that the Makers have.

There is much more I want to talk about for this movie, but it would give away far too much.  You’ll just have to see the awesome for yourselves.

 

ComicsOnline gives The Hunger Games 4.5 Mockingjays out of 5.  (Karissa personally gives it a solid 5.)

 

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About Kevin Gaussoin

Kevin has run ComicsOnline since 2000 so everything you like about it is due to his excellent staff and everything you don't like is all his fault. He hopes you'll comment and share the crap out of it either way. Also he sends you virtual hugs.

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