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Movie Review – The Hunger Games

Posted on the 23 March 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

(As an editor’s note, I will make few to little comparisons to the book series as I want to objectively review this film based as just a film.  There are many people who have not read the series and I wish that they would.  If going into the movie without any knowledge, this will be a review about the movie itself.)

In some instances, I kind of weep for the future children out there that line up for movies like Twilight.  With a female lead who is about as a moopy as Droopy the Dog, it saddens me that someone like Bella Swan is looked up to as a role model and something to aspire to for teens.  Sure, Twilight Books and their films are about as empty and trashy as they come, but making fun of those mediums is like shooting fish in a barrel and waste of coherent thought.  So this evening I attended the midnight screening of The Hunger Games, a film that has been catching on like wildfire and the next film series lifted from the every growing young adult book genre.  In the midst of a fever pitch of excitement and many teens staging their own occupy AMC theater for the showing of the film that might define their lives, I smiled a bit inside because what they were going to see and experience is a film that would make them take their Bella Swan posters and replace with Jennifer Lawrence.

Movie Review – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is based on the successful book series by Suzanne Collins which stars Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone and X-Men First Class) as the titular female lead Katniss Everdeen, a resident of District 12 and the first person from the District to offer herself up to volunteer for the games.  In doing so, she saved her younger sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) from potentially dying in the game.  The games are a competition between the 12 Districts of a war-torn Panem (United States) where each district selects an offering of one male and one female competitor in a chance to bring glory to the district as the last remaining competitor in the game.  Last remaining meaning, this is a battle to the death.  but the games are a stark reminder the actions of the uprising of the districts and an ongoing punishment to all those in Panem.  Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) the other offering, are sent to the Capitol to compete where they meet a cavalcade of contestants and mentors, namely Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) former victor for District 12 and mentor to the two contestants.

Along the way, Katniss and Peeta receive aid from Capitol members Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) who help gain them favor and sponsors to aid them in the upcoming battle.  With few allies and little time, the game is upon them all and while the countdown goes by ever so slowly, one thing runs through their mind…”May the odds be ever in your favor”.

The film is an incredible jolt from start to finish.  A science fiction dystopian society where those in power flaunt their positions while the Districts struggle to maintain composure.  Each District, while briefly seen, all have a distinct feature that calls to their upbringing.  It is the careful attention to detail and the source material that makes what you read come to life in front of your eyes.  The brutality of it all is not lost one iota, as you are reminded in the most jesting manner from the commentators and those that run the games whether placing bets on competitors or even the televising of it to all Districts.  There is a constant air of tension around the proceedings as the stakes are far higher than any can imagine and the frantic struggle to comprehend and survive the situation is shown on the faces of the contestants and actors.

Movie Review – The Hunger Games

If anything, the film is carried by an incredible cast of young actors and some hammy acting from a few particular characters.  But the bulk of the film is placed on the young heroine Katniss, played by the gorgeous and ferocious Jennifer Lawrence.  So delicate and melancholy is her looks and demeanor, that when pushed to the edge of her limits, you see the seething need to survive at all costs.  This is the way a strong female lead needs to be shown in films.  How anyone can look at the other young adult fiction counterpart Bella Swan and see her as anything but helpless is beyond my comprehension.  Lawrence’s pure raw emotion comes through in every scene, either when she is bucking the establishment of the Capitol or fighting to survive.  The intensity of her skills with the bow and physicality of role cement and bring to life what you imagined Katniss is like in the book series.

It’s not just the Jennifer Lawrence show, but the secondary cast of characters add to the proceedings of the film.  Kravitzs as Cinna was a wonderful choice as he was able to convey the almost matronly nature of character, sometimes with a bit of pain as he has probably seen too many young kids from that District cut down in the games.  Elizabeth Banks plays the representative part with a certain grin and bare it sort of personality.  She is relegated to representing the least desirable of the Districts so her mannerisms towards them have a sheen of cynicism to it all.  Mr. Stanley Tucci and his multi colored ponytail just hams it up as the commentator Caesar Flickerman.  He just gets to be hammy and reveling in it all. Woody Harrelson plays the mentor Haymitch, the sort of character who got lucky in the games and came out the victor, resentful and a slob, but takes an interest in Katniss because of who she is and what she represents.

Movie Review – The Hunger Games

I could go on and on with the characters, but I honestly want people to see this movie.  At a hearty 142 minutes, this is a big film to sit through, but it goes by quickly once the title fades away.  The human endeavor and despair in the District 12 society frames the fractured society that is still being punished 70 years after the fact.  Little honor and tributes are given to them, making them further downtrodden.  The film is very reminiscent of other films that deal with the idea of control and televising of government controlled death matches.  Battle Royale comes to mind as the Japanese government uses these free for all death matches to weed out the undesirable children from society.  The Running Man (the only time you will see this comparison I promise) is about the use of the games as means to keep the society docile and a satiate some sort of sickly blood lust that the residents of the Capitol enjoy as part of their spoils of war.  The televising of it is a show to them and at every turn Katniss and the contestants are reminded again and again.

The brutality of the games are amplified because of the contestants involved.  Young kids cutting down another, taunting them before death and giving in to the desperation of the games is haunting to watch.  I think for some kids, it might be a bit too much to handle, but then again, these are kids that committing the acts on behalf of the Districts, so there is no blurring of this line between acceptable and unacceptable.  But at the heart of the film is one of the most compelling, young female character out there and hey, maybe it gets the ladies to take up archery and being badass.  There are a few issues I have with the film, but that is more from a book to film comparison which I am avoiding because I want to base the review on the merits of the film itself.

As a film, it is a finely crafted science fiction film with a feral taste for death and battle, but also conveying that the female lead takes the role of the traditional male archetype.  The cinematography is rough, but esthetically pleasing with a little bit too much handheld shaky cam use.  It is effective in conveying the closeness we with Katniss, but it disorients and shakes you out of your viewing comfort.  The Hunger Games is a refreshing and welcomed entry to the eventual sequel that managed to capture the scope and depth of the source material.  Stunning acting from one of the best cast films of the year, along with giving young girls a figure that they can look up to.

Rating: 4.5/5

*images via RottenTomatoes

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