The Hunger Games. A while back, a friend recommended I check out a book called The Hunger Games. I didn’t really know anything about it and it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar yet. Well, I loved the book (review here) and was excited to hear about the movie on the horizon.
Well, the horizon has come.
The gist: It’s the future. America has gone through a rebellion but the government squashed it and now punishes its people by forcing children to compete in a to-the-death competition called the Hunger Games. Our story begins at the 74th annual event, where we follow Katniss and Peeta as they venture off to compete for their lives.
The casting is generally pretty spot-on. Jennifer Lawrence as leading lady Katniss is convincing and holds the movie afloat. Her early scenes with her family are especially touching, as it’s truly believable that she may never come home. Josh Hutcherson (who was amazing in Bridge to Terabithia) is a perfect Peeta, with an innate sense of insecurity that doesn’t need to beat us over the head but is subtle and convincing. Everyone else in the movie is pretty good, no complaints.
If you’ve read the book… you may care how it translates to the big screen. For me, I was very happy. Of course they had to cut and trim (and it’s still clocks in at almost 2.5 hours) but the things that didn’t make it were things that didn’t really need to be there. I had a few “Wait, that’s not how…” moments but in retrospect, they were wise decisions. I think we were lucky that author Suzanne Collins was also on the screenwriting team for the film.
The film packs an emotional punch luckily. There are a few key moments where you want to feel like you’ve been hit in the gut and the film certainly delivers.
What doesn’t work?
With a PG13 rating, the amount of violence in the book would be an issue. To fix this, the director has moved to a quick-cut style of action that most of the time had me confused. I had no idea who was fighting, what was happening, and I couldn’t enjoy the battles that we’ve waited the whole movie to see (especially the final climax, I was very let down).
The same style was used during non-action scenes and there were some interesting choices when editing the shots together. On more than three occasions, someone would come into the scene and it would take 5-6 seconds for us to see who they were. Not out of suspense, mind you, but out of poor camera angles where we just can’t see their face. Is that Gale she’s hugging? Oh, it’s Cinna. This movie lives in the close-up and I wish the director would have taken more time in establishing shots and wide shots to really give us perspective.
Overall… This was a fantastic movie. Casting was spot-on, the story was touching, and there will no doubt be films in the pipeline for sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Sloppy action scenes and confusing editing keeps this movie from getting the coveted 5-star rating however. But aside from that detail, this is a great film and (as a fan of the books) pleased me beyond belief.