For the third week in a row, I got to see a Hollywood film based on some other form of media. Unlike John Carter, I haven’t actually read the books that The Hunger Games is based on because I don’t exactly fit the “young adult” novel demographic. After seeing this movie, I really need to fix my error of never reading this series of books.
The Hunger Games is based on a with the same name by Suzanne Collins. The movie tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future where food is scarce and happiness is even scarcer. A totalitarian empire has seized control after a bloody rebellion was quashed years prior to the start of the movie.
Now, the poor citizens live in districts far outside the capital city where they grow food and harvest resources that are used by rich people in the capital. In order to further establish their cartoon villainy, the empire (whose people all dress like Lady Gaga) forces a boy and girl from each district to participate in a battle to the death. The sole survivor gets fame, fortune and food and is crowned champion of The Hunger Games.
Our heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, played by 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, who volunteers to enter the Hunger Games as the female entrant from District 12 in place of her 12-year-old sister. It is at this point that I’m pretty sure I know which district will win.
Anyway, my favorite part of this entire movie is Lawrence’s performance as Katniss. This character is complex, emotional, has a great personality, and really tugs on the heart strings of the audience. It almost seems as if this girl is desperately trying to right all the wrongs that Twilight’s Bella has done to the image of a strong female protagonist. There are very few scenes that don’t feature Katniss to some extent, and that is a strong point in the movie’s favor. Director Gary Ross clearly knew he had something special here with Lawrence playing Katniss, and he capitalizes on it perfectly.
The other characters are fine, but even without reading the books, I could tell the movie just couldn’t fit them all in. The male participant from Katniss’ district is Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson plays out Peeta’s acceptance of his low odds at winning the games, and he does come across as a sympathetic character. However, almost all of his interaction with Katniss seems to be targeted toward enhancing her as a character rather than fleshing out Peeta.
The whole rest of the cast basically plays second banana to Katniss, and it is a shame considering the talent attached to these characters. I was particularly disappointed with the character of Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz. Watching the film, I could easily tell that this character likely had a bigger presence in the book, and I thought Kravitz was tragically underutilized. The same goes for actor Woody Harrelson, who plays Katniss’ alcoholic mentor, Haymitch Abernathy.
The weakest part of the film to me personally resulted from the PG-13 rating that the movie did everything in its power to adhere to. The action scenes contain a lot of camera zooms and quick cutaways to avoid showing graphic death of children. Don’t get me wrong, this film takes the PG-13 rating to its absolute limit, and there is plenty of blood and violence. The problem is that the action scenes aren’t filmed particularly well, and it’s often hard to tell what is happening.
One particular action sequence features a battle between two blonde boys, and the camera is zoomed in so close that you miss all of the excitement and can’t even tell who is winning. Besides that, most of the action scenes are only there as a quick way to make us hate the incredibly evil 18-year-old Spartanesque children from Districts 1 and 2.
When it comes down to it, I really liked this film. It proves that you can make good cinema based on young adult fiction. Essentially, The Hunger Games is two different movies depending on the person watching it. If you’re like me and haven’t experienced the books, this film is a fantastic piece of excellent acting and raw emotion that demands you read those books to get more of this world and characters. If you’re a fan of the books, this movie probably won’t surpass them, but it certainly doesn’t fail to live up to the hype.