“. . . and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
This review for The Hunger Games is written by someone who has just recently read the book. That matters because my view on the film could be completely different from someone who read the book a couple of years ago or someone who has no clue about the books. The Hunger Games is currently a phenomenon due to the love for the trilogy of young adult books by Suzanne Collins and now the eagerly awaited film version. It is such a phenomenon that the film has already outsold those pesky Twilight films in advance ticket sales. There has been nothing but good buzz about the first film. I took a quick look at a few of the early reviews and was happy to see that they were positive if not glowing.
I really liked the book, although I did not devour it like some of my friends. The story of The Hunger Games is not about love, but of survival and sacrifice. The general plot outline of the film and the book involves twelve districts that each year send a boy and a girl (each called a Tribute) to compete to the death in “The Hunger Games.” They are sent to the Capitol to train and show off before entering the arena. Only one of the 24 competitors comes out. The film and the book focus on District 12, the district that provides the Capitol with coal. The main character is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who hunts in forbidden boundaries of the forest for food for her family. She is often joined by her friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who is equally as skilled in hunting. The day of The Reaping (the day the Tributes are chosen) comes and Katniss’ little sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is chosen. Katniss volunteers in her stead. Another boy named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is chosen to represent the boys of District 12. Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol to be prepared for the games. I could go more into the story and the details of the games, but I could write two pages on the subject and it still would not be sufficient.
The cast is the most impressive thing about The Hunger Games. From the beginning, everyone knew this was going to be a good film. Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Donald Sutherland all make up the extraordinary “older” cast. The younger cast is made up of lesser known actors, but they are equally as good, even if some of them were not on-screen for that long. This includes Isabelle Fuhrmann, Alexander Ludwig, Jack Quaid, Leven Rambin, Dayo Okeniyi, Amandla Stenberg, and Jacqueline Emerson. The film rides on the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, and they both do a really good job with their characters. Their performance is almost as much about acting as it is stunts. The arena part of the film is all action, and both actors do very well with the physical part of their role.
I was surprised by my reaction to the film as the end credits started to roll. I came away from the film thinking it is just an okay film. I was not blown away by anything in the film, whether it be the setting, costumes, stunts, or the special effects. The runtime for the film is 142 minutes, which is over two hours, yet I feel like many things in the film are cut short. The Hunger Games book is not a large book at 374 pages, but I feel like there is not much development of the important relationships between the characters. The possible love between Peeta and Katniss in the arena is shown using a couple of quick kisses. In the book, it seemed to burn for a while in Katniss’ mind as to what to do and how far to go.
Some things in the book are inevitably going to change for the film version. You cannot fit everything that is in the book into the film. Yet there are a few things that are changed and there is no reason for it. One example is the origin of the mockingjay pin which has become a symbol of the series. There are also things added to the film that are not needed. Wes Bentley’s Seneca Crane, who is the Head GameMaker, is a few words on a page in the book, yet he has a lot of screen time in the film. The film also moves the story forward into the second book, already showing some of what is to take place in the second film.
I could continue to explain my position on The Hunger Games, but it would get into spoiler territory. Overall, I came away from the film feeling like it is an okay film; good, but not great. I attended the screening with a fanatic friend who had the same reaction, which makes me think I will not be in the minority in my view of the film. It had the potential to be an over-the-top fantastic film that everyone would rave about, but it stopped short of reaching that point. I will gladly see if The Hunger Games team can improve with the second film, Catching Fire, in the planned four film series. Of course, the odds are in their favor.
I give The Hunger Games 3 “Peeta makes a cameo as Treebeard” out of 5.