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The Hunger Games

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

This movie is going to be critic proof. It doesn't matter what anyone says, it's going to make a ton of money. I thought the book was good, mainly for its premise and for the characterization of Katniss Everdeen, but like the movie, it didn't have the emotional punch such a scenario should have had. Perhaps it's because I am far removed from the target demographic, but I've been reading good SF (and other genres) for almost as long as author Suzanne Collins has been alive. Many of the elements that I knew were intended to have that emotional punch seemed too calculated. The book is better because it is told from Katniss' perspective, so the reader does have that connection and an invested interest in her survival. Even though she is obviously the main focus of the film, such a narrative technique would never have worked on screen, thus we don't get enough information to really care about her. In fact, I had as much sympathy for Rue (Amandla Stenberg) as I did for Katniss.

While Jennifer Lawrence does a very good job, I can't say the same for most of the others, and the whole production is hampered by a lack of focus. I'm not saying the acting is bad, just the writing, which did not take advantage of the experienced cast. At least in the book we got more background for the characters, plus more history for the country of Panem in general. When the film tries to give us some of that information it is done in clumsy exposition, such as the film shown at the beginning of the reaping ceremony. The movie opened with a text prologue about the past rebellion and the government's reaction to it, so that film was superfluous. There were a couple of other times when details were given in character dialogue, particularly by the Games host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), violating one of the cardinal rules for writers - show, don't tell.

It's a fairly good adaptation, even though there were a few changes, additions or omissions. The major ones are [SPOILER ALERT!] in the movie they seemed to imply that Katniss and Gale's relationship is a romantic one while the book narration leads us to suspect she did not feel that way about him until after Peeta's admission of love for her, and maybe not even then. Another is the riots that break out in District 11 after Rue's death, which did not occur until the second book. The third is the elimination of the character of Madge, the mayor's daughter, who gave the mockingjay pin to Katniss, whereas in the movie she gets it from a vendor at the Hob. Nothing major really, and they followed everything else closely. Perhaps too closely. It's sort of a "paint by numbers" approach, to include as many of the elements from the book for the fans, but for those not familiar with the characters and plot it may lack the hook needed to get them to care.

Don't get me wrong, the movie is entertaining, and I am sure it will please most of the book's fans as well as the general audience. I will want to see this again, but it can wait for the video release, and more than likely I'll wait until just before the sequel film comes out. In spite of what it sounds like, I did like the movie, just not as much as I had anticipated. The potential was there for it to have been better than the book, but it fell short of the mark. There is plenty of action and suspense, but most of the underlying social commentary was glossed over. I suppose we will have to wait a year for that to be made more clear. There has been a lot of talk about whether the story's content is appropriate for younger teenagers and children. Every parent has to make the decision based on what they know of their child's sensitivities, but in my opinion it is fairly tame. For the full implications of what the Games are really about it should have been even darker and more violent.

I just rated this a 7 (on a scale of 10) at, but I toyed with the idea of only giving it a 6.


Related Links:
Eliza DoLots' review of the movie.
My review of the book trilgoy.


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Gary Ross

Suzanne Collins
Gary Ross
Billy Ray

March 23, 2012

Jennifer Lawrence
Willow Shields
Liam Hemsworth
Paula Malcomson
Elizabeth Banks
Josh Hutcherson
Woody Harrelson
Wes Bentley
Lenny Kravitz
Stanley Tucci
Toby Jones
Donald Sutherland
Amandla Stenberg

Full Credits at IMDb

On DVD & Blu-Ray Now