Written by Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Directed by Gary Ross
Running Time: 2:22
Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens
The Hunger Games was a spot-on book adaptation that will make fans and non-fans happy.
In the not-so-distant future, the U.S. is broken into 12 districts along with a Capitol. In order to stop the districts from rebelling, once a year the Capitol puts on a Hunger Games - 2 children under the age of 18 represent each district in a battle to the death. Primrose Everdeen is the female choice from District 12, but her older sister Katniss volunteers on her behalf - a rarity in the Hunger Games. Together with Peeta, the two of them must now face the kids from the other districts in the world's most brutal game of Survivor. Will Katniss return to her sister, and her love Gale? Or will the other combatants take her and Peeta out before they can come up with a plan to save them both?
I've read all three books in the The Hunger Games trilogy, so I knew what to expect. I'm a fan of the books and I haven't seen such interest in a film adaptation since the Harry Potter movies. Over the last few weeks just about everyone in my office is either reading or re-reading the book to prepare themselves for the movie. And the movie pays off. Obviously if you've read the book you know what happens in the film, so there are no surprises. But the movie also does a great job of making the book come alive. As we all know, a lot of book-to-film adaptations kind of suck, but this one is not only dead on, it looks really good. There was a little too much shakycam for my liking in the beginning, but after that you settle in to an amazing ride. There isn't much left out from the books - a couple of characters here and there and one or two plot points are changed, but the entire essence of the book is there. The movie is split almost equally between the set up to the Games, and the Games themselves, which allows us to get to know a lot of the characters. It would have been nice to get to know a couple of them a little more, but this is already a 2+ hour film. The important relationships are set up, and the love triangle is played out almost perfectly. I think the casting was wonderful, with the secondary characters actually even better than the primary ones. But the movie completely hinges on Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and she steps into the role like she was born for it. She looks a bit older than she was in the book, but they cast around her so she doesn't look out of place. She manages to carry the weight of the movie on her shoulders very easily. It'll be fun to watch her grow even more with the next 2 (or 3) films.
I went with a couple of friends who hadn't read the book. Their reviews were mixed. One of them absolutely loved it. He enjoyed the pacing of the film and how it built to a satisfying ending, leaving him wanting more. The other person was confused about a couple of things and missed a couple of key moments in the film that would have helped his opinion. Once I explained it to him, he came around. So I think non-fans of the book will appreciate the movie for what it is. For those of us who have read the books, you know how violent they are. The movie doesn't skimp on the violence, but they shoot it in a way where you don't see a whole lot. It still might be frightening for younger kids, but the 13 and up group should be OK with it. Visually the movie was very dark and grimy, which makes sense considering the world that they're in. I had hoped that once they got to the Capitol, the movie would take on more of that Hollywood sheen, but it was kept gritty the entire time. Considering the difference between the districts and the Capitol, I would have thought that it would have come across more in the movie, but beyond some futuristic looking apartments, it was pretty much the same. But, I enjoyed it enough I'll be going back for seconds later this week, and then going back and re-reading the entire series again. While it's no Harry Potter, it's still a great film for the entire family to enjoy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Hunger Games. I'm coming at it as someone who loved the books and that certainly helped my enjoyment of the film, but I think even non-fans will enjoy it for the drama, the romance and the action.