Don’t let the fact that The Hunger Games is marketed toward the same teenybopper crowd as a certain vampire/werewolf movie that encourages viewers to pick a “Team” dissuade you from checking it out.
Still, its PG-13 dilution of some of the book’s most important parts gives some reason for pause. Essentially, The Hunger Games is a tale of kids killing kids and easily could have been an R-rated movie, but director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) had to work with a PG-13 rating much to the story’s detriment. The shaky-cam action scenes help to dilute the violence and soften the deaths of the children.
Based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games takes place in the post-apocalyptic land of Panem (formerly North America), a dystopian society with a totalitarian government. As part of the punishment for the rebellion, citizens of the 12 districts live in poverty and are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, in which 24 “tributes” (one boy and one girl from each district, between 12 and 17 years of age) are randomly selected and shipped off to The Capitol, where only one will return home victorious.
The other 23 will die — either at the hands of nature or of their fellow tributes.
On the day of the reaping (a ceremony where the names are drawn), young Primrose Everdeen’s (Willow Shields) name is selected for the girls. Unable to stand the thought of her sweet, innocent little sister facing death, big sis Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.
For the boy from District 12, the selection is a baker’s son named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). As it turns out, Peeta’s been harboring a secret crush on Katniss, who until this point hadn’t given him a second look since the time he kindly threw her some bread one day. Seems Katniss has some unresolved feelings for the swoon-worthy Gale (Liam Hemsworth), a boy at home whom she goes hunting with.
The actual “games” make up about half of the movie, and while there are some inconsistencies and plot holes, it basically sticks close to the book. The supporting roles played by Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci added a great bit of color to the story.
Lawrence does a great job as the heroine Katniss. Truth be told, this is the same type of role that brought the actress her first Oscar nomination (as Ree in Winter’s Bone) at the ripe young age of 20. It’s clear that Katniss is going to survive (she’s the star of two more books, after all), but watching Lawrence get her there was always entertaining.
Hutcherson (most known to me as the kid from Bridge to Terabithia) is likable, though I wouldn’t quite call him “dreamy.”
At close to two and a half hours, the movie is a bit on the long side, yet some book purists may still be dissatisfied that some things were left out. One thing I found odd was that the movie downplayed the hunger aspect. Not once did I feel anyone (either in the districts or the kids in the games) was on the brink of starvation.
The Hunger Games is not just a movie for teenage girls, a la Twilight. Its portrayal of a dystopian society has the potential for lots of social commentary. Another plus, it’s quite light on the love-triangle story, and I refuse to declare myself as “Team Gale” or “Team Peeta,” no matter how much it is suggested I should do so. ••
Movie Grade: B+EndFragment