Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel, “The Hunger Games” makes its way to the big screen this weekend and if the advance audience tracking polls are to be believed, it’s poised to become one of the biggest films of the year. I’m talking “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” big. That’s okay by me because the film also happens to be pretty good.
The story takes place in a dystopian, post-civil war future. The country has disintegrated into a series of conquered districts struggling to survive. As a mark of dominance, the ruling government demands that each district send a young boy and girl to the Capitol each year for a televised fight to the death known as The Hunger Games. It’s like “Survivor,” except that the other contestants kill you rather than vote you off the island.
The story follows a girl from District 12 named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). She volunteers to compete in the games in place of her younger sister, who was initially selected. Along with the baker’s son, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) the two underdog contestants head to the Capitol to get some last minute lessons in fighting tactics and charm. In order to impress the TV audience, and thus increase their chances of survival, they pretend to be young lovers. The problem is that Katnis is already in love with a hunky boy back home (Liam Hemsworth). Things get complicated when the pretend romance starts to feel real. Remember, nobody is allowed to leave the Hunger Games arena until everybody else is dead.
That makes for a rather complex setup to the story. There were several moments during the screening of the film when I wondered if I would have been able to follow along if I hadn’t read the books earlier. Collins’ fans will also notice that there are many details that get glossed over because of the film’s time constraints, but that’s always the case when a popular novel is adapted for the big screen.
The film spends its time with the important stuff. The characters are well-drawn and Jennifer Lawrence, in particular, is superb playing the timid young heroine who catches fire and becomes a deadly force to be reckoned with. The love triangle gives us a genuinely heart-wrenching dilemma as we root for all of the young lovers. Finally, the arena gets half of the film’s somewhat bloated running time, so there’s plenty for action fans to cheer about.
Most of my critiques fall into the category of the film not matching the images that I had in my head. That’s obviously a bit unfair to the filmmakers, although I do think that the production design of the Capitol is a bit silly. It’s almost as if Dr. Seuss had been hired as the city’s fascist, day glow stylist. Other than that, I am happily thrilled by this movie. “The Hunger Games” is fast-paced, exciting and filled with believable characters that will have you cheering. Most importantly for Lionsgate Films, this is a thrilling movie that left me hungry for the next adaptation of “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at email@example.com.
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