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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Hunger Games (Are the Odds Ever In Its Favor?)

I'm a bit late to the reviewing party, but I'm here with my Hunger Games review.  For those of you who have avoided the hype, The Hunger Games is based on the immensely addicting young adult books by Suzanne Collins. The movie (much like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings) will play slightly differently to two audiences: those who have devoured the books and those who are coming fresh to the movie.  I'm definitely in the first camp, and I was pretty impressed.

Let's start with Katniss Everdeen, because if the movie biffed that one there's no way the movie would work.  Thankfully, Jennifer Lawrence is a slam-dunk.  Much like her Winter's Bone character Ree Dolly, Katniss is an Appalachian girl with a missing/dead father, a catatonic mother, and vulnerable siblings who has to hunt squirrels.  I'm sure the filmmakers saw Lawrence's great 2010 performance and couldn't resist casting her as Katniss.  She brings exactly the right amount of doubt, tough-girl grit, and vulnerability to the movie.  It's also really great to have a blockbuster movie so clearly tied to a female protagonist who more than holds her own against fierce male competitors.

The movie is fairly long but highly engaging the whole way through.  I thought the set-up was especially good.  The costumes, set direction, and cinematography all do a great job of portraying both the impoverished District 12 and the decadent Capital.  The rest of the casting is also spot-on, especially Stanley Tucci as talk show host Caesar Flickman.

A pet peeve of mine is viewers who whine about how a movie differs from a book.  Movies inherently can't tell entire stories the way books can and need to be evaluated separately.  Nevertheless...... it's hard to deny that the actually game part of the movie (with 24 competitors fighting to their death) is easier to follow and more tense in the book than in the movie. It's just impossible to be as comprehensive in all the ins and outs of the competition as it was in the book.

Overall, though, The Hunger Games is highly entertaining, a worthy blockbuster and the start of what I'm sure will be a highly lucrative and engaging trilogy.

Grade: B+

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