Release Date: March 23, 2012 (2D and IMAX theaters)
Director: Gary Ross
Screenwriter: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Amandla Stenberg, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens)
Official Website: TheHungerGamesmovie.com
So! Have you read the book(s)?
That’s the question that keeps coming up whenever a conversation about the Hunger Games begins. I think I’ve heard this question concerning this movie more than when Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and even Twilight came out. Something about Suzanne Collins’s novel series has inspired a massive inquisition by fans of the books. Apparently there’s a need to read them BEFORE walking into the theater…
“A lot information needed to understand the story is found in the book, and the movie will simply be confusing to any who haven’t read it.”
While I COMPLETELY understand the urge for people to read any novels that later inspire films, the storyline isn’t as complex as people have made the books out to be – especially if the film is anything like the novel.
A good thing to note about the Hunger Games is the ability for fans to ADMIT they’ve read them without feeling deeply ashamed inside. Young Adult novels have become somewhat of a fad in the world of cinema and there’s only a few franchises people are ok with admitting they’ve read the novels of. There aren’t many teen novels which I’ve found to be particularly well written, (for obvious reasons) but having not read the the Hunger Games, I can honestly say that it looks like I can add it to the “well written” pile.
Now as we all know, popularity doesn’t shame-proof a movie or a book. If Twilight has taught us anything, it’s that very concept! But we can’t really compare this particular film to Twilight. Sure, it has some of the same elements and characteristics that make up Stephenie Meyer’s popular story, but there’s a few undeniable differences laid before us; Strong protagonists who don’t weigh the story down, motivations that drive the characters forward into comprehensive moralistic dilemmas, and…well…better writing.
It’s obvious this movie was meant for an audience who enjoy action and suspense, with the potential for a love triangle to occur. We might as well slap a big sticker on this film’s forehead reading “Teen Drama!” because that’s really all it is. Granted, this is a much stranger and bigger set of circumstances, but the hormones are still there and will evoke the most giddy of responses from every high school teenager watching. Thankfully my lovely wife and I happened to go to the theater sitting amongst the right crowd, laughing and making fun of the Breaking Dawn part two trailer, which made for a much more enjoyable movie going experience. (Don’t miss Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…It’ll be a hokey, nerdtastic blast!
But even teen dramas can be entertaining. Any tale where the sport of hunting humans is the central theme, as cliche as it may sound, is always going to be tense and terrifying. The film does have a few moments where your skin will crawl and heart race, and your skeleton may jump out of its skin at least once, but it all helps to keep the film trucking along with a fluid and effortless flow. Watch out for those dogs though, they’ll get cha!
There wasn’t anything in the film, however, that made me want to instantly pick up the book and read it…it just wasn’t the kind of film which inspires that type of intrigued. The thought that ran through my head as I walked back to my car was, “Suzanne Collins if ok, but J.K. Rowling is better.” However, I am interested and will probably read the books at some point. But I also fully support any of you (who haven’t seen the film yet) who wish to read the book first to do so. There’s just no reason to live by the faulty philosophy of not wanting to ruin movies by reading the books first.
Much like with many haters of South Park who have trouble admitting that kids are jerks, have potty mouths and inflict bodily harm on one another, the Hunger Games can and will challenge you parents out there. But don’t worry, seeing (and potentially enjoying) this film will not label you as a supporter of the senseless murder of children. I think we’ll all still believe that you love your sons and daughters. But, needless to say, this is a disturbing story where young adults, all in that age bracket of middle and high school, are killing each other because they have to. It isn’t really that bloody, mostly using a Hitchcockian approach, but there are a few disturbing scenes that may alarm you.
Despite the cheesy teen angst, I was entertained. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was phenomenal as the story’s hero – displaying a maturity and confidence of someone beyond her years. However, I found myself waiting for Katniss to be placed in a situation where her moral compass was challenged, or for her to commit an act that compromised her. Every time she shot her arrow at a fellow tribute, it was always in self defense, henceforth being justified. She was the exact same person by the end of the film as she was when she began, simply doing what she can to protect those she cared about.
The same goes for every other character as well; Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) remained a young man with very little self confidence, Cato (Alexander Ludwig) ended up dying as the same murderous jerk when he started the training sessions, and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) was left in the same moralistic position – or lack thereof – from when he first spoke into the microphone. Likewise the people of this strange society still routed for the tributes, and there was no visible threat to the games’ existence. Nothing changed, and no one learned anything. Now, having not read the books, I may be jumping the gun a bit, but no doubt there is a serious lack of lessons being learned, holding the characters back from developing in a positive way.
I will say this, however – The Hunger Games is arguably one of the better films I’ve seen about a dictatorial society which puts the characters in situations where they must act out the role of gladiator. With so many similar, already televised shows where people go through a series of challenges in order to be a victor, where each competitor belittles his or her opponent, (yes, that is what reality TV is) the Hunger Games had a fantastic set of source material to work from.
Very little complaints from this reviewer; I wasn’t expecting much from the film, but did go in expecting to enjoy my time watching and seeing what all the hub bub was about. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to own it on DVD, but no doubt, I had fun and would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in seeing a teen action flick that’s worth the price of admission.