It’s good in so many ways, and for so many different reasons. The Hunger Games as a movie (I have not read the book) does what so many movies based on popular things forget to do — stick to the essential script.
There seems to be a healthy fear, it might be better to say concern, about this movie — it’s as if the filmmakers were afraid to screw this up for the hardcore fans who appreciate and love the novels written by Suzanne Collins.
The filmmakers don’t handle the material with kid gloves — instead, they’ve approached it with disciplined tact, and they’ve created a movie that’s refreshingly intelligent, focused, and terrestrial, so much so that I sat there in the theater after the movie was over feeling astonished and, this is important, thankful.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in the 12th of 12 districts in Panem, a dystopian North American country where a great war was fought. Out of the chaos, the newly formed government made it a point to remind its citizens about how bad things could be and created the Hunger Games — a brutal competition where two children, male and female, are chosen from each district in a solemn Reaping ceremony.
The chosen are forced to fight to the death in a televised virtual battlefield where programmers change the landscape and add traps to heighten the drama for better ratings, the winner comes home with glory and honor.
But at what cost?
Katniss, a skilled archer, volunteers in place of her sister, and she joins the resourceful Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to be sent as Tributes to participate in the games.
Katniss leaves behind a love in Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), but Katniss and Peeta bond even as their mutual history is revealed. They’re not alone, and the “competitors,” some unwilling and some frightfully willing, get their time in the spotlight to flesh out the movie and give weight to circumstances happening in and out of the arena.
The film’s primary audience is children, so violence is toned down via camera shake — you can’t be offended by what you can’t see — though there are moments that younger children might find traumatic. The violence helps the social commentary pack extra punch, and it’s done deliberately, timely, and for a purpose.
The cast is great, and Lawrence is especially amazing as both a frightened teen facing the biggest challenge of her life and as a young woman coming into her own. Woody Harrelson as District 12’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, has depth, and his presence as a veteran actor carries scenes.
More movies are planned as there are two more books in the series.
I say, Let the games continue.