out of Five
Running time: 142
Finally a blockbuster movie that doesn’t rely on snazzy special effects or wooden dialogue but a clever, thrilling script with a refreshingly understated style. One of the best book-to-screen adaptations of recent times.
What’s it all about?
Set in a futuristic North America the wealthy, powerful Capitol controls a series of impoverished districts with an iron fist as they supply it with materials to fuel its gluttony and excess. In far flung District 12 lives Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who frequently sneaks beyond the border of her district to hunt illegally with best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) to prevent her family from starving in the extremely hard living conditions outside of the Capitol.
As an annual reminder of the Capitol’s power, and as punishment for the districts uprising over 70 years ago an event known as the Hunger Games is held in which each district must choose one boy and one girl, known as Tributes, through a raffle known as the Reaping to compete against each other in a televised fight to the death.
When Katniss’s younger sister Prim is unexpectedly chosen in the Reaping Katniss volunteers as Tribute to take her place and is whisked away to the Capitol to compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
This is finally a Hollywood blockbuster which doesn’t overly rely on special effects and, for an “event” movie, is pleasantly free of cheese. The horrific nature of the story is handled so that you stick with Katniss through all her discoveries of the challenges of the Games and the world she lives in which forces children to compete in them.
There have been some cuts in the transition from book to screen but these work well by allowing the filmmakers to focus on the central story. One storyline that doesn’t quite work is the love story between Katniss and Peeta, and whether they are in love or just playing it up for the cameras.
The finale is surprisingly low-key, and I’m afraid the gravity of Katniss’ ultimate defiance of the Capitol is lost in the movie, however a subtle political subplot does set the gears in motion for what lies ahead in future films. This is absolutely a film made with sequels in mind.
Jennifer Lawrence is simply perfect as Katniss Everdeen, fans of the book series will be pleased with such a faithful portrayal of the main character. The script is solid and naturally flowing, conversation doesn’t seem forced and wooden like some other literary adaptations (*cough* Twilight *cough*).
The film handles the books questions about politics, entertainment and capitalist excess with ease although as mentioned the underlying character drama of the love story between Katniss and Peeta is muted. Scenes showing the Hunger Games control room and President Snow influencing the Games are welcome additions to the story, effectively setting up the political landscape for the forthcoming sequels.
Many have called this series the new Twilight, but I would caution tarnishing it with that brush. The Hunger Games is a smart movie with broad appeal which poses real moral questions thanks a talented team both in front of and behind the camera. Expect great things from this series. Highly recommended.