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Saturday, April 14, 2012



"May the odds be ever in your favor."
-- Effie Trinket

The Hunger Games is a 2012 dramatic action film directed by Gary Ross that serves as an adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name. In a dystopian future amidst the ruins of what was once North America, where the nation of Panem has arisen. After suffering a massive civil war, the leaders in the Capitol decided on a punishment for the twelve outlying districts that rose up against them. From that time, each year would see an annual "Hunger Games," in which each district would send one young man and one young woman between the ages of twelve and eighteen to be trained in combat and survival before fighting one another to the death as part of a show for the residents of the Capitol. The time has come for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, and we meet our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who finds herself as one of District 12's "tributes" to the Games after volunteering to take her sister's place. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the other tribute from the district, make their way to the Capitol to receive their training before entering the arena against twenty-two other young people, all of whom are desperately trying to survive.

I think I have to start this review by stating that I have not read Collins' source novel in its entirety. At the time I saw this film, I had not read any of it, but in the time since, I've managed to secure a copy and have started to read a little bit here and there. Therefore, most of my relationship with this story comes from the film, which I've already begun to realize stays relatively true to the source material, but as with any adaptation, it also has its differences. So all that being said, let's get on with the review, shall we?

Because I wasn't all that familiar with the novel itself, I can't say that I was terribly excited when I heard about the film's adaptation. I had heard all the buzz from the fans, but seeing as I didn't have any prior knowledge, I couldn't seem to wrap my head around all the fuss. As the film's release date grew closer and closer, the buzz increased tenfold, and when the film opened to stellar reviews, I knew I had to see it as soon as I could. Joined by my fanatic of a girlfriend, I ventured down to the local theater and quietly watched as the reel started to roll.

What I saw was a beautifully-crafted film that managed to pull on heartstrings and leave you desperately wanting for more. I suppose I'll start with the film's screenplay. Now, I've heard from a number of fans that this film is one of the better novel-to-film adaptations that they had ever witnessed, stating that the movie follows so closely to the book's storyline that its almost a little uncanny. Not being able to distinguish this myself, I merely had to follow along and keep up as best I can. There were two things about the screenplay that truly stood out to me. First, I liked the fact that it jumped right into the action. We don't waste any time getting to the "Reaping," where the tributes from each district are chosen. By throwing the audience into the fray immediately, it almost catches us a little off-guard and forces us to stay engaged with everything that's happening, and I thought this tactic worked well here. Second, I thought the film explained the events very clearly, which was a huge help for someone like me who was unfamiliar with the storyline. These two things gave me the opportunity to enter the story and keep up with it throughout the film, and for that alone, the screenplay should be applauded.

One of the biggest differences between the book and the movie, however, is the point of view. The novel is written in the first-person, giving us her thoughts and her actions through her own eyes. The film, however, has to take a third-person approach, offering the viewer a slightly different perspective. For example, once she's in the arena, Katniss could only know what's happening in her immediate surroundings. In the film, we're able to see beyond the arena and into the minds of the people watching and hoping and praying that she makes it out alive. Even based off the little bit of the novel I've read, I think that this added a little more depth to the film, only making its story all the stronger.

Luckily, we're also getting a stellar cast to bring the film's characters to life. Jennifer Lawrence has been all the rave since the film was released, and there's definitely a reason for it. She plays her part to the tee, and despite her already above average acting credentials, this has been the performance to spring her to superstardom. I first saw her talents in 2010's Winter's Bone, and I knew then that she could act. Her performance in The Hunger Games only cements my previous thoughts on her abilities. Hutcherson also does well in his performance, but I felt he was a tad bit overshadowed by Lawrence. We're also getting a fantastic supporting cast that includes the likes of Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland. All in all, I'd have to say that the casting department did a fine job here.

We're also getting a great musical score from the likes of James Newton Howard, who always knows how to set the tone of a film with his compositions. The music always seems to fit into the storyline, and it greatly aids the overall movie-going experience.

At the end of the day, I thought The Hunger Games was a fantastic film that managed to strike a chord with both fans and non-fans alike. It's always rare for a film to drive me to read the source novel, but this has definitely been one of those cases. If a movie can impact me that much, then there must be quite a bit of merit to it. It's just a truly well-made film, and it deserves all the accolades its receiving.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-
2 Thumbs Up

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