As someone who has never read the popular Hunger Games-book by Suzanne Collins, I can’t say whether or not this film adaptation does the source material justice. What I keep hearing though, is that the book is far better but this review will be from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read it and only knows the plot as told by this movie.
The story of The Hunger Games is set in a future where the population of the United States has been seperated into different districts, surrounding a Capitol. Those of District 1 are much better off and have more resources and money whereas those out in, say, District 11 are poor miners and such. A girl from Disctrict 12 named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is our protagonist. She volunteers to join the annual Hunger Games in order to spare her little sister the experience, who was intended to join the games with a baker’s son named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), as selected by Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), the sadistic host of the games.
The objective of the game is that two kids our young adults – one boy and one girl – from each district will fight for the glory of their home in a “survival of the fittest”-based deathmatch against the competititors of the other districts. Last one alive wins and the winning district gets more food or some junk. I suspect it’s explained better in the books how this can be legal.
Being based on a novel intended for young women, it is inevitable that romance begins to blossom between Peeta and Katniss, but they are thankfully surrounded by more characters. In preperation for the games they get a Capitol escort named Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and a stylist called Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). There is also the victor of a previous Hunger Game, a joke-prone drunk named Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), who acts as their coach and advisor. When the games begin, Katniss befriends a young girl named Rue (Amandla Stenberg) and makes an enemy in Cato (Alexander Ludwig), a strong and vicious player from, I think, District 1, with whom Peeta pretends to be allied.
How Peeta succeeds in convincing Cato that Katniss is their mutual foe, despite appearing on TV and admitting that he has always loved her, is beyond my comprehension.
Observing the games is President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who does something truly mysterious towards the ending – making a sequel inevitable – and keeping the rest of the population up to date with what happens during the Hunger Games is wacky talk show host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), with his sidekick Cladius Templesmith (Toby Jones). It was sort of fun watching the two scientist-characters from Captain America sit right next to each other. There’s also Gale (Liam Hemsworth), a boy from District 12 who’s crushing on Katniss. We’re thankfully spared a Twilight-esque love triangle, at least for now.
The direction is by Gary Ross and from what I can gather from fans of the books, many questions we might have when watching this film is answered better in the original books and that this adaptation isn’t perfect. But really, are adaptations ever?
As a movie, The Hunger Games isn’t bad. It has an interesting story built around a fairly fascinating concept and the whole thing is carried nicely by Jennifer Lawrence who certainly isn’t as boring as she could’ve been. What The Hunger Games suffers from, though, is a somewhat confusing ending, which feels incomplete and I hope will segue into a sequel, as well as some of the most nauseating cinematography I’ve ever had to endure. Yes, it sometimes works to shake the camera to make action scenes intense but I want to be able to see who’s winning. The way you’re tossing the camera back and forth I can hardly tell one contestant’s arm from the other’s knee.
Nevertheless, this film is certainly enjoyable. Bare in mind that it’s over 2 hours long and it isn’t always easy to make a movie so long and keep it interesting throughout. I was not bored by this film. Annoyed at some things, perhaps, but not bored. I know, I may not be of the intended audience for the film and I am sorry to disappoint those who may have wanted me to compare the film to the book. I cannot do that. I will say, however that The Hunger Games has sparked my interest in seeking out the books and perhaps even reading them. What happens after that? We’ll see.
Still I’m mildly confused about what Donald Sutherland did at the end of the film. When they make a sequel, I hope that he’s the main villain.