Expectations can kill a movie. Take The Phantom Menace, for example. There really was no way for the first Star Wars movie in (at the time of its release) 16 years to ever meet the unrealistic expectations fans had for the return of the galaxy far, far away. As with all movies with huge fan bases, whether it be Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight, what have you– there is always going to be a division of opinion between the “fanboys (or girls)” and the general audience. As with the latter two, book adaptations really seem to be polarizing.
Enter The Hunger Games.
Whether or not you have read the books could greatly alter how much you enjoy this movie. Under the direction of Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), the movie seems to be more of a book report than an adaptation, as it feels as if its meerly glossing over the important details of the source material.
The plot centers around a futuristic dystopian society where our country is divided into 12 discticts of varying wealth and social class. In the aftermath of an uprising, each district has been made to offer up a male and female “tribute” to compete in the annual Hunger Games– a televised event in which the tributes are made to hunt and kill each other until only one remains. The fact that each tribute is between the ages of 12-18 makes it an even bigger ratings boost and that much more tragic to watch…or at least it should.
The main problem with The Hunger Games for an outsider of the book series is that it’s hard to really care about any of the characters much less what’s happening. It’s evident as you watch that there is more to what is happening but being constrained to 140 minutes means a lot of crucial elements are sacrificed and here it’s mainly depth of characters.
The cast, however, is great. Academy Award Nominee and X-Men First Class star Jennifer Lawrence plays the movie’s heroine Katniss Everdeen. She is solid here even if the character is pretty one dimensional. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz play the most interesting characters in the movie and neither seem to get nearly enough screen time. Stanley Tucci is great– as per usual– as the sleazy host of the Hunger Games TV network, or whatever it is.
Dogging the proceedings a bit are Josh Hutcherson (Journey 2 the Mysterious Island), who was great last year in The Kids are All Right, but isn’t really given much to work playing Peeta, a love sick camera ham, who seems ready to die for his love and District, family, etc. Equally boring is Liam Hemsworth (brother of Thor/Chris Hemsworth) as Gale. He’s reduced to playing a love sick dude who gets left to wonder if his love will return to him. None of it really matters though. All of the characters are played so plain and straightfaced it’s hard to believe any of them feel anything for each other.
It is a pretty bleak story though– but that’s the big draw to The Hunger Games. A lot of people will be to see how the child on child violence is handled. The book is pretty graphic in some of the deaths of the characters but the movie relies on a lot of shaky cam action sequences– so prepare accordingly. Combined with quick cut editing, most of the violence is kept off-screen and maintain a box office friendly PG-13 rating.
Fans of the book will be pleased as it appears to be a fairly faithful adaptation to the book. There are always going to be things that get left out and fans will surely debate about why the Avox— whatever that is– were left out of the proceedings. Casual movie goers though, may find it a bit hard to really care about what goes on or what lies ahead– there are two more movies to come.
All is not lost though, The Hunger Games is a decent movie and well worth checking out just to see what the fuss is all about– but feels more like a “cliff notes” than it does a true adaptation of a book.
Every month, I Ask Kansas City? about movie and TV stuff. This month on Bonus Features, we took to the streets of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri and one question asked was about upcoming movies. The Hunger Games was easily the most anticipated movie Kansas Citians were looking forward to. What did YOU think of The Hunger Games? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment.
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