The Hunger Games (2012)
Directed by Gary Ross
In recent years, movies spawning from “fad” book franchises have often been inconsistent at best…at least in terms of quality (God knows they all made their share of money). “The Series of Unfortunate Events” stopped after the first decent movie, Chris Columbus made a few good Harry Potter movies, Twilight bombed, and “The Help” managed to be nominated for Best Picture. But “The Hunger Games” is different. It seems as if someone cared enough about film to make this artistic adaptation as aesthetically pleasing as it is entertaining.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, somewhere in between “The Beaver” and “Winter’s Bone”) lives in the grayscale world of District 12 –free from the luxuries of the rich — somewhere in a dystopian future. But when Katniss volunteers to compete in the 74th annual Hunger Games (wherein children from 12 districts fight to the death for the pleasure of TV viewers), all eyes turn to her. Not often does someone offer themselves in something like this, apparently. Will she form an alliance with hunky fake-lover and district-mate Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, bland at best)? Or will she fight independently? Or die alone?
Hutcherson takes the gravity of his role and manages to come off as amateur, leaving me turned off of Team Peeta forever. He lacks a certain chutzpah. It’s slightly embarrassing how bad you feel for Peeta, until you realize you actually feel bad for Hutcherson. Starring beside Jennifer Lawrence (“X-Men: First Class”) must be tough, but someone has to do it. Lawrence shows genuine, raw emotion like a seasoned pro. The supporting cast is great, from the rest of the blood-thirsty teens in the “Games” to Woody Harrelson (playing the Katniss/Peeta team mentor), Elizabeth Banks (I’m not quite sure what her role even was–if you haven’t read the books, director Ross doesn’t feel sorry for you), and Stanley Tucci (as a bubbly TV personality).
Some of the outlandish decor (you’ll see) doesn’t blend well with its surroundings, but generally, the SFX is nice. The haunting and ominous score is almost as intense and emotionally driven as the silence that “The Hunger Games” uses ever in its favor. Katniss’ screams aren’t heard over the deafening silence. It doesn’t kill emotion, it bolsters it. And the cinematography lends itself to the non-stop action, killed with as much death as its PG-13 rating would allow. Apparently, it allows quite a bit. “The Hunger Games” is a new kind of adaptation. One that cares enough about cinema to make a good movie, not just a decent one based off a good book. It’s refreshing.