The Hunger Games

Overview:
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.

Plot Rating: 4/5
I’ve read the books, so I knew what was going on (the movie follows the events of the book nearly religiously, no wonder, considering the author is one of the screenwriters), but throughout the movie I kept thinking that if you didn’t read the book you would probably have trouble following it.

“Hunger Games” follows Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 in a post-war USA called “Panam”. Her sister is chosen to be the female representative in the Hunger Games, a display of power by the Capitol where a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the 12 Districts must come to the Capitol once a year and fight to the death in a tremendous arena while their families and the Capitol are forced to watch from home. The even is televised and treated like a kind of reality show, with people in a control room adding fires, monsters, and other dangers to the game to spice it up.

Katniss volunteers when her 12 year old sister Prim is chosen, and is sent to the Capitol to play. While initially she has no hope of surviving, the games go on and she finds herself joining the ranks of the finalists, but she must first decide if she will trust the boy from her district, Peeta, who is the same age as her and who professed to the entire country during an interview that he was in love with her.

The movie is very much written with the assumption you’ve read the books, which I have some reservations about. I took off a point with that in mind. Early on the writing is very loose and fast and disjointed, with nearly every conversation starting and ending abruptly. It pulls back together by the end, but the beginning is just very poorly done.

I will emphasize that, if you’ve read the book, you’ll probably love the movie. The only detail I can recall being changed is that Katniss doesn’t get the mockingjay pin from her school friend, instead she is given it at the black market while selling game.

Directing: 0/5
I added this category just so I could take points off. Let this serve you mainly as a warning: the directing is horrific. I can’t tell if the writing really was loose, or if the directing was just that terrible (I’m kind of leaning towards bad directing).

It is mainly built up around extremely shaky handheld cameras, with very few still shots in the whole film. Some shots are totally pointless, long-lasting close up shots of someone’s back or unexplained rough shots of people that you cannot even focus on long enough to tell what they are supposed to be doing.

Seriously, other than “Last Airbender” and “Dargo” I have never seen directing this bad (and my issue with “Airbender” is mainly with the editors). It feels like a rookie independent film entered at some high school class contest.

The 9 main teens in the Games (plus Gale) pose for Vanity Fair (not from film).

I wanted to warn you all about the handcam because of my father. He gets motion sickness only during shaky movies (like the “Borne” series), and only if it’s in the theaters, he’s fine with it on television. If you’re like this then DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. It was so shaky I even started getting a headache.

Acting Score: 5/5
As awkward as the writing is and as horrible as the directing is, the acting is what kept me in the theater. Jennifer Lawrence takes the lead role of Katniss and plays it expertly alongside seasoned veteran Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. Stanley Tucci and Wes Bentley have minor roles as Games commentator Caesar and Games Director Seneca, respectfully.

Youngster Amandla Stenberg gave an incredible performance as Rue, a girl Katniss befriends in the arena who meets a tragic end. Liam Hemsworth was misused though as Gale. He appears in very few scenes, has even fewer lines of dialogue, and overall wasn’t given the chance he should have to make an impact, considering his character’s larger roles in the last two books (which have already received clearance to be made into films).

Katniss runs across the field to get a bag of medicine, weary of the other surviving competitors waiting in the shadows.

Age Rating: 13+
When I went there were a lot of smaller kids in the theater, and a lot of those ended up screaming at frightening parts, covering their eyes, or outright leaving. One of the reasons I was excited for this film was to see how they would handle the violence and gore in the books, and what kind of audience would be there.  The story is about youngsters, 12-16 year olds, which media psychology predicts will draw viewers from around 10-14 (primarily who i saw in the audience), yet the book and movie contain extreme violence as children fight to the death. Young children may be frightened by the gore, and it does not teach anything about violence being wrong, so parents might want to preview it before giving their children the OK to go to the theatre.

Fun Trivia
Author Suzanne Collins also wrote the “Hunger Games” screenplay, probably why it isn’t a bastardization of the book and actually follows the plot extremely closely.

An injured Peeta watches Katniss, the girl he fell in love with when they were children.

Suzanne Collins attended Indiana University and received a double major in Theater and Telecommunications. I only consider this fun trivia because I am currently a Junior at Indiana University majoring in Telecommunications 🙂

Liam Hemsworth (Gale) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) both had to dye their hair brown for the film (they are natural blonds). Meanwhile Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), a brunette, had to dye his hair blonde to fit his role (and trust me, you can tell).

Hemsworth, Lawrence, and Hutcherson have already said they will return to reprise their roles in the last two movies.

Leading up to the release of the movie Lionsgate Media said that they would only approve the last two films if “Hunger Games” did well in the box office. The film sold out of all midnight premiere times two weeks before the actual movie premiere, and within hours of the release Lionsgate announced they have approved “Catching Fire” and  “Mockingjay”. “Catching Fire” is estimated to be released in 2013, and “Mockingjay” is scheduled for sometime in 2015.

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