HUNGER GAMES, THE

Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland
Studio: Lionsgate

Set in a futuristic US when the hub around New York dominates and rules, 12 ruthlessly governed districts each provide two “tributes” annually to take part in a brutal survival game from which only one winner is allowed to emerge alive. There is a stark contrast between the ultra-modern, high-tech game design and control rooms and the primitive forest that is the playground. The movie is roughly in two halves. The slightly shorter first half establishing the scene and the second half concentrates on the titular event.

Much has been made of Jennifer Lawrence and I have to say that she carried the film. While her performance is strong and ever-commanding, the character of Katniss was never permitted to let her true emotions show, and Lawrence obviously understood that. She couldn’t have been better. The film stands apart from the book because it allows for world-building to find its way in a sense that Collins never accomplished. This more than compensates for a handful of flat, underdeveloped and “evil” characters.

Snow needed to be way creepier than he was. And there was no explanation of the salute, or the treachery and danger that Katniss faced in the Capitol and the ways that she had to lie to everyone around her to save her life and the lives of her friends and family. There was definitely no explanation or even allusion to the fact that her romance with Peeta is mostly acting. We don’t see her irritation with him because of his lack of survival skills — i.e., the noise he makes as he is walking through the Arena.

None of the tributes seemed hungry or angry enough to be in the positions that they were in. They barely developed Rue as a character, much less her relationship with Katniss, so when she dies, it’s kind of sad that a little kid gets a spear through her chest, but you don’t get the sense that this is kind of the last straw for Katniss. None of her actions come across as “rebellious” so there’s no sense of imminent danger just from the choices she makes; the only danger comes from the other tributes. This is an important distinction because of what happens in the next books. Just from the events in the movie, I can’t see why anyone would pick her to be the face of the rebellion. She doesn’t seem to incite anyone to do anything.

RELEASE DATE: 03/23/2012

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