Matt's The Hunger Games Review
I was, perhaps, a bit more skeptical going into The Hunger Games than I typically am when watching a film for the first time. There were reasons for that, rookie director, unfamiliar story (I had not yet read the books), and it was an adaptation of a young adult novel (I’ve been burned in the past). Still, I wanted to see it, the trailers looked good, I was convinced of Jennifer Lawrence’s talent, and the reviews were good. My skepticism went out the window in the first two minutes of this film.
- This is an excellent addition to the Dystopian Science Fiction genre. For those unfamiliar with the term, Dystopia refers to a fictional future or an alternate parallel reality often with oppressive social systems. In this case, the story is an attack on fascism. Now it is possible to enjoy The Hunger Games without understanding the genre, but I think it helps to understand the political underpinnings. The film doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of that sort of repression, the early scenes in District 12 resembled concentration camps, and the idea of sending teenagers into an arena to kill each other is nothing short of horrifying.
- The Hunger Games is also a brutal attack on reality television. Particularly desensitization of audiences from what they see on television. Even if they know for a fact that what they are seeing is real.
- The Hunger Games is paced very well, not too fast, and not too slow. Character development is good, and the film hinges largely on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance – since she’s brilliant, that’s a good thing. Viewers new to the story should pay careful attention to the exposition in the film. All the information required is there, and things that aren’t explained, like the crazy hairstyles in the capital, you have to just take at face value.
- I have also read the book, and I thought the film a pretty good adaptation. All of the most critical points of the story were there with a few liberties taken to make the transition to the film smoother.
(My final bullet point contains SPOILERS, so those who have neither read the novel or seen the movie should consider skipping down to the “Performances” section.)
- There’s two scenes at the end of The Hunger Games that I thought happened a bit too quickly. The first was the scene with the berries, I would have liked to see them linger in that moment just a little longer. The other thing was, I would have liked to see Katniss and Peeta have a longer conversation after the arena, so it is clearer where they stand with each other. These are minor nitpicks that don’t really effect the score or lower my opinion of the film in any meaningful way.
– As if further proof of her skills was required after Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in the Hunger Games is absolutely captivating. She plays Katniss with all the strength and emotional vulnerability that the part required, and it looked completely natural and effortless. She’s a remarkable young actress.
- Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, who is mentor to Katniss and Peeta, and he is awesome! Harrelson plays Haymitch with a sort of restrained intensity. He’s really excellent in this, although he wasn’t required to show the extent of his range.
- Donald Sutherland is another veteran performer whose filmography speaks for itself. I’ve never seen a bad performance from him. Casting him as President Snow was a masterstroke.
- Stanley Tucci plays Caesar Flinkerman, a character who ought to be nothing less than deplorable, yet in Tucci’s hands it’s almost impossible to not like him.
Music, Cinematography, and Special Effects
- I’ve always enjoyed James Newton Howards compositions, The Fugitive in particular. The score does quite a bit of work in this film, enhancing the level of intensity throughout, while at the same time remaining unobtrusive. This is a score well worth listening to without the context of the film.
- There’s some interesting things going on cinematography-wise, but nothing particularly earthshattering. The Hunger Games is a good looking film, with some good visuals, but nothing to make a veteran filmgoer's jaw drop.
- The special effects are solid, but not spectacular. The advantage of the premise to the Hunger Games is, not everything had to be photorealistic. The good news is, I completely bought that they were in a dystopian setting, and the action sequences were very convincing.
The Bottom Line
The Hunger Games exceeded my expectations. The production is rock solid on every possible level. It is violent, emotional, political, and most of all, relevant. It’s also exceptionally fun and entertaining. See it! 9/10