Finally I have had a chance to see the new highly anticipated film of the year, The Hunger Games. With Harry Potter over, this new 4-part films series based on the wildly popular young adult novel’s will most likely be the next big movie going experience. I came into this film honestly not knowing much about it at all, having not read the books and only seen the trailers for the film, so this is most definitely a non-biased review. It is directed by Gary Ross who you may know from Seabiscuit and Pleaseantville as well as writing credits for many more.
The basic story takes place in a dystopian future where the country (previous North America) is broken into 12 districts of which are ruled over by one Capitol. The elite who live in the Capitol use the events known as “The Hunger Games” to suppress the districts for revolting in years past. Essentially The Hunger Games is a death match in which each district offers up one boy and one girl to participate and kill one another until only one remains. A bit of a depressing future if you ask me, although the film was so much more than that.
The beginning of the film is to me a phenomenal experience. It delivers copious amounts of backstory while still remaining evocative and enthralling through the characters and relationship building. You are introduced to the main characters Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence – X-men First Class) and eventually Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and get a feeling for the place they live in known as district 12; district 12 is represented in stark poverty where everything is dirty and people barely get by. You also get these really beautiful personal moments with the characters that are small but noticeable that really make you care for them and their families. This opening segment is very quite with little music and almost no humor which only enhances the poverty you see throughout the beginning. This is a very good thing in terms of film making, as it truly engrosses you into their lives and what they go through on a daily basis and is balanced by the introduction of the Capitol.
Once all of the introductions are over and the tributes of The Hunger Games are chosen you are introduced to the Capitol which is an interesting juxtaposition to Katniss’ home, as it is very bright and colorful of which people wear vibrant blues and pinks, almost no one has normal colored hair. This is a very bold decision to not hold back where other films might, but I think that allows this film to shine through with well rounded visuals. Once you are introduced to the elite who run The Hunger Games you realize how depressing of a situation these kids are in as they have no remorse for the people who will be killed, they cheer on as well as place bets on the deaths of these 12-18 year old kids.
What is enthralling about this film is once The Hunger Games begin, and if there was one complaint I might have is that it truly does take some time to get to this point, is that you get this slice of what it would be like if YOU were in the games as the character Katniss. The deaths portrayed on screen are few and far between for all of the deaths that are really happening because they only show the ones that Katniss is involved in. This I believe was done for two reasons, one being a way to keep a solid PG-13 film; the documentary style film making with shaky cam and quick cuts also help keep the rating. The second being it makes the deaths on screen that much more personal and evocative. The film is less about the overall games and more about her experiences inside the games and putting yourself in her shoes.
There are some surprisingly good acting in this film from the supporting cast. Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch who is a mentor of Katniss and Peeta’s who has a drinking problem. Harrelson who is off and on for me as an actor does a great job in this role from beginning to end. The character Cinna is played by musician Lenny Kravitz and he surprisingly does great in this role, and really adds to the overall casting of the film. For a film that I knew nothing about but wanted to see what all the buzz was about I can honestly tell you that this is a fantastic film. It hits from multiple levels, with a depressing backstory, rich characters and surprisingly solid acting this is definitely a film you should not miss.