"Hunger Games" is certainly the best film I have seen since many many months, and it is a very successful adaptation of an excellent book.
In my personal opinion, both the book and the film are much deeper and much more ambitious, than what most critics and reviewers would make us believe. After reading the reviews in "New York Times", "Le Monde" and on "Msn.com" (to cite only few) I was surprised that they mostly missed everything that is important in this film. With a kind of amused superiority, which people from Capitol in this movie would immediately recognize, the "professional" reviewers pointed at the obvious allusions to gladiator fights, the reality shows, the importance of trashy entertainment in today's TV, the search for a new franchise able to replace "Twilight", etc., etc.
But they almost entirely failed to see, that this film is first and above all about much more important things: how to keep hope, not lose the courage and preserve humanity and dignity under a totalitarian oppressive regime.
I believe that almost everybody now knows that when writing "Hunger Games" Susan Collins attempted basically a modern (even futurist) retelling of the old Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. According to this ancient tale, after losing a war, every year the city of Athens had to send a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens to the king of Crete. Once there the young people were locked in the Labyrinth, to be devoured by the monster Minotaur. This yearly punishment and humiliation lasted until Theseus, crown prince of Athens, volunteered to be one of the tributes and once locked in the Labyrinth he defeated and killed the Minotaur.
In "Hunger Games" what was once United States (and I think also Canada) is now called the Panem. It is a country divided in twelve Districts remaining under the control of the Capitol central metropolis. There was once thirteen Districts, but when they rebelled against the central power, the Capitol destroyed completely the District 13 with all its population and then defeated and submitted again the twelve others. In order to remind to its subjects how absolute is its power, the Capitol claims a yearly tribute - one girl and one boy of ages from 12 to 18 from every District. The tributes are then send to an arena and forced to fight, until only one remain alive. This yearly event is called the Hunger Games and it is shown live on TV to all the population of Panem. This film tells the story of what happened at the 74th edition of Hunger Games...
For Capitol the purpose of Hunger Games is to remind yearly how powerful is the central metropolis and how dire can be the consequences of its wrath, but also - and even more importantly in my opinion - to humiliate and degrade the people of the Districts by forcing them to become accomplices (even if under duress) of a barbarian custom in which some of their own children are send to the slaughterhouse. And as all bullies and abusers know, it is much easier to oppress, abuse and brutalize victims who lack self-esteem...
Well, in this film we can see how one of the tributes from District 12, an exceptionnal young girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), manages to turn the tables on the Capitol and by allowing people of Panem to regain some of their dignity she will be the pebble which starts the avalanche. The exact way in which she does that will not be revealed here, but both in the book as in the film it is described in a very intelligent and very moving way...
This may seem a rather improbable thing that a 16 years old child can do something that will ultimately bring down a seemingly invincible and all-powerful tyranny, but let's not forget that in the real world, the great wave of revolutions of Arab Spring began on 18 December 2010 with a desperate gesture of a dirt-poor 27-years old Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire after having been robbed and beaten by the corrupt local police one time too much... Less than two years after, the opressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya already collapsed, the seemingly invulnerable dictator of Yemen had to resign and the Syrian brutal regime is facing a massive armed rebellion..
Bottom line, this film is first and before all a story about how even a seemingly powerless person can horribly hurt a tyrannic regime with a magic potion made of lots of courage, an ice-cold determination, a great personal dignity, a little compassion, a handful of flowers, a couple of tears and one defiant and powerful gesture...
The powerful message and excellent scenario are not the only reasons why I consider "Hunger Games" as a masterpiece. Actors were selected very carefully and they perform well. Jennifer Lawrence is simply perfect - there is no other word to describe her performance! However, after seeing her in "Winter's Bone" and "X-Men: First class" I didn't expect anything less.
But the real surprise in this film comes from Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta Mellark, the boy tribute from District 12. His character is more difficult to play, because Peeta is in the same time more limited but also more complicated than Katniss. Josh Hutcherson could have very easily fall in one of the many traps which are build in Peeta's character. By overacting or underacting he could have make him a wimp or a passive follower or an immature kid, but he avoided those snares with grace and his Peeta comes out of this film as a surprisingly complexe and also a very likeable character. He is certainly not a hero and a fighter like Katniss - but until the very end he preserves his honor, in a deadly place where he shouldn't ever be send...
A special mention goes to little Amandla Stenberg, who plays 12-years old Rue, the youngest of all the tributes. Her character is both secondary and in the same time incredibly important - and this little cute pixie played it perfectly!
Other, more known actors contribute to the success of this film. Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, the only person from District 12 who ever won in the Hunger Games and is now an advisor to Katniss and Peeta. Lenny Kravitz portrayed a perfect Cinna, the man in charge of image of tributes from District 12 in public appearances before the games begin. And finally there is the giant figure of Donald Sutherland, who plays the supreme ruler of Panem, President Coriolanus Snow. He is purely incredible. There is a moment in this film when he says to somebody "I like you" - and I believe that I have never heard such a terrible and deadly threat in one short sentence since the archifamous Schwarzenegger's "I will be back"...
I also absolutely adored the using of the cameras. In some moments of this film we have the impression of going after the characters with a camera, like a war correspondent following the fighters (this style was also very skillfully used in "The Shield" series). Of course not all the film is turned in this way, but mixing this kind of scenes with more conventional ones gives here an excellent effect.
The games themselves are very skillfully described and are a very dramatic tale, full of surprises and twists. I found them much much better than "Battle Royale", to which this book and film are often compared. The games are deadly and brutal, but there is only limited gore - I think this film is suitable for young teenagers, although not for children younger than 12. There is also absolutely no nudity, sex or strong language and I for one found it a most excellent thing.
There are still many more good things to say about this film, but I believe you should discover them by yourself. One more thing however about the book - it is of course possible to see and greatly enjoy this film without reading the book, but I believe that reading the novel first is a good idea. If reading the whole book is out of question, I would advise to read at least the first hundred pages. It will not reveal much about the games themselves, but it will allow for a better understanding of some of the key elements: the strength of the bond between Katniss and her younger sister, the history that Katniss shares with her hunting partner Gale, the complicated relation between Katniss and her mother and last but not least, the mysterious bond existing between Katniss and Peeta Mellark.
About this last point: if you did not yet read the book I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovery so I will say just this - Katniss and Peeta lived for 16 years in the same village, but they never spoke one to another (except for an occasional "Hello") and they never touched one another in any way. And still, they share a secret as big as life and death, a secret which both bonded them together and in the same time separated them deeply... If you want to know the solution of this riddle you have either to watch very very carefully every scene of the film or simply read the book...
Conclusion: this film is a masterpiece! I loved it and I am going to buy the DVD as soon as it is available. And I am SOOO going to see the the second part, as soon as it opens!
Director Gary Ross's version of Suzanne Collins's HUNGER GAMES manages to sanitize the entire concept of kids-killing-kids in order to produce a PG-13 blockbuster that's sure to rake in the big bucks. But what was devastating and heart-wrenching in the novel is glossed over and prettified here, leaving me feeling none of the emotional impact I experienced in reading the book.
[**SPOILER WARNING** I'm assuming readers are familiar with the novel, so some plot elements will be discussed in this review.]
Don't get me wrong, this is a slick and well-made film, with plenty of action and a sensational performance from Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen. The settings are well done, especially the Capitol in all its crazy-colored chic-ness and over-the-top luxury. District 12, the poorest district in Panem, is believably presented as well, complete with starving people dressed in rags and walking like zombies to their depressing jobs. The scene of the "Reaping" is chillingly done, and the scenes of Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) getting primped and trained in the Capitol hit perfect satiric notes (it's all so "reality TV," which is what makes it all so believable).
What doesn't work are the scenes of the Games themselves. From the start, Ross misses the mark. When the Games are seconds from beginning, the 24 teens are standing in a semi-circle, staring down at weapons and backpacks strewn about around the Cornucopia as they wait for the countdown to hit zero. We need to feel what they're feeling. We need to feel their terror, their horror, and yes, even their excitement. But Ross doesn't let us feel any of that. Instead, he keeps the focus almost solely on Katniss, and once everyone starts rushing forward, he cuts so quickly between scenes that it's almost impossible to see what's going on. We are aware that people are being killed, but it happens so fast and with so little reaction from the characters themselves, that it has little impact.
The same holds true for the rest of the games. Horrible things happen, but I never felt that they had much affect on Katniss or Peeta. Most of the killing in the film happens off screen, or the camera cuts away before anything brutal is revealed. That wouldn't be a bad thing if we could at least see some believable reaction shots. But we don't. On top of that, none of these characters look like they've been out in the woods for days, trying to kill each other. Close-ups of hands show clean, manicured fingernails, and everyone looks amazingly dirt-free (aside from Peeta, who camouflages himself with mud at one point - but even then, he's clean and chipper-looking a few scenes later).
Rue's climactic death scene is equally ridiculous. Rue (Amandla Stenberg) looks downright gorgeous, like she's on her way to a photo shoot instead of swinging in trees to avoid getting knifed (in fact, we don't get to see her swinging in trees at all, just peeking out from between branches). Her hair is perfect, there's not a scratch or bit of dirt on her, and when Katniss is holding her as she dies, it's impossible to imagine that they've been out in the woods for days without soap and water, fighting for their lives. It's just all too pretty, all too nice.
I walked out of the theater feeling oddly detached from what I'd just seen. That's not at all the way I felt in reading the book. The novel was gripping and gut-wrenching, and although it was certainly not graphically violent or bloody, the situation Katniss found herself in was chilling and horrifying and impossible to forget. At the end of the film, however, Katness seems almost unscathed by what she has just experienced. I didn't see any indication that she is the wounded, devastated young woman she is in the novel. In the final scene, she's more bothered by seeing Gale (Liam Hemsworth) in the crowd at the train station while she's holding Peeta's hand. Yikes, girl, you've just KILLED people and seen children covered in blood . . . surely you'd be thinking of something more than which guy you like better.
There are changes in the film that might bother the die-hard fans. The "Mutts" that attack during the final act are just generic beasts in the film (they don't have the faces of the fallen tributes), which minimizes their impact. The symbolic Mockingjay pin just shows up near the start of the film without explanation. But these are minor changes. Stanley Tucci is great as Flickerman, Woody Harrelson is terrific as Haymitch, and I enjoyed seeing Donald Southerland as President Snow (although his performance was so low-key I had trouble imagining him as a ruthless dictator).
This is a big movie, and it's going to be a huge success. I have no doubt a huge percentage of HUNGER GAMES fans will be thrilled with what they see on the screen. I just wanted to feel more. The whole idea of being forced to kill people for a TV viewing audience is absolutely horrifying - I wanted to see that and feel that in this movie, the way I did in the novel. You can't win a "game" like this. Haymitch is proof that you can't win (what happens to his life after winning the Games is evidence of what such brutality will do to you). In the novel, Katniss herself is torn apart by what happens. In the film, not so much.
HUNGER GAMES is not a terrible film. I'm glad I saw it. But it in no way does justice to the novel, and that's too bad.
on February 19, 2013
I am a ABSOLUTELY HUGE----HUGE fan of the Hunger Games Trilogy :) I have read all three books countless times, and I am absolutely enthralled by the way the author, Suzanne Collins, is able to capture my undivided attention and paint the vivid and wildly imaginative images into my head. The story she tells from the point of view of the 16 year old, heroine Katniss Everdeen, is so captivating, I read the first book, immediately went to buy the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy, and did not stop reading until I had finished the entire trilogy...It was unlike any other novel or series/trilogy/etc. I have ever read. I am not even in the "YA" (young adult) audience that the trilogy of books (and the Movie) is largely geared towards to (I am closer to 30 years old), and yet, I still am completely captivated by The Hunger Games Trilogy...
When I first saw the movie, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much the movie reflected Collins' first installation in the trilogy-The Hunger Games...I admit, I hadn't even heard of the Hunger Games Trilogy until trailers started for the movie... However, I was given the wonderful advice of reading the books first, before going to see the movie, ( which I am VERY glad I did) and I was in love with the Trilogy before I even saw the movie. I thought the casting was fantastic, Jennifer Lawrence plays a great Katniss Everdeen, Woody Harrelson plays a perfect portrayal of the character Haymitch Abernathy, both surly and comical, Josh Hutcherson as the pivotal character of Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth plays the character of Gale Hawthorne, another major character, Elizabeth Banks as the frivolous and snooty Effie Trinket, (whose costumes in the movie are AMAZING) Donald Sutherland portrays the character of President Snow brilliantly, the small and lovable character of Rue portrayed brilliantly by Amandla Stenberg, along with many many others who contributed to the spectacular casting of the The Hunger Games movie.
Having read the books first, Collins had already painted into my mind of what the settings--surroundings & arenas-- the characters find themselves in, and amazingly, the movie's version of what these settings look like, are almost exactly as I pictured them as I was reading the books--(remember, I read the books first.) Other characters look very much what I pictured them to look like in the book, and while the movie couldn't capture every single detail of the book, (it would be impossible for the makers of the 2 1/ 2 hour movie), I still loved every minute of it.
***In my opinion, in order to appreciate the movie and understand the plot and characters better, READ THE BOOKS. You can also get the books in audiobook form, which are just as good, and maybe easier than actually finding the time to sit down somewhere quiet to read. The books add SO much more depth in the details and the personalities of the characters that when reading the books, you become very emotionally attached to the characters; cheering them on in parts, shedding a few tears in the saddest of moments, feeling happy or angry for them, depending on which part of the book you are reading...the books also are spectacular at setting the scenes up for the most climactic moments, pretty much with every chapter ending in a cliffhanger for the reader. Obviously the Hunger Games movie--and its sequels,(book 2: Catching Fire, & book 3: Mockingjay) are totally based off of a sensational book series. Being that as it may, you would have thought more people that saw the movie would have read the books prior to the movie, or at least gone home and read the books after seeing The Hunger Games. I have read several negative reviews on The Hunger Games where some people criticized it harshly, saying that it seemed like the character development in movie was done poorly, and that the plot was "lame & boring" or referring to the Games as "sick and demented"...all of those reviewers did include in their opinions of the movie that they had not read any of the books.... In response to those reviewers' criticism, READ THE BOOKS. There isn't enough time in the movie to play out the long character development as Collins is able to take her time with in the books. That's why the movie (and its sequels) are being made in first place, because the book trilogy was such a grand slam with audiences of all ages. For people that have seen the movie, but haven't read the books, I HIGHLY encourage you to do so, because it will immensely help with your understanding of the movie, and give you a new appreciation for it. ***Reading the books will also get you ready for the long anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games, the second installation in the trilogy-- Catching Fire the Movie, set to hit the theaters in Nov. 2013. I am personally very excited for it to come out, and will undoubtedly pre-order it on BluRay, as soon as it comes out.
Sorry for this very long "product rating", but I absolutely LOVE the Hunger Games trilogy and the movie, and just had to share some of my thoughts on it. :)
on April 24, 2015
I admit that “The Hunger Games” was a surprisingly good film, considering that it's based on a fantasy novel for teenagers, and I'm not *that* young anymore.
I haven't read the novels, but the film reminded me of “Running Man”, with its parody of staged reality shows and violent entertainment. “Running Man” was made in 1987. It seems nothing has changed in the entertainment industry! Besides, the next logical step in reality TV probably is a gladiator contest. I mean, the networks are running out of ideas with a shock factor...
But, of course, “The Hunger Games” goes deeper. The story probably works best if you see it as a caricature of today's society: elite groups out of control, super-exploited subjects in outlaying districts, and “panem et circenses” for the stupid masses. “The Hunger Games” is a weirdly believable futuristic scenario. I can almost see it happening.
Let's hope those mockingjays will be around to save us!
on February 13, 2013
'The Hunger Games' is the first book of a trillogy. Followed by 'Catching Fire,' and 'Mocking Jay.' This strikes me as a violent novel whose demographic is teenage girls. It has a ///SPOILER love triangle between the main character and two guys SPOILER/// sort of the Twilight romance kind of thing.
I read this like my last year in college and actually thoroughly enjoyed it. It is an easy read no lofty vocabulary. It has dysfunction and resolution, and a unique perspective that combines what a dystopia and post-apocalyptic world might be like.
Guy or girl( you ) it's a fun read.
on July 29, 2013
I enjoyed the movie, but not as much as the book. In my minds-eye, Katniss had a lot more going on in her mind than was apparent in the film. She appeared a little "dead behind the eyes" -- and I thought the character in the book read much sharper than she appeared in movie. Some of my favorite small ideas and scenes from the book did not make the movie (but that is often the case; there's just not time). I did feel the Hamich character was under-developed in the movie. His motivations were clearer in the book. But overall - entertaining! Look forward to the next one.
on August 22, 2016
My granddaughter and I enjoyed this film,
This film is set in a dystopia era were there is one government the Captial and areas are separated into Districts because of previous rebellion against the Captial, In one of these districts is a girl named Katniss Everdeen ( Jennifer Lawrence ) in this district she lives with her sister Primrose ( Willow Shields ) and their mother Mrs. Everdeen ( Paula Malcomson ), every year a boy and a girl between the ages of 14 to 18. Are selected to participate In a process called the reaping, ( from all the districts ) at the reaping we meet Effie Trinkett ( Elizabeth Banks ) a lady who teaches etiquette to all chosen to be sent into the games, two are chosen, Peeta Mellark ( Josh Hutcherson ) and Katniss Everdeen.
After they are chosen we meet their mentor Haymitch Abernathy ( and boy is he unique.. To say the least..lol.. ) we watch them go through the process of training during the time they spend in the Captial we also get an insight into the personalities of the other participates from the other districts and what are main character and supporting character will have to face while in the area. What follows after the training is a fight for survival. ( for parents of young and impressionable children there isn't enough violence in this film that one should be concerned about, the director and author made sure of that, if one isn't sure watch the film first and make the call :) ) there is action in this film but not over the top.
So don't expect a whole lot, plus, this film was based on the first book so everything that happened in the book can't always be put into films, do I think the film could have been better, yes, I felt like it was missing something, then again, because of time constraints and money things that could've been. Added to the film weren't, I think that people will enjoy this film whether by; yourself, with family, friends.
on December 30, 2013
I understand that with any adaptations from books to movies, you lose a lot of the background & character work. It's difficult to really interpret the author's written words on screen. I think there were a lot of wasted opportunities here to layer more of the background underneath the scenes. Too much & it drags the pace down. Too little & the characters become more shallow, less layered. You want to care about the majority of these characters & I really was drawn in by them in the book. The movie left me wanting. While the action of the movie is important, it's not the most important part of it. I feel as if the whole premise of the books was lost in trying to ramp it up with action & with the action not even occurring where I really wanted it to be.
I wanted to like this movie more & had I not read the book first, I probably would have. However, reading the book first provides so much back story that you can actually follow what's going on & understand the 'why's & 'how's that I think are, for the most part, lost in the movie.
on April 2, 2014
"The Hunger Games" is a superb movie, which is a film adaptation of the first novel of the brilliant trilogy written by author Suzanne Collins. The script of the movie follows the plot of the novel very closely, and it is quite effective in accurately depicting the very interesting and complicated characters. In her leading role, Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely spectacular with her portrayal of the intrepid teen warrior Katniss Everdeen. The entire cast is sensational, and it includes an impressive assemblage of incredibly talented actors. In addition to the great script and cast, the set and costumes are also fabulous, and they definitely contribute to the surreal atmosphere of this chilling dystopian tale. "The Hunger Games" is certainly one of the best movies that I have seen in recent years, and I give it a five-star rating, along with my very highest recommendation.
on August 30, 2012
There are a great many things wrong with this movie. The dialogue and character development are juvenile and boring (it was, after all, a so-called "young adult" book). Characters take actions that are not logical or reasonable. Much time is wasted developing threads that are never brought to fruition. This is perhaps because the story is Part One of a trilogy of books. Regardless, I am reviewing what now exists, and this movie doesn't hang together alone (without Parts Two and Three).
A few examples of what my summary above includes:
1) At the initial battle at the Cornucopia, when the girl from District 2 is chasing after Katniss, we are not shown how Katniss got away. The camera simply cuts to the other melees between the other Tributes, and the next we see of Katniss, she's made it into the woods and runs into Foxface. Are we supposed to assume that the girl from 2 just gave up the chase?
2) Alot of time in the first hour is spent developing the notion of the importance of "getting sponsors". Haymitch says "...things that can save your life...water, a knife, matches...only come from sponsors". Well, Katniss found water herself, and got a knife and matches in the knapsack she snatched at the Cornucopia...NOT sponsors. In fact, she never gets any sponsors. Cinna cannot be a sponsor because he asks Katniss about being told about sponsors. Yes, she gets a jar of medicinal cream for herself and for Peeta...probably came from a sponsor? But the accompanying card is signed by "H", which we must understand to be Haymitch (not a sponsor). Yes, we are shown Haymitch talking with some wealthy Capitol types just after having watched TV coverage of Katniss ministering to her leg wound...those must be sponsors. But they didn't contribute because of any effort that Katniss made...it was all Haymitch. Therefore, all the talk of sponsors throughout the first hour of the movie was all for nothing. There is no greater sin of a storyteller than that of wasting the reader's time. Big mistake.
3) This is the one that gets me. Remember Peeta walking around the woods with the District 1 and 2 alliance? How Cato explains that they need to keep Peeta alive long enough to show them where Katniss is? What do they do when they chase Katniss up the tree? They lie down and camp out with him! (Maybe they decided to keep him alive as a walking, talking store of meat, in case later they can't get any food. Instead of calling him "loverboy" they could start calling him "Meat Locker"). Oh, and get this: did anyone notice that Peeta was allowed to FOLLOW the alliance members BEHIND, and carrying a SPEAR? And they even let him SLEEP with them? How stupid/naive can you get? And these are supposed to be "Careers", professionally trained Tribute volunteers from Districts 1 and 2! What a wus Peeta turned out to be; he had a perfect opportunity to stab one or two of them in their sleep and run off before they knew what'd happened. If he was really wanting to help his girl Katniss up in the tree, he could have done that.
4) Last item, I promise. Remember the scene when Marvel throws the spear into Rue's chest? Somebody tell me why he threw it at Rue instead of Katniss? Katniss had the bow and arrows...Rue had nothing. Oh, and how when Katniss freed Rue from the snare, they just hugged each other instead of looking around for danger, which they should have known was coming because of Rue's cries for help. Ridiculous.
There are alot of things wrong with this movie (hard to believe the author Collins herself adapted her book for the screen), but it has one big thing going for it: originality. It seems there's nobody left in Hollywood who knows how to think of anything new anymore. All we get nowadays are sequels, rehashed old plotlines, and these "reimagined" or "rebooted" superhero franchises. Is anybody else getting sick of all these tired old stories and characters? In my review of Avatar, I noted the fact that its plot was just a ripoff of Frank Herbert's Dune. I awarded two stars for its copycat plot because I detest lazy, thoughtless writing. Just as Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October was just a ripoff of Craig Thomas' Firefox. On the other hand, I praised Buried and Fermat's Room for their wealth of innovative and inventive ideas and presentations.
So despite all its flaws, which are really apparent only upon watching the movie several times, the Hunger Games is an exciting movie the first time or two. Perhaps that's because of all the anticipation that preceded its opening, but it's still a decent experience to have at least the first time. I cannot call it a great movie, but it does try to be different, and in my book that's a huge plus that is worth being rewarded. I also find worthy its treatment of Big Ideas, such as when President Snow (Donald Sutherland) says that hope is the only thing stronger than fear. (though I think that's a worthy statement, I personally can't always agree with it. Love of country -- patriotism -- often prompts soldiers to overcome their fears. And the emotion of hate always trumps fear: when you are possessed with pure elemental hatred, fear vanishes. You're focused on destruction of the enemy.)
So, though I have to call The Hunger Games a two-star movie, it was a five-star effort. That's worth four stars for my review. I can only hope that when they get to writing and shooting the Hunger Games sequels, they will do a better job of translating the books to the screen. No, correction -- I can also hope this new franchise is the beginning of a long and successful career for the Hunger Games world of stories yet to be conceived.