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The Hunger Games (2012) Movie Review

March 26, 2012

“The Hunger Games” is a bit of a strange beast.  The story seems at first glance to be some ultra-violent idea that would fit perfectly in an action film from the 90s.  However, once you get past the simple exterior, you realize that what makes “The Hunger Games” so interesting is the cast of characters.  In an era where most films have major amounts of characterization cut from the script before the film is complete, a movie that makes you care deeply about the cast is refreshing.

The novel took the first-person approach, telling the story of the Hunger Games through the eyes of young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).  The film largely focuses on her but provides a fresh perspective to the action by switching frequently to the host of the games, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), as he provides commentary on the games.  The Hunger Games function as a combination reality TV show and government control mechanism.  Each year one male and one female from each of 12 districts is selected to fight in the games to the death where only one can be victorious.

The film captures the spirit of the novel perfectly, showing the most important scenes from the book.  Some elements of back-story are shown through flashbacks that are immediately recognizable to anyone who has read the book.  However, the meaning may be lost on viewers who are introduced to the characters for the first time.  The story is altered slightly from the book in that the characters aren’t shown struggling for survival against nature for extended periods of time.  However, this helps move the games forward to the ultimate conclusion within a reasonable run-time.

Some portions of the film are shot using the shaky cam technique.  I suspect this was used to help viewers see things from Katniss’ perspective.  It isn’t as bad as some other recent films but it was very distracting for me.  Certain action scenes are edited with multiple quick-cuts so you can’t really follow what is going on.  However, again I think this was done because Katniss really didn’t know what was going on there either.

The music in the film, composed by James Newton Howard, largely functions as sonic wallpaper and rarely presents any themes to drive the emotions.  The score fit well with the film’s style.  At the beginning, the music is haunting, driven by solo female vocals, to show Katniss’ worry over who will be selected to fight in the games.  Sections devoted to the capitol are a mixture of regal orchestral and electronica, to show the similarities between the capitol and ancient Rome while also highlighting the futuristic technology that drives it.  During the games itself, the music is largely atmospheric, fitting with the characters’ fight for survival.

With a run time of 142 minutes, the film still barely manages to cover all of the key plot points from the book.  Despite its length, the film stays engaging from beginning to end.  The cast of the film provides an extra layer of realism with some great performances all around, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.  “The Hunger Games” is a powerful start to the trilogy of films and one likely to be remembered for a long time.

5/5

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From → Drama, Sci-fi

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