"The Hunger Games" takes media violence and turns it up past 11, making violent video games and HBO series look tame. This film is based off of the best selling novel by Suzanne Collins, and it does a good job at sticking closely to the book.
Set in a dystopian future, the people of the 12 districts of Panem must choose 24 children (a boy and a girl from every district) from the ages of 12-18 to fight in the Hunger Games, a violent fight to the death free-for-all that is televised for the world to see.
The heroine, Katniss, volunteers to go in place of her 12-year-old sister, who was chosen as District 12's female tribute. She and Peeta, the boy chosen from her district, are then whisked off to the Capitol, dressed up and flung into an arena to fight to the death.
As interesting as the plot is, though, unless the audience is willing to suspend their beliefs of everything and jump wholeheartedly into this story, they are not going to enjoy this film. Usually films set in a completely different world are character driven, but in "The Hunger Games" the audience is just as lost as Katniss is.
The movie does not do much to explain these things either. The entire idea of the Hunger Games is explained in a text description that takes place in the first 30 seconds of the film, and after that the audience is mostly kept guessing. This makes the movie feel like it was made solely for fans of the book, and that anyone seeing it without reading it better enjoy it as it is, without asking too many questions. However, what little they did explain during the movie, they did in a really clever way, and the movie manages to stay true to Collins' novel.
Staying so true to the novel caused some issues in pacing. It seemed like the first 2/3 of the movie were dedicated to making the film as close to the book as possible. Then, in the last third, it was as if someone realized they were making a six-hour movie and put everything in fast forward.
The acting, though, is worth the slowness in the beginning. Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone") does an amazing job of bringing Katniss Everdeen to life. Although in interviews she is smiling and bubbly, on screen she is as solemn and serious as a heart attack. Her chemistry with Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids Are All Right"), who plays Peeta Melark, is something else to be admired.
The high caliber of acting helped ease the pain of some pretty awkward and stinted dialogue. A serious scene, on more than one occasion, is unintentionally ruined by some cheesy vernacular. Overall, despite its shortcomings, "The Hunger Games" is an enjoyable movie. It allows the audience to completely immerse themselves in a different world, where television violence would be the least of their problems.
"The Hunger Games" receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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