Review: “The Hunger Games”

After months of waiting, I was finally able to see The Hunger Games last night.  As a fan of the books, it was rewarding to see characters and settings I had heretofore only imagined in my mind come suddenly to life.  The costumes, makeup, and set design were superb.  The world of Panem–and especially its ostentatious Capitol–came to life in brilliant high definition.

The actors selected for the various roles were uniformly quite good, with Jennifer Lawrence a real standout as the lead character Katniss Everdeen.  Lawrence has already proved her acting chops elsewhere, and she is more than capable to carry this franchise

Stenberg as Rue.

on her shoulders.  Amandla Stenberg was also brilliant as the  actress who plays the young Tribute Rue.  Additional kudos to the often hilarious yet nuanced performances of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy and an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket.  I was impressed not only by the casting decisions made here, but also the many great performances in the film.  Twilight should stand up and take notice!

Crazy ol' Effie.

For a fan of the novel, no movie adaptation could ever do The Hunger Games justice.  The pacing of the film was, for whatever reason, too quick for me.  I missed the psychological depth of the books and at times felt that we were forced too quickly through the various dramatic setpieces of the drama.  Much like the early Harry Potter film adaptations, too much attention may have been given to faithfully replicating scenes from the book and not enough to artistically interpreting the source material.  For instance, I felt the film could have done more to establish the depressed state of District 12, build up the Katniss/Rue relationship a bit more, and make the “berry” scene as powerful as it could have been.

This said, I may be asking the film to do too much.  The basic story is compelling enough by itself, and the movie tells it quite directly.  Further, nestled within the cinematic narrative are some deeply powerful moments: 1) Katniss calling out her mother on behalf of her sister and telling her to never again slip into the debilitating depression that almost destroyed their family in the past, 2) the wordless scene where a painfully oblivious Capitol family allows their ignorant children to play at “Hunger Games” with fake swords, and 3) the scenes regarding Katniss, Rue, floral arrangements, and District 11 (you’ll have to read the books or watch the movie to understand this one).  The extra screen time for President Snow was also a plus, as was the ever-present and magnificent beard of Seneca Crane.

All in all the film is a good one, and by most accounts will do very well for itself.  I look forward to the sequels continuing this powerful story of emerging adulthood, oppression, and freedom, and loss.  Hopefully in the midst of this now multimillion dollar enterprise, the deeper questions at the heart of the story will continue to resonate with teens and adults for some time to come.

I highly recommend the Hunger Games and encourage you to see it soon!

Grade: B+ (great performances, excellent design, and compelling story; marked down only for its pacing and the fact that nothing could ever live up to the book!)

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2 comments on “Review: “The Hunger Games”

  1. troepke says:

    grateful for your good work. stumbled on your efforts via my friends at interlinc. your earlier posts on the hunger games were also very good. found it interesting in our local community in which we’ve had three teen suicides in 4 weeks late last year there is a deeper sense of belonging. our community is rather small…about 25,000. the local jr hi read the books earlier this winter and have created huge conversation points. appreciated your helping to unpack. looking forward to ongoing conversation. blessings!

  2. troepke says:

    good post and review. appreciated your earlier posts too on the Hunger Games. our local middle school has been focusing on the books since early winter. there’s much a buzz about their message. especially since our community has had three teen suicides in less than 30 days between thanksgiving and CHRISTmas. there is a deeper hunger, (no pun) to understand the messiness of our culture. look forward to your future efforts. blessings!

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