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Hunger Games, The (2012)

Release Date:
Friday, March 23, 2012

MPAA Rating:

Rating Reason:
For intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens

Science Fiction

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks

Written By:
Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins

Gary Ross

Official Site:

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games.

Hunger Games, The (2012) | Review

Calling all Bluffs
Elisabeth Leitch

Content Image
If the last 15 years are any indication, the best recipe for a blockbuster movie franchise begins with a young adult novel. First there was Harry Potter. Next, there was Twilight. And now, there is The Hunger Games.

Just stop by your nearest bookstore and you can probably find it in the window, taking up the biggest table on the floor, and as a part of some kind of promotion. As a bookseller at the only remaining major bookstore in the country, I don't even need to look at our sales reports to know that it has been one of our best sellers for months on end. And with the first book in the series coming to life on big screens across the country today, I can only predict that its already expansive audience is just going to grow even more.

Taking place in a futuristic world in which an oppressive government forces representatives (aka tributes) from the various districts it governs to compete in a deadly game to remind them of the error of their rebellion, The Hunger Games is a story that is set in a world of darkness from the get-go. Clinging closer to reality than its more fantastical young adult book-to-movie predecessors, it invites us into a world that may not be our own, but is not so far removed that we can't see the very paths that could take our world there. And while it may not capture quite the same level of magic as Harry Potter in its battle between good and evil, at its core, its greatest strength is also in a central character who goes face-to-face with that darkness and destruction and refuses to die.

As for how that story comes to life in movie form, while it's not perfect, it's a movie that is still a cut above your average teenage fare and a commendable start to a series that I can only see improve over its two sequels.

As whole, it almost reminds me of a fashion collection's first walk down the runway, bold and clear in the presentation of a unique vision, hitting some marks perfectly while missing others, and ultimately leaving you, at the very least, intrigued. Its costumes in and of themselves—both the colorfully extravagant ones worn in the capitol and the drab clothing of those in the districts—set up the dynamics of its world without saying a word and are almost certain to be up for awards come next year.

Employing a shaky almost frantic style of cinematography as well as many fast cuts between hands and faces and hands and faces, the almost Blair Witch-style of large chunks of The Hunger Games also sets the film apart artistically. However, while it gives many scenes a sense of authenticity and urgency, its jumpy style may also be to blame for many of its more static scenes coming off like sudden detours into slow-moving fiction and its main characters still feeling somewhat distant and incomplete even as the movie comes to an end.

In fact, at the end of the movie, the characters who stuck in my mind more were not its main players but rather several of the movie's supporting characters, namely Elizabeth Banks' over-the-top representation of deluded faith in the Capitol and its methods of ruling as Effie Trinket, the young competitors' escort/chaperone; Woody Harrelson as the jaded and drunken former winner of the games tasked with mentoring Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson); and Lenny Kravitz as a stylist who knows the games are not actually something to be celebrated and offers his heartfelt understanding and encouragement to the young men and women forced to participate in them as they prepare to fight for their lives.

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