I don't do too many New Release reviews these days. Usually so many people have reviewed them that it feels like I don't have anything else to say. However, as I've managed to avoid reading any other reviews I am going to have my say before I go devour what everyone else thought.
I have read The Hunger Games and it's sequels several times (the audiobooks are terrific). For a change, I would actually recommend reading these books before seeing the movie. While the movie does a good job of explaining the kind of world of Panem, it relies a lot on Donald Sutherland's sinister trimming of roses and sweeping views of "peacekeepers" to imply the terror and poverty that people actually endure. I'm glad the movie decided not to make the movie particularly dark (the concept of children fighting to the death is dark enough) but I think if you haven't read the book, it might come across as too light. I think they captured the overall feel of the book particularly well.
So what is it about? In a futuristic society, factions around the US rebelled. The rebellion was quashed by the Capitol (now located near Denver), and as a reminder of the Capitol's supremacy, every year the 12 districts have to send a young man and young woman to fight to death on national television - required viewing. Our heroine from District 12 (coal country), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), volunteers after her young sister's name is picked for the "Reaping". Katniss has been taking care of her family and particularly her sister since their father's death in the mines - she can hunt with a bow. She and the male tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are sent to the over the top fashion/appearance obsessed Capitol with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and their mentor - a previous winner of the games - Hamich (Woody Harrelson). Obviously the goal of the games is to stay alive and one of the ways to ensure that is to get "sponsors" so a lot of maneuvering is done to set the odds on each of the 24 tributes based on their skills and likeability. That's the first half of the film. The second half is the actual battle in the game - and we see Katniss attempt to stay alive and save Peeta who has confessed he's loved Katniss since he was a kid. The deaths are violent and frequent, and we see it all through Katniss' strength and fear as well as Peeta's attempt to not become a killer.
Jennifer Lawrence does a great job as Katniss - she's tough, but obviously scared. She won't let anyone get in her way, but not because she's ruthless, just because she's used to protecting herself. Hutcherson is convincing as the love interest, but he doesn't have enough lines to carry off his charismatic character to the extent he needs to. Everyone else is well cast, particularly Wes Bentley as the game maker at Sutherland's mercy, and Stanley Tucci as the TV personality interviewing candidates and narrating the Games.
My only big problem with the film was the shaky camera work. There are a LOT of scenes where you feel like you have no idea what you're looking at. For the violent scenes, it's okay, but when Katniss is just walking around and taking things in it can be really disorienting and actually made me feel pretty dizzy for a while afterward. Other than this little problem, I think they brought it to life particularly well. 4.5 of 5 stars/lambs
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