Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanely Tucci, Woody Harrelson
The reaping is upon the citizens of District 12 once again. One young boy and girl will be chosen to be the tributes to represent their districts as part of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a survival of the fittest style competition set to a reality-type show run by The Capitol. Due to a lottery system, any name could be picked. Some have their names in there more than once. You do not want your name to be drawn. Two members from each of the twelve districts of Panem will fight and kill each other until one lone survivor comes out the victor. Twelve-year-old Primrose Everdeen has nightmares of her name being drawn. Unfortunately, the nightmare comes true. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is the Capital representative who pulls Primrose's name. Her sister, Katniss (Lawrence), shocks the crowd as she volunteers to take her place. Representing the boys is Peeta Malark, the baker's son. Katniss leaves behind her mother, sister, and best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) without knowing if she will ever see them again.
Katniss and Peeta head to The Capital and realize they are no longer in the drab world of District 12. A new world of color, joy, and exuberant life awaits them. People are cheering as they arrive. For four weeks they will go through a series of training sessions and make-overs to get them ready. Along with Effie, they are equipped with a team of experts and advisers including: drunken mentor Haymitch (Harrelson) and stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). If they appear to be a winning team and draw audience appeal, they can receive bonus gifts throughout the competition. A love connection between Peeta and Katniss arises after Peeta "confesses" his love for her during an interview with Caesar Flickerman (Tucci). Katniss is not too pleased. The audience eats up this idea of star-crossed lovers, and they become a fan favorite. The games begin and the tributes are set out to fend for themselves. Like any survival type challenge, allegiances are formed within the tributes and the slaughter begins.
Ross, his creative team, and cast do an exceptional job at delivering the proper tone and feel. The movie knows when to be dark and gritty or bright and humorous. The contrasting worlds of District 12 and The Capitol are distinctly shown through the drab greys and browns of District 12 versus the lavish bright colors, textures, and fabrics that enhance the society of The Capitol. That palette is ironic due to the nature and brutality of the Games. Strong acting overall led by past Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence. She is one tough teenager without being too whiny or obnoxious. Harrelson is perfectly cast as the drunken Haymitch. Banks and Tucci are fabulous character actors that bring enough depth to their characters to make you suspect there is more to them than bright outfits or blue hair. Wes Bentley comes back to the big screen as the head gamemaker, Seneca Crane. It is a pleasure to see him working again. I feel like he hasn't had the career he should have after American Beauty. I have read all three of the books, so I think I had a better understanding for some of the finer details of why it is all happening or specific rules or allowances that can happen in the games. The movie jumps right into the thick of it without a lot of time given to the expedition. Whether you've read them or not, I think you will still have a good time at the movie.
The pressure was to make a faithful adaption of a hugely successful young adult series. There are legions of fans that nitpick the casting, costumes, and design in order to fully accept the world they so vividly imagined while reading it. When you have smart material, it should hopefully fall into place. You can successfully create fantastic adaptations like the Harry Potter movies. You can also fall in the world of The Golden Compass or Eragon where the movies more or less failed in comparison to the book. Subsequent movies never got made in those cases. Twilight falls into the middle of the continuum. The Hunger Games boasts an accomplished director, Academy Award nominated actors, and thrilling source material. Even though they are young adult books, that doesn't mean the movie is for kids. Parents should take caution as it is quite violent involving children/teens slaughtering others their own age.
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5)