Movie Review: The Hunger Games

by | Mar 22nd, 2012 | 9:51PM | Filed under: Theatrical Reviews

As Hollywood searches for its next teen-friendly blockbuster franchise now that the Harry Potter adaptions are complete and the Twilight saga will draw to a close later this year, all eyes are on The Hunger Games.

Who’s in it: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Liam Hemsworth (Gale), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), and Lenny Kravitz (Cinna)

What’s it about: It’s based on the best-selling novel (the first in a trilogy) by Suzanne Collins about a future version of North America, renamed Panem, that’s ruled by the oppressive Capitol. Each year Panem’s twelve districts must send one boy and one girl (“tributes”) to the Hunger Games—a fight-to-the-death tournament set in a televised arena controlled by reality-TV masterminds. Think “Survivor for kids” . . . only with straight-up murder replacing game elimination.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister is chosen for the Games, Katniss volunteers in her place and then must leave behind her family and best friend Gale in order to face almost-certain death. With Katniss from District 12 is the soft-spoken Peeta, who’s harbored a secret crush on her for years. Unfortunately, only one of them can make it out of the Games alive.

What’s good: Jennifer Lawrence rocked it in the lead role. That probably won’t surprise anyone familiar with her work, though. What I wasn’t expecting to like so much was Stanley Tucci’s turn as the flamboyant, is-he-in-on-the-ridiculousness-of-it-all-or-isn’t-he Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman. He stole every scene he was in and provided much-needed levity, as did Woody Harrelson, who plays Katniss and Peeta’s drunken mentor and long-ago Games champion Haymitch. Haymitch’s sobering-up was accelerated in the film version, but served to make his character (and his motivations) all the more intriguing. I also applaud the expanded role that Wes Bentley’s game-master Seneca Crane enjoyed. When Gale suggests to Katniss that the Games would come to an end if everyone simply stopped tuning in year after year (can we all try this for Keeping Up with the Kardashians, please?), Crane’s genius and utter detachment as he throws increasingly deadly obstacles into the tributes’ paths explain why that will never happen. This man knows how to produce great entertainment. Even if 23 kids have to die in the process. (On that note, I felt the comes-with-the-territory violence was handled well, given the fact that there was NO WAY this film was going to be shot with anything other than a PG-13 rating in mind by director Gary Ross.)

What could’ve been better: Fans of the book (such as myself) may be disappointed that parts of the story didn’t translate well onto the screen. For example, readers of the novel are privy to Katniss’s internal dialogue and are therefore aware that the “star-crossed lovers” act she engages in with Peeta is all for show in an attempt to earn air-dropped survival gifts from wealthy Capitol “sponsors.” But in the film that’s not clear at all. I also thought the sci-fi elements of the book were lacking in the movie—the”future worldliness” and “ooh, ahh” factor of the various manmade creatures and traps in the battle arena were almost completely lost.

The bottom line: The book is better, but overall The Hunger Games succeeds on of the strength of its powerhouse cast and its compelling concept. The odds are ever in its favor for making millions and millions at the box office!

Did this review make you hungry (get it?) for films adapted from books? Then look no further than these Redbox movies:

15 Responses to “Movie Review: The Hunger Games”

  1. Chad
    Posted on March 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Finally another movie review! Thanks and welcome back!

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Posted on March 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Great review, Erica. I’m with you, I think the reaction the audience had to Haymitch’s note “You call that a kiss?” belayed an understanding that her first kiss was a bit of playing to the cameras for a parachute pod. The second kiss though…

  2. Michelle
    Posted on March 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I saw it at the midnight preimere. It was a pretty good book to movie adaption. There were several smaller pieces of the story missing, and that disappointed me. But overall, it was a really good film. And yes I know that not everything in the books can be contained in a 2 hour movie, but the film seemed to just skip along, little develpoment in the charachter relations and wrapped up rather quickly without the viewer seeing Katniss’s struggle with her feelings about Peeta. Hutcherson was great, he did portray his side of the “love” story pretty well. Stanley Tucci–amazing! I wish they could have spent a little more time with Harrilsons charachter though. I found him as one of the more interesting charachters in the book. Great casting him though!!

  3. Jennifer @5MinutesforBooks
    Posted on March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Saw it today!! Gale mentioning that it would stop if people stopped watching was actually one of my beefs (that I forgot until I read it here). In the book it’s all about how it’s “required viewing,” so that sort of contradicts that, right?

    I had other beefs as well, but I did like the movie.

    • Currently 2/5 Stars
    Posted on March 24, 2012 at 5:45 am

    I haven’t read the book which appears to give me a different perspective than Erika and the few responders so far.

    The TV ads and all the hype got me to go see it opening day. As usual, I have trouble detaching myself from my expectations when I actually walk into the theater…meaning I was expecting something amazing. I walked out feeling so-so about the whole thing. I was neither amazed or enthralled like I had expected to be. I will continue with a rundown of my likes and dislikes.

    The best parts of the movie were Jennifer (I don’t think I need to go into details with that since everyone seems to agree) and some of the visuals.

    My list of dislikes is a bit longer. Again, keep in mind that I haven’t read the book and perhaps there is more in the 2nd and 3rd stories that explains more, but….

    The concept. To get revenge for a rebellious uprising, the government makes a Running Man style TV show to punish the teenagers of the rebel factions? I would be happy if someone who read the book(s) could enlighten me on how that makes any sense.

    Pacing. In addition to the movie being what I call “long” (which isn’t in itself bad if there is *interesting* material to fill it), it took almost 1/2 the movie to get to the games themselves. I know all about introducing characters and the main plot, but that should take up 1/4 of the film at most, not 1/2. For as long as they spent on the intros, it seemed some latter parts of the film were rushed. The bottom line for me is…if I catch myself checking my watch (which I did 2-3 times), then I know something is off.

    Contrivances. The guy that loves Katniss (at least I assume he does…I couldn’t tell one way or the other if he was faking it for show or not) just happens to be the one picked for the games. Yes, I know it’s a story, but what I was thinking was going to be a little more “real” feeling (than say Running Man, since I mentioned it above), started going down the path of hokey and predictable right from the start.

    Then there were just some plot points that just didn’t work for me. If Katniss is so well-liked by the audience before the games even begin, why is the game master throwing lethal fireballs at her barely into the first day of survival? Sure, start the forest fire to get her to move back into the central gaming zone area, but the fireballs could kill her. After Peeta “leads” the 1s and 2s to Katniss, why don’t they kill him (like they alluded to in dialog)? What was the deal with the dogs at the end? I thought the whole point of the games was a death match, but then we introduce another lethal obstacle that could very possibly end the games anticlimactically if the heroes die and Cato “backs into” the win.

    I would say overall it was amusing to watch, but really just an average movie with some nice production values.

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Posted on March 26, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Hi e!! Glad to see you back.
    I really missed your reviews in here, I was just about to unsubscribe this blog from my Reader until I saw your review. =D

    About the movie: I really, really liked it! I think it is a great movie, with great characters and a lot of cool ideas.

    The downside is that just like Lauranda I also feel that something didn’t feel quite right. Some inconsitencies like the ones Lauranda pointed out. I just think that it had a lot more potential and it was put to waste. Oh and I also wish it would have been treated as PG-15 at least! A little more blood? ;) (Wished for a little more Battle Royale-sque fights) But we all know that wasn’t gonna happen.

    Nevertheless it was a good movie overall and I’m eager to watch the next two films.

  4. Donna
    Posted on March 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I don’t really care to see The Hunger Games (but my daughter went to see it and liked it), I just wanted to comment that Erika is back!! Good to see you again and looking forward to more reviews.

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Posted on March 27, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, but like Lauranda said something was just off about
    it, I saw it in IMAX and it really was hurting my eyes. It also was just weird how the timing was, I mean I think that The actual Hunger Games should of been longer and could of had more details, it was just weird how long the introduction was, my younger sister is a huge Hunger Games fan and when I took her to see the movie she also agreed that it was just off and could have been better. She also pointed out Katniss didn’t get the pin from The Hob she got it from a close friend. Over all it was great and I can’t wait to see Catching Fire and Mocking Jay!

  5. Erika Olson

    Posted on March 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks, Donna! And I’m excited for YOUR interview coming up tomorrow…

    - e

  6. Erika Olson

    Posted on March 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Don’t unsubscribe! : ) Thanks for your kind words. And you summed up exactly what I thought: The Hunger Games had the potential to be much, much better than it was. It’s a shame. But yeah, there’s always hope the next two will get it right.

    - e

  7. Erika Olson

    Posted on March 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks, Chad! It’s good to be back! I had a kid (my first, a son) while in January so it’s nice to get back to “normal” a bit now. : )

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Posted on March 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Yeah e!
    Cool kid! Greatest youngest nerd in the world ;)
    (I follow you since the Long Live Lock days :P)

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Posted on April 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Yay, Erika you are back! I’ve been waiting for you to come back…I’ve been checking your blog According to e once a week waiting for more of your writing and now you’re back! I’ll finally read this blog again because of you! I’ve been missing your writing so much, it was so fun to read :)

    I also miss Locke. Where’s he? Redblog has some GREAT writers and that’s why I’ve come back on here. Thank you so much for coming back!

    I had seen The Hunger Games on opening weekend and I loved the film. It succeeded my expectations. It was awesome, I can’t wait until Catching Fire to come in cinemas.

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Katrina Tramel
    Posted on August 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I think a young actress: Jennifer Lawrence is due for an academy award for this film. She is courageous and inspiring for young women. An intimidating young actress to young men in manly sporting events.

    Posted on August 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm