Quick Review: The Hunger Games (dir. by Gary Ross)


The Hunger Games is something of an event film, which means that this may not be the only review for the movie. Especially since I haven’t seen Battle Royale, which many say The Hunger Games is very similar to, there’ll probably be a number of viewpoints to this movie.

Update: leon3duke has added his own in-depth review of The Hunger Games. Definitely worth reading.

I consider myself fortunate that I knew next to nothing about the movie adaptation to Suzanne Collins “The Hunger Games” or the novel itself. When I purchased my ticket for a midnight showing, there were only about 10 people around, many of them wearing T-Shirts with the logo. However, when the movie house started asking for the tickets, that 10 turned into 30. By the time the movie started, the 30 became about 50 or so. Not exactly a packed spectacle for where I reside, but I know the ones in Manhattan were.

If any comparisons can be made, I guess it could be to 1987’s The Running Man, with maybe a dash of The Truman Show, but The Hunger Games stands on it’s own because it’s protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, comes across as being in danger every step of the way. That’s enough to keep the audience enthralled. Arnold, not so much.

So, what are the Hunger Games? It’s overall a really great film with a strong female lead in Jennifer Lawrence.

In the future, the nation goes through a number of changes. Wars, famine and poverty ravage the land and eventually, a sense of peace is found. Panem, as the country is called, is divided into 12 Districts. Much like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, the land is broken between the rich who live in the Capitol and the Districts, which live off of a bartering system and are extremely poor. At one time, a 13th Division challenged the rule of the Capitol and had to be taken down. As punishment and to remind the other districts of how great the Capitol is, each District picks one boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in a last one to the death event known as the Hunger Games.

Lawrence (X-Men First Class, Winter’s Bone) easily carries the film as Katniss Everdeen, a resident of District 12, who is great at Archery and uses her skills to hunt for food for her family. When her sister, Prim (Willow Shields) is chosen as a Hunger Games Tribute, she volunteers to take her place. Leaving behind her mother, sister and best friend (Liam Helmsworth), Katniss is taken to the Capitol to participate. Joining her is another member of her District, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

Katniss and Peeta are then introduced to their team, lead by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Effie Trinket (a nearly unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks), and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Harrelson pretty much nails every scene he’s in, something I’ve noticed lately with a lot of his roles. I found it interesting as well to see Lawrence play opposite Lenny, considering she only recently acted alongside his daughter Zoe in X-Men: First Class last year. He actually does well with the time he has on-screen.

That there is the core of the film. Can Katniss survive The Hunger Games? There’s much more to that, but in originally writing this, I ended up explaining most of the film.

The movie does get bloody. It doesn’t try to make light of any of the situations the characters are in, but being a PG-13 film, it doesn’t turn into anything on the lines of a Saw film (which makes me wonder how that would have turned out).

Can I take the kids to this one? 

You can, yes, but note that even though this based on a story written for young audiences, it does have its share of blood and violence. Then again, considering that you can get the same kind of violence from video games these days, I’d say only the really young may be bothered. If there’s any problem regarding kids, it could be a patience factor. Kids expecting non stop action may get a little bored, but if they already read the book, they probably won’t have any problems with it at all and know what to expect. In terms of sexual situations, there aren’t any.

How long is the film? Am I going to yawn? 

The Hunger Games clocks in at about 142 minutes (2 hours and 22 minutes). The first half of the film needs to set up for the second half (The Games themselves), and while it doesn’t move slow, it takes it’s time in letting the audience know what the stakes are for them and to show the contrasts between the districts and the Capitol. Think of it like Batman Begins. Before we get to see Batman, we had to be able to see Bruce Wayne go through his training. There’s not action all the way through the movie, which actually works in it’s favor. The same kind of applies for The Hunger Games. If that made you yawn, then that first half of this film may have the same effect. I loved it, myself, because a lot of that information felt necessary to me, but what works for me may not work for everyone else.

Overall, The Hunger Games was definitely worth it, at least for an initial viewing. I hope that if they go with a sequel (given the success of this one, that’s pretty much guaranteed), they expand more on Panem and some of the events that brought things to where they are now.

19 responses to “Quick Review: The Hunger Games (dir. by Gary Ross)

    • I just came to this page since I posted it and am wowed by all the comments. Yikes!!

      Thank you for the kudos. 🙂 It could have been better, I think. I didn’t focus on the Cinematography or the Direction or anything along those lines. I really loved it. There was tremendous applause at the kiss with the fingers raised salute from Katniss, and what occurred next. That, and many other moments were cool

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  1. The sequel — Catching Fire — is currently in preproduction.

    Despite the fact that I liked the book quite a bit, I have to say that the movie was actually superior as it played down Suzanne Collins’s Leftist political blathering.

    (By the way, if you want to see a true example of a pompous, self-important jackass at his worst, read Stephen King’s review of the literary Hunger Games. Bleh. He may live in Maine but he left his imagination in Vermont.)

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    • LOL, well King probably was disappointed that the film didn’t focus more on the Leftist political blathering. 🙂

      I have read the books as part of Amazon’s Vine program where Prime members can volunteer to read in advance particular books the site recommends before it goes out into mass release. When I first read The Hunger Games I will admit that I wasn’t enthralled by it.

      Suzanne Collins’ looked to be trying to replicate the Young Adult themes of romance and love that made the Stephanie Meyer books such a huge success while trying to add those very political and moral themes the Meyer books lacked.

      One thing which the book and the film does a good job in doing is painting a futuristic dystopian world that wasn’t following the leads of the usual dystopian worlds of past films.

      I’ll have my own review up probably tomorrow but I will say that this film lives or dies by the performance of one Jennifer Lawrence. I know it’s not new to say that the Twilight films have been mocked by many because of it’s performances especially that by Kristen Stewart, but when one compares the leads of Meyer’s films and this one from Collins it’s safe to say that Lawrence would be the clear winner if these two franchises fought it out Hunger Games-style.

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      • At the risk of ridicule, I’m going to say that I think that Kristen Stewart’s performance as Bella and the Twilight Films in general are underrated. I don’t know, maybe you have to be a girl. Lol.

        But yes, I imagine that, if Bella and Katniss had to go at it in a special edition of the Hunger Games, Katness would probably win, if just because Bella’s clumsiness is a running theme in the Twilight books and human Bella could never handle the smell of blood. However, if we’re talking about Bella after Edward turns her into a vampire, I think that the odds would even up considerably.

        As for how Bella would react to the Hunger Games in general, I imagine she would probably say, “Holy cow!”

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    • Bleh? Really? He uses the word “dilly” in the first sentence! I’m now stuck imagining what the original script to “Maximum Overdrive” must’ve looked like, before he replaced all the “dillies” with “maniacal vending machine shooting soda cans into coaches’ junks.”

      As for the actual movie at hand, no one seems to be mentioning the werewolf/zombie/mutants from the end. Which is really all I want to see, but don’t know if waiting for them is worth it. I mean, 2.5 hours? You can read the book in that amount of time!

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    • Ah, cool, I’ll keep Catching Fire on my radar. Thanks for the reply. 🙂

      I didn’t know the book had any kind of political slant to it, but given the subject matter, I guess it would have to have some kind of references.

      I’ll have to do a search for King’s review. My cousin (who’s near your age) and I were talking about him tonight based on this reply, and she pointed out that he’s at a point where he’s talking smack about any up and coming author, without having having produced any major hits in the last decade. As good as he was, he kind of pulls an Ebert at times in that he’s at the top of a hill looking down on “the little people” or something like that.

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      • Stephen King’s review of Hunger Games was positive but a bit condescending. That’s seems to now be his general style of writing and your comment regarding him standing “on top of a hill” is pretty much spot on. I just find his attempts to be a cultural commentator to be very off-putting. I always imagine him in front of his computer going, “Time to let the world know what Uncle Steve thinks about Stephanie Meyer…”

        Speaking of the politics of The Hunger Games, the movie is very clever in that it appeals to both sides of the ideological divide. Supposedly, a lot of Occupy types have come out of the theater convinced that they’ve just seen a film about how the 1% exploits the 99%. (Of course, the Occupy Movement is such a hodgepodge of random bitchiness that just about anything can be twisted into an Occupy pretzel.) Meanwhile, the other side sees the Hung Games as a perfect example of a film about what happens when we allow the government to get too big and out-of-control.

        I read an interview in which Suzanne Collins said that she hoped that the Hunger Games trilogy would inspire “young people” to worry about global warming. (Bleh.)

        And, of course, the director of The Hunger Games — Gary Ross — is an outspoken Hollywood liberal.

        The best quote I’ve read about The Hunger Games’s politics (and one that I kind of agree with): “The Hunger Games is a conservative film whether the people who made it realize it or not.”

        (And the fact of the matter is that the whole dystopian future genre of film and literature is an inherently right-wing and/or Libertarian genre, regardless of the politics of the people who write and/or direct the works that make up that genre.)

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        • Old Cranky King of late aside people who continue to say this film is a watered down version of Battle Royale just don’t know what they’re talking about. The two films are so different with only teens killing each other in a sort of arena setting the only similarity. If any we have that very Cranky King to thank for laying down the final brick that influences The Hunger Games and I’m not talking about The Running Man. 🙂

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