18. The Hunger Games
Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Gary Ross
This movie was nowhere on my radar until the first trailer came out last year. I was super intrigued as to what the whole story was and why people were hotly anticipating this movie. I finally caved in and read the first book in January and have since become a fan of the series. So naturally I was stoked for the movie to come out. I think I would have put the movie higher on my list last year had I read the book by then. Despite my high level of anticipation for this movie I was ready to be disappointed but it delivered! It's a solid adaptation of the book and a great movie in and of itself, for that matter.
Everyone knows the story - dystopian future (god I love dystopian future settings - Children of Men, Scanner Darkly, Dark City, the list goes on and on) where a tyrannical nation rules over its subjects and forces representatives from each District in the nation to fight to the death called the Hunger Games. Katniss unexpectedly volunteers herself when her younger sister's name gets called to participate. The first half of the movie is all set up for the actual games and the second half is the actual battle royale between all 24 tributes (as they're called). It's a fun movie - there's a lot to take in because your being introduced to setting and characters, but the movie handles itself well. It's never too complicated or slow - your whisked away immediately into the beginning ceremonies for the Hunger Games after the first fifteen minutes or so and the movie is expertly paced after that.
I can only imagine how hard it would have been to translate the book to film, but they did a wonderful job. The main problem was that the book was all told from the perspective of Katniss but the movie cleverly interpreted all the events almost as a reality show - you get a perspective on what the world's like through the eyes of other characters involved. I especially like the behind-the-scenes with the Games Master and his control room. It gave an explanation to things talked about in the book by Katniss without having an awful narrative or clunky dialogue exposition. In fact, the stuff in the movie actually enhanced my understanding of the book - it's rare that a film can do that.
On top of the finely crafted plot and pace, the acting is exceptional. I'm not surprised at how Jennifer Lawrence performed - she's already an Oscar nominated actress. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Josh Hutcherson's performance - it's quite nuanced and he comes into the games with so much naivety while having the burden of trying to portray himself as a strong individual. The rest of the cast - Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson - all give terrific performances and I thought they all fit their roles perfectly. Except for Donald Sutherland. I was not overly impressed with him - he didn't seem as threatening or bigger-than-life like I was picturing the president. In fact, he felt more like a malevolent Dumbledore the way they had him dressed up.
I really don't have any qualms with the movie - I loved how it cut back to other Districts rebelling during the Games - it's something that wasn't in the book, but was talked about in the sequel. So it's nice to see they're setting up a lot to happen in the next movie and I cannot wait to see how they pull Catching Fire off with a new director.
Rating: See It!