Movie Review: The Hunger Games [2012]

The Hunger Games [2012]

The Hunger Games [2012]
Director: Gary Ross
Genre: Action/Drama/Sci-Fi
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Runtime: 142 Minutes

I don’t know what’s more shocking — the fact that a movie about kids killing kids has been a monster box office smash, or that author Suzanne Collins claims to had never heard of the Japanese cult hit, Battle Royale, before writing The Hunger Games. Of course, stories about people killing people for the sake of sport are hardly anything new. Before Battle Royale, there was The Running Man, and shortly after its release came Series 7: The Contenders. While an intriguing concept, it is amazing that such a violent storyline was written with young adults in mind.

Set in a dystopian environment, The Hunger Games shares its name with an event set up by a repressive government. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, are selected from each of twelve districts via a lottery to become participants (or “tributes”) in the games. The goal is to be the last person standing. If not, you’re dead.

The Hunger Games [2012]

We follow Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old who boldly volunteers to take the place of her sister Primrose (Willow Shields), who was initially elected to participate. The other tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who we later find out is in love with Katniss. Since The Hunger Games event is presented as a television broadcast, the creators try to stir up a romance between these two for those watching in the districts. In fact, the creators have full access to the games and can alter the environment in order to pique the interest of its viewers. This adds an interesting dynamic to what is essentially a spectacle of murder.

Although 24 children are selected as tributes, we really only get to know two (Katniss and Peeta). This fits in line with the idea that nearly all of them will die, but it does not translate well to the film. When one minor character is killed off, director Gary Ross tries desperately to tug at our heartstrings, even going so far as to show an extended, impromptu burial. While fans of the books may appreciate this scene, it felt forced to me and I was rather apathetic about it all.

The Hunger Games is a PG-13 movie, which is a tad peculiar considering its violent concept. Ross is able to get away with this in part because of the sped-up action scenes. We rarely get a clean look at any deaths mainly due to an overreliance on “shaky cam” techniques. Some of the fight/action scenes are almost unbearable to watch because of this, and it is hard to tell what is actually happening. I get the reasoning for going PG-13, but I can’t help but feel the movie would be improved if the action sequences were better executed (i.e. more graphic, matching the theme of the story).

The Hunger Games [2012]

The movie’s greatest asset is its cast, led by the surprisingly badass Jennifer Lawrence. Her stock has been rising steadily over the last couple years, but this role has just taken her to another dimension. I can’t think of a better lead for this film. Other noteworthy inclusions are Woody Harrelson as an alcoholic mentor, Stanley Tucci as the vastly entertaining MC of the broadcast, the stern Donald Sutherland as President, Elizabeth Banks as the eccentric Effie Trinket, and Lenny Kravitz as fashion extraordinare Cinna. Even Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are competent in their roles.

While I don’t quite get all of the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, I still enjoyed the film well enough. The lack of character development is disappointing, as is the overuse of the shaky cam, but underneath there is still an absorbing sci-fi story with a unique dystopian setting.


37 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hunger Games [2012]

  1. Stephen Eldridge says:

    Cool, glad not-reading the books didn’t entirely kill it for you. But, man, if you’re surprised this movie got made for young adults, wait ’til you see the sequels. I have no idea how they’re going to manage them…

    • Eric says:

      Well now you have me pretty interested in seeing the sequels. 😀 I’m curious as to how it will all play out now that the games are over.

    • Eric says:

      Hmm… I have heard mostly glowing reviews myself. I think it comes down to whether someone has read the books or not, in terms of how much they will enjoy this. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, Scott. Normally I can deal with shaky cam, but it really bothered me here. Glad to hear it didn’t affect your experience though.

      • rtm says:

        I’m with Scott, I don’t think I noticed it much nor was I bothered by the shaky cam thing. As for the lack of character development, it’s bound to happen when you go from a book which is quite deep and you’ve only got 2 hrs to tell a story in the movie. I do think they did a decent job considering, and you’re right it is still an absorbing sci-fi story and I’m a sucker for movies w/ dystopian setting.

        • Eric says:

          Good point, Ruth. It’s always tricky to condense a book into movie form, and sometimes the end result suffers for those not familiar with both. I think that’s the case here, unfortunately.

  2. Pete says:

    The scene you’re talking about with the death and burial totally failed on me too and it was bloody moving in the book! On the other hand the ‘I volunteer’ scene wasn’t overly emotional in the book but I got all choked up when watching the film! Glad you liked it!

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, I was wondering how the burial scene compared in the book. From what I’ve heard, that character was much better developed in the novel. Too bad it didn’t translate well to the movie.

  3. Jaina says:

    Don’t quite get the hype behind the film. It is a decent enough film. Just don’t think it’s staggeringly amazing.

    Though, I guess it’s got to be good if it’s pleasing the legion of hardcore book fans.

  4. John says:

    I also immensely disliked the shaky cam. Overall though, I was pleased with the film. I’ve yet to read the books, but I found The Hunger Games more watchable than most of the Twilight movies.

    • Eric says:

      I haven’t seen Twilight so I can’t compare, but I imagine that I would like The Hunger Games more as well. It certainly has a more interesting premise, at least. (not to mention a more likable cast)

  5. fogsmoviereviews says:

    Good review, E.

    I enjoyed it more than you, I think. But we agree on a lot of things. The shaky cam was terrible. A completely unfortunate choice. But it actually helps them water down the violence, which I thought was another unfortunate choice. Like you said, I think the movie would have been a lot stronger if it portrayed some more realistic violence.

    That said, I like the characters and the story both a lot. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, Fogs. I liked the movie well enough, but not quite as much as so many others did. I was pleasantly surprised as to how fast the 2+ hours went, as I thought that might be a problem going into it. I still don’t have any desire to read the books, but I will be certainly checking out the film sequels.

  6. CMrok93 says:

    I didn’t read the books but I still had a great time either way mainly because of the flow and pace of the film once the actual Games themselves start up. Good review my man.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks Dan. I think I actually preferred the first half of the movie, as it was pretty cool to see the futuristic city and all of their crazy habits. It also had less shaky cam. 😀

  7. Castor says:

    Have yet to see the movie but hopefully this weekend. I’m half way through the book and it’s actually quite good. I recommend it! 😀

    • Eric says:

      Good deal, Castor. I had thought about reading the book beforehand, but it was hard to find time to sit down and do it (even though it did look like an easy read). Hope you enjoy the movie!

  8. gotounknown says:

    I don’t dare to read your review as of yet, as I haven’t seen the movie, but plan to do it in the coming days hopefully. I just read your last words and it seems worth to watch, at least to see what the fuzz is all about 🙂

      • gotounknown says:

        No, haven’t read the books although I should; usually prefers to read books before seeing their movie-fications but for now no time… Will let you know what I think when I have seen it 🙂

        • Eric says:

          I hear ya. I thought about giving the book a shot, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish before opening night. Ah well, I was still entertained anyway. 😀

          • gotounknown says:

            The Hunger games were more entertaining than really good; it had its moments of tension (and laughter), but mostly it was Jennifer Lawrence’ acting that did it for me. She’s really great, liked her a lot in Winter’s Bones also!

          • Eric says:

            Yeah, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely a rising star. She was more than capable taking the lead role in such a popular franchise. Also loved her in Winter’s Bone.

  9. Chris says:

    Great review, Eric! Those two early points you make in your review are indeed shocking, maybe the contestants should have been written as adults ?
    I would also give Hunger Games an average rating. The lack of violence I was okay with, even if the “shaky cam” made me dizzy. The survival in the forest was exciting enough.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks man! I don’t think the violence needed to be brutal or on par with Battle Royale, for example, but using the shaky cam to cover it up was kind of weak. It will be interesting to see what a new director does for the sequel(s).

    • Eric says:

      I thought about reading the books, but I already have a huge stack that I need to get through first. I am a notoriously slow reader. 🙂 Thanks for the link — I liked your review!

  10. Lisa says:

    As always, the books are far better than the movie. I agree with the above comment, a lot was left out because it is from Katniss’ thoughts. I thought the film did a decent job at explaining some of her thoughts- for example, using the telecasters to explain some details that were happening (what the jacker trackers are). There were so many minor details left out, that seem to have some significance in the book. The whole time my husband and I were watching it, I was basically narrating or explaining how it’s different in the book. Now he’s read the first book and understands the story the better.

    • Eric says:

      Hey! I almost lost your comment (thanks for leaving one, BTW!). So it sounds like you’ve gotta read the book to get the full value of the movie. Makes sense, but I still wish that some of the characters were fleshed out more for those of us who hadn’t read the book(s).

      Have you seen Battle Royale?

      • Lisa says:

        I agree with what you said about the characters. I have not seen Battle Royale. Haven’t heard of it until your comment, will have to check it out.

        • Eric says:

          Battle Royale is even better, in my opinion. It’s a Japanese movie that almost certainly served as an inspiration for The Hunger Games (whether the author wants to admit it or not). It’s also significantly more violent.

          If you guys have Netflix, I think it’s still on Instant Watch.

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