Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Hunger Games’ Review: Engaging, Intense, Emotional & Brilliant

The Hunger Games is not only my favorite film I’ve seen so far this year, it could very well be my favorite and the best film of the year. I have read the books, written by Suzanne Collins and immediately became emotionally engaged by the story and its characters. This is one of the best film adaptions I have ever seen and I agreed with most of the choices that director Gary Ross (Pleasantville) showed us on the big screen.

Having read both The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games trilogy, I can see why fans and critics compare the two. Both are hugely popular young adult stories, both have a love triangle and both stories are told from the perspective of the lead female. However, The Hunger Games is NOTHING like the Twilight movies. In fact, The Hunger Games puts Catharine Hardwicke’s Twilight to absolute shame.

What’s so unique about The Hunger Games is that even though the target audience is young adults, it appeals to people of all ages, which makes it one of the most striking films we’ve seen in a long time.

‘The Hunger Games’ is an annual event in the country of Panem, where one male and one female, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are chosen from each of the 12 Districts to fight to the death in a closed arena. Katniss Everdeen (Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence) is the first person to ever volunteer from District 12 to fight in the Games. She decided to take the place of her younger sister Primrose, who was originally chosen as the female tribute from 12. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is picked as the other representative and the two are whisked away to the Capitol to prepare for the battle.

Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), who has been Katniss’ hunting partner and best friend ever since they were kids, is now forced to watch her on-screen in the televised battle against 23 other children. Think the 2000 Japanese film, Battle Royale, only less bloody and with a love triangle.

At the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta are guided through the Games protocol by the colorful Effie (Elizabeth Banks) who introduces them to Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), their mentor and District 12’s only living Games winner. Cinna (a powerful performance by Lenny Kravitz) is Katniss’ fashion expert, who later becomes her one true friend that she can trust inside the Capitol.

With a little Romeo & Juliet mixed into the story, Katniss and Peeta are presented as star-crossed lovers, who were forced beyond their will to fight against each other. The love story is so interesting in this film because its up to the audience’s judgement on what feelings are real and what feelings are for show. It puts a whole new dynamic into the romantic plot that is carried throughout the film, even when Katniss and Peeta aren’t on screen together.

Jennifer Lawrence is so strong in this story and she fully delivers as the ultimate female heroine, Katniss. Her performance alone truly carries the film all the way until the end. Josh Hutcherson also steps up and conveys Peeta perfectly. He is exactly like I pictured Peeta would be, while reading the book.

What surprised me while watching the story on screen is how much tension was created by Ross and the actors. Even though I’ve read the books, I was shocked to find myself literally on the edge of my seat during certain scenes and had to catch my breath. That’s when you can tell that a great film adaptation has been made, when the fans of the book find themselves questioning what’s going to happen. The reaping scene is one of the most powerful and tension filled sequences in the film and I loved every second of it.

The Hunger Games is a film that is actually casted perfectly. Stanley Tucci plays Caesar, Donald Sutherland plays President Snow, Wes Bentley plays Seneca Crane, the lead gamemaker, which to my pleasant surprise had a huge role in the film and Amandla Stenberg, plays young, innocent Rue, all took my breath away.

My one disappointment was a particular scene between Katniss and Peeta, which I won’t give away. I wanted more from it and I think most “Team Peeta” readers would agree with me too.

Gary Ross has taken a beloved story and turned it into a movie phenomenon. The Hunger Games will greatly please fans of the book and attract new Gamers with its’ engaging story and brilliant performances.

Kevin McCarthy interviews the amazing cast here:


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