Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Hunger Games movie review.

When it officially went into wide release over two months ago, The Hunger Games, based on the first book of Suzanne Collin's acclaimed trilogy of books, was the most eagerly anticipated literary film adaptation since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Before you ask: Yes, I AM a fan of the books, and I can say that the Hunger Games movie, directed by the great Gary Ross, is one seriously good movie.

In the country of Panem, the 74th Hunger Games - a yearly event where one girl and boy between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of twelve districts compete to the death in an arena - is taking place. Katniss Everdeen of District 12 volunteers to compete in place of her younger sister, traveling to the Capitol of Panem with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark, a boy with ties to Katniss's past. As the tournament looms closer, Katniss and Peeta begin training and preparing for what will come in the arena, fighting against kids from other districts who've trained for this their whole lives.

As a director, Gary Ross' visual style is impressive. He's an expert at structure and staging, pacing the movie perfectly, and making it look and sound fantastic, especially Tom Stern's involving cinematography. But beneath the flashy aesthetics is also a film of genuine depth. If you're watching for full on action, look elsewhere. Any action scenes are lucky if they're longer than two minutes, but what I appreciate is that action is entirely not the point. The movie is more interested in building intensity and emotion to match the huge scope. Surprising depth also lies within the ideas the story presents. Themes of corruption in politics and government, social inequality, as well as society's disturbing thirst for exploitative reality television is explored very often. If I have any major complaints, I guess I'd say that the ending definitely rushes things.

Katniss is a fierce, fearless character, and Lawrence is the perfect fit for her.
As far as talent goes, look no further than that of the lovely Jennifer Lawrence, who fits the role of Katniss like a glove. Katniss can be thought of as an enhancement of Lawrence's fantastic Oscar nominated performance in Winter's Bone. Her emotional range and confidence adds so much to this character. Tough, fearless, and highly likable, Katniss is one of the greatest movie heroines in years. A fine young group of actors that play tributes from other districts are exceptional, and there's also a stellar cast of supporting adults that includes Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and a virtually unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks. Scene stealer notice must go to Stanley Tucci. With razor sharp comedic timing, charismatic enthusiasm, and unexpected warmth, his Caesar Flickerman rocks the movie.

What can be expected of the inevitable Catching Fire? Well, My anticipation will be sky high. On a side note, a little fun fact: Second unit portions of the movie were directed by master of versatility Steven Soderbergh. So Hollywood, if you're reading this, please get Soderbergh on board to direct the sequel.

****1/2/ *****

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