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THE HUNGER GAMES – Movie Review

The hype leading up to the release of The Hunger Games was one of the most massive and widely known in some time.  I haven’t fully read the books, however I knew that there was more to this film than the typical teen novel adaptation (looking at you, Twilight).  So, going in with this mindset, I ended up enjoying the film quite a bit, a lot more than I was expecting.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future where twelve districts compete every year in an event called The Hunger Games.  For the Games, two teens are chosen from each district at random to fight in an arena until death, and the last one standing is crowned the winner.  Our main character is Katness Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a tough, young adult from District 12 who volunteers as tribute when her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) gets chosen at random, and we follow her trying to survive these Games.

The film captures a realistic sense of danger and grittiness very well.  The art direction, color palette, and costumes are dirty and bleak in the districts and the arena itself, providing for a nice contrast to the bright, vibrant energy of the Capital City.

Performances all around are very strong, especially Lawrence, who is strong, believable, and commanding as Katness.  She carries the film with a raw, realistic sense of emotion, and you can easily sympathize with her.  There are some nice supporting performances as well, notably some comedic turns from Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci.

However, a main issue I have with The Hunger Games that prevents it from truly being great is the first half.  So much information is compacted into the first hour of this film, and the plot moves at too fast of a pace.  Had the story been streamlined and condensed a bit more, the characters could have been a bit more developed and fleshed out, making the film more impactful overall.

The second half in the arena is great, though, and it really had what the first half lacked.  It took its time, it let the characters breathe, and as a result, it felt more authentic.  There is some great sound design here too, using surrounding nature sounds and silence effectively to build up the stakes and tension.

The other problem I have with the film is the use of the infamous “shaky cam.”  I know the filmmakers were trying to capture a gritty style with it, but it shook so much and the edits happened so quickly that many scenes, especially the action, were almost incomprehensible.

Overall, The Hunger Games is a well-told, interesting story with some great performances, and a strong sense of environment.  If nothing else, this is a major upgrade from any teen phenomenon we’ve had in a long time.

FINAL RATING: 4/5

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