Film Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games succeeds in its writing, acting, ambitious cinematography and set design, but a more fundamental examination of the structure of the original text bears primary responsibility for its achievement.

Whether in praise or detraction, The Hunger Games gets talked about alongside Harry Potter and Twilight, as they all fall into the category of national phenomenon.  These books have sold incredibly well not only amongst young adults, but also older generations, a fact especially true in the case of The Hunger Games.  When a book reaches such a wide audience, a film version can be a recipe for disaster with fans questioning and critiquing every minor change without acknowledging that print and film are wildly different mediums.  Often, moviegoers who know nothing of the book depart from these adaptations unimpressed, and those who were already familiar depart unfulfilled.

The Hunger Games has an edge on the other aforementioned series of novels by way of being more focused.  Despite the futuristic, dystopian society Collins creates, she leaves many of the intricacies to imagination and inference, creating less demand in a film translation.  Too, the novel largely chronicles a linear and fast paced race to a single, definite outcome.  This structure contrasts sharply with P

otter and Twilight, whose sprawling novels meander considerably, even if they do so to the great delight of their readers. For this reasons, The Hunger Games cinematically succeeds where the other film franchises have struggled.  Of course, the novel has deep seeded political ideology, but that doesn’t really get fleshed out until later installments.

With this accessibility virtue in mind, director and co-screenwriter Gary Ross’s film offers plenty to praise.  Captivating from the first frame, Ross balances his excellent cast of young actors with sprawling, lavish shots of landscape and tight quick snippets that consistently engage the viewer. Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect cast for lead Katniss Everdeen, and though Woody Harrelson strikes me as somewhat too clean and fit for drunken mentor Haymitch Abernathy, his gruff, sarcastic wit is spot on.

Omissions from the film are largely plot decisions that merely built suspense in the novel, such as Katniss’s need for a potion to completely knock Peeta out before leaving to take care of business with the other tributes.  Without that elaborate, the story functions seamlessly a

s she just waits until he’s asleep.  The only substantial change that seemed to rack viewers in my immediate vicinity as well as yours truly, was the lack of the mayor’s daughter in the film.  Though a minor character, her connection to Katniss, her kindess, and her link to the District 12 nobility made her a valuable character in my opinion.

The first installment o

f The Hunger Games deserves accolades all around.  With Gary Ross signed on already to direct its sequel, Catching Fire, a challenge lies ahead as the ensuing novels become increasingly philosophical, political, and less action driven.  Here’s one fan hoping that he can keep it up.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.
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