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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I first read The Hunger Games two years ago and adored it -- thought it would make a good movie, in fact. Flash forward and here we are, with a monster hit adaptation. I won’t go into the story or the characters, since if you’re reading this you’re probably already familiar. I had my doubts about some of the casting (mainly Peeta and Gale), but I’m happy to say that, though it doesn’t touch the Harry Potter series, this is one young adult lit adaptation that doesn’t suck.

Filmed primarily with a naturalistic eye, and led by the incredibly effective Jennifer Lawrence, the movie deposits us immediately into the impoverished, rural setting of District 12. This is a science fiction future that, barring a few of the more outlandish flourishes, feels startlingly real. I’d put that down to the genuine emotion in every frame, and the decision to forego massive CGI overkill in favor of grit and texture.

Of course, it’s not all trees and dirt. The decadent Capital is well-rendered, despite being populated by a cast that looks like transplants from a Lady Gaga tribute act (which I guess was probably somewhat intentional). The film, like the book, pauses here for awhile before getting to the nonstop action of the Arena. This was one of my favorite sequences in the book--a barbed skewering of reality television and the entertainment industry. It doesn’t register quite as powerfully on screen, but the film still hits all the right notes.

Then we’re whisked off to the Arena, where the action really kicks in. Those tense minutes as the Tributes are being released into the game are some of the most harrowing moments on film in the last few years. The stakes are high--about as high and personal as they get. The violence is never gratuitous but always unsettling. It’s one thing reading about kids killing kids, and quite another seeing it on screen. It’s brutal, but effectively so. From this point until the end of the movie, it’s nearly constant suspense. The “cave scene” with Katniss and Peeta, my least favorite in the book, has thankfully been shortened for the film.

At nearly two and a half hours, The Hunger Games is the rare epic-length film that flies by. It’s relentlessly paced, taut in both story and character, and just as shocking as it needs to be. Now, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the next two books--especially since this first one is widely considered to be the best. A-


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Anonymous Magnus said...

Hey Nick, I know this is off topic but i wondered what you thought of the danish x-factor. Do you think Ida was the right one to win?

9:44 AM  

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