Critic's Pick: The Hunger Games
Fans may be disappointed, momentarily, by the movie’s speed—as with any good adaptation, we lose many details that are not absolutely essential. They may not like the choppiness of the camera work and editing, which makes you feel as though you really are watching the 74th Annual Hunger Games alongside the citizens of Panem. They may not like the wide-eyed naiveté of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, who feels subtly less complex without the aid of the novel’s internal monologue. They may dislike the casting of a brooding Liam Hemsworth as Gale and the inconsistent Josh Hutcherson as Peeta.
But I think you’ll find very few fans and new-to-the-series viewers who will not walk away from The Hunger Games feeling satisfied, intrigued and very, very thoughtful.
Hear this, doubters: Gary Ross knew exactly what he was doing when he signed on to direct this film. And he delivers. The Hunger Games is as real as any diehard could imagine. It captures the immense fear and resignation of the districts, and then seconds later, the glee the Capitol takes in the meaningless slaughter of 23 children each and every year.
The Games are billed as a pageant, like Toddlers and Tiaras but with far more serious consequences when the Tributes take to the stage. And you get to see the pageantry—the parades, the wild revelry, the game show-like atmosphere ushered in by host Caesar Flickerman (played by the always incredible Stanley Tucci).
But you also see the flipside of the gay Capitol coin. The people of the districts, in contrast to Effie Trinket’s satin and feathers, live a life tinged by shades of mud and dust. And magically, the audience is transported between the two. One moment, the scenes unfolding on the screen repulse us, aching to comfort Prim when she awakes from a nightmare that she’s been chosen as Tribute. The next, our eyes are glued to the screen as we will Katniss and Peeta, the star-crossed lovers of District 12, to conquer their competition.
It’s a juxtaposition that had me coming out of the theater quiet, considering what I’d just seen rather than gasping over the (brief) romance between Katniss and Peeta. The Hunger Games is most certainly a good movie. It’s engrossing, the characters are sympathetic and well cast, the visuals stunning. But most importantly of all, I think, it makes you question this society (whose Capitol is disturbingly reminiscent of Washington, D.C., might I add, in its monuments and reflection pools), and by extension, our own. Could we become Panem?
Catch The Hunger Games, in theaters now, and think about it. Then come back and let us know what you think.