Turn off the Lights

The Hunger Games: A Second Serving of Reviews

Every so often, a movie becomes such an event that not even the four digital margins of a single online movie review post can contain it what needs to be said about it. Such is The Hunger Games, which last weekend began its quest toward being one of the biggest North American movies of all time with a massive $152.5-million first step. Player Affinity's Max Alborn waded through the midnight crowds to get our initial review of the would-be blockbuster, but in the 10 days since, a few others have ventured to and from the cinemas and returned with a bevy of thoughts, opinions and frankly, unanimous praise. Rather than chop up their many thoughts into tiny summary reviews as we do for most films, we've created a separate forum of sorts to house our many thoughts, with our composite score reflected in the rating. We hope you'll see it as a place to include your thoughts. What did you think? Who do you agree with most? Simon Brookfield writes: "Sometimes, as it turns out, ignoring phenomena at the first unveiling can yield impressive results when the time comes to finally seek it out. Such is the case with The Hunger Games. I was rather unmoved (though far from uninterested) by the proposition of a film, as I had not read the books and had only the pedigree of actors involved and positive words from friends to sway me otherwise. There is certainly a luxury to being a fan, as particular plot developments can only be described as confusing (or perhaps incorrectly as plot holes) to those not versed and glaringly detract from the tense nature of the spectacle. As expected, The Hunger Games is impeccably acted throughout, thoughtfully constructed in its setup of this dystopian world, and more than gritty enough to gloss over any PG-13-related shortcomings. I don’t relish in the submersion of senseless gore, nor do wish every film had more, but there is no mistaking that this adaptation would have benefited from a hard "R." The situation is disturbing enough in itself, but if the visual stakes had been raised and the relentlessness of the situation amplified, The Hunger Games could have strived for something more than a merely well done young adult, big-screen imagining." Rating: 8/10 Kieran Freemantle writes: "There are plenty excellent dystopic movies, and even movies that feature killer kids like Battle Royale and A Clockwork Orange, which combined the two. The adaptation of The Hunger Games can stand alongside them with its head held high. The Hunger Games is a dark, grim movie that is brutal with its violence (or as brutal as a PG-13 movie can be) and a character-driven story that is brilliantly led by Jennifer Lawrence with a talented supporting cast. Gary Ross was able to bring us into this futuristic world and the use of shaky cam was a benefit not a hindrance. The Hunger Games shows a well-created world and society with plenty of ideas of its own about violence in the youth and reality TV. There was a Truman Show-like feel during the second half of the movie with the gamemakers manipulating the arena. A little disclaimer, I was lucky enough to see the proper American cut." Rating: 8/10 Sam Woolf writes: "Lumping The Hunger Games in with most other young-adult bestsellers would be giving it short shrift. Granted, it’s a pastiche of familiar ideas, a sampler menu of other, undoubtedly more challenging works. The fingerprints of The Lottery, 1984 and even Logan’s Run are unmistakable, but despite its broad appeal via teenage blood sport and message-making that has deftness ranging from sly to sledgehammer, the film is as gritty and level-headed an adventure film as a PG-13 rating will allow, with a badass and engaging heroine to boot. Gary Ross keeps the gruesome reality of kill-or-be-killed as mostly an undercurrent during the lead-up, allowing some fun and momentum to build in scenes that could have wound up maudlin. Sadly, the games themselves lose their punch due the fracas of Ross’ kid-friendly direction, but it’s in the quiet moments that the film makes its biggest impact. Even in blockbuster filmmaking, a buzzing fluorescent bulb will let you know the air has gone out of the room better than any orchestra. And while moments of the film’s 140-minute runtime slog with character and subplot setup for the sequels, it’s worth it for a franchise that has the potential to elevate the status of young-adult fiction in ways only a certain boy wizard has. Throw my name in with those cautiously optimistic about the next serving." Rating: 6/10 John Gilpatrick writes: "While reading Suzanne Collins' novel, The Hunger Games, you're immediately struck by the story's cinematic potential. A dystopian future, an elaborate death match, and an angsty young-adult love triangle—what's not to like? But with the good, comes the potentially terrible—opulent cities with multi-colored buildings, the inevitable neutering down of the novel's bloodier moments, and ... an angsty young-adult love triangle. In the hands of a filmmaker with a ton of clout and experience, those worries should be easily quelled. Gary Ross, with all due respect, doesn't really have either of these things. Both Pleasantville and Seabiscuit are solid, but those are his only two directorial efforts, many years have passed since their respective releases, and neither is an action-packed mega-blockbuster like The Hunger Games. What's most surprising, then, about Ross' latest (among many pleasant surprises) is his deft hand at directing. The film is both exciting and emotionally satisfying. It's extremely well-adapted from the novels, and does a terrific job establishing the entire series and its characters. It also has a style that, while unexpected, serves the material quite well, and the lead performance (courtesy of Jennifer Lawrence) is the best, male or female, of this very young year." Rating: 9/10 Steven Chaitman writes: "The Hunger Games is without question a success, but a success can be measured in so many ways. An adaptation can be a success through faithfulness to the source material (aka not screwing anything up) and pleasing the core fans (that would be Twilight). It can be determined by box-office success (also Twilight) or by taking risks in order to create a unique film experience and widen its appeal. Gary Ross’ vision for The Hunger Games checks off all of the above, and the secret is the film’s total and undying devotion to its leading lady. In many ways, the role echoes Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone, and Ross’s camera treats her in ways similar to that drama. She’s fierce, independent yet a bit emotionally volatile, a survivalist as well as a nurturer. Ross recognizes the complexity Collins infused in her literary heroine and approaches the film as a character study. His choice to do handheld camerawork throughout the film, especially in the beginning, tries almost to document Lawrence’s performance in order to access Katniss’ emotions and the roller coaster they endure. From the Capitol to the arena, we see things how Katniss sees them, which stays true to the book's first-person perspective without the cheat of using voice-over narration. As my colleagues have several times iterated, the action is merely satisfactory and would have benefited from some more intensity. The potential for a horrific recognition of just how awful it is that a society would host such an event, as well as the emotional power of having Katniss truly stare death in the face, are not realized, and they weaken the film's climax. Supporting characters, as well-acted as they are, also lose out in terms of depth and motivation with Ross and the script's devotion to Katniss. Violence and supporting character development are the chief sacrifices, but they are not martyrs. They were decisions made knowing the result would bring one of the strongest young-adult heroines (and frankly, heroes) to grace the screen in some time. Even the romance is downplayed (for this movie) in order to set the stakes for the brewing sense of revolution that determines the trajectory of the rest of the series." Rating: 8.5/10


Meet the Author

Follow Us