Directed by Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Woody Harrelson
The Hunger Games has been one of the most anticipated films of 2012. The book series behind the film has sold millions of copies since the release of the first book in 2008. Now this popular series is being brought to the screen by director Gary Ross. He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards for his work on films like Seabiscuit, Dave, and Big. This time he’s working with a range of stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Wes Bentley.
Jennifer Lawrence found herself thrust into stardom with her powerful performance in Winter’s Bone which earned her an Oscar nomination. Josh Hutcherson has been in a variety of movies including The Bridge to Terabithia and The Kids Are All Right. Liam Hemsworth is one of the newer faces in the film with several upcoming projects. He did have a part in the film The Last Song.
Another recognized face in the film is Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci. He’s been in some great movies including The Devil Wears Prada and Captain America: The First Avenger. Also featured is Elizabeth Banks. She’s been in comedies like Our Idiot Brother, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Role Models. Another star in this movie is Wes Bentley. He’s had roles in some great movies like American Beauty and The Four Feathers. Woody Harrelson also took a role in this movie. His resume includes movies like Natural Born Killers, The Thin Red Line, and Rampart.
The twelve districts are asked to send tribute to the capital every year. This tribute comes in the form of two children who will fight to the death until only one of them remains. This time Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) has volunteered to keep her sister from having to compete. Along with Katniss is Peeta, a young man who was chosen from their district. Thrust into the spotlight, Katniss and Peeta (Hutcherson) have to learn how to make the right friends. They have help from Effie (Banks) and Haymitch (Harrelson) as they adjust to training and seeking sponsors to aid them. In the end they’ll be part of a television spectacle hosted by the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman (Tucci). The rules demand that only one can win, so Katniss will have to put all her skills to work if she wants to see her family again.
This movie was a pretty cool visual treat. The special effects, CGI, and camera work all came together nicely. The futuristic world created for the film also required some excellent costuming and make-up work. These visual aspects were a great part of why this movie works so well.
The acting in the movie is great. The people cast in the major roles all seem to fall right into character. Lawrence manages to do well with the emotional and physical requirements of the role. The same is true for Hutcherson who also pulls off his role quite well. All of the other cast members do wonderfully in their parts. In addition to the actors already named, the movie also featured Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland who both gave good performances.
The movie has an emotional side that seems unexpected in this science-fiction setting. I’m glad to see that the movie avoided focusing on the technology and stayed focused on the people and the events of the story.
The score for this movie also works wonderfully as it weaves in and out without being distracting.
If I had any criticism for this film, it comes from the story. The movie makes some assumptions early on about the knowledge viewers will have. The background is given, but the first half of the movie made me feel like I was a bit behind. This is one of the challenges of making a film from a popular book though. Despite this weakness I think this movie was successful overall.
I’m very careful to avoid comparisons between books and movies. This time I have the luxury of not having read the book behind this new film. Despite being part of a series, I was glad to see that this movie stands on its own. While a sequel would be great, this movie isn’t open-ended. I would recommend this movie for most audiences. Small children might not be ready for the short scenes of violence, but otherwise this is a good watch. I give this movie 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 142 minutes