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Gavin Grades The Movies



The Hunger Games

Well, the day is upon us!  The Reaping is here!  We get to finally see one of the most anticipated movies of the last 5 years. I first heard about this book about a year ago.  My wife and I were flying to Italy and she randomly picked up a copy in the airport.  I made fun of her for reading ANOTHER teen fiction book and then made fun of her again when she read the whole thing on the flight over and couldn't wait to get back so she could buy the next book in English (they were all in Italian over there).  It wasn't until I buckled under peer pressure and read it for myself that I became obsessed and longed for the day the movie came out.  Needless to say, the wait was worth it.

For anyone who doesn't know The Hunger Games, it's a story about a bleak future where America is gone and in its place is a new land that is ruled by the evil Capital that forces children to fight to the death for televised entertainment.  (Yes, I'm totally aware that this is a blatant ripoff of the 2000 Japanese horror film, Battle Royale.  Argument for another time.)  To compare this book series to Twilight is a massive insult to The Hunger Games.  Author Suzanne Collins goes much deeper and layers a story that makes the "love triangle" a very minor part.  This is more of a statement about government oppression, class warfare, loss of liberty, the dangers of reality TV, the death of innocence, slave labor; I'm not sure if Collins had a political agenda when she wrote it, but it certainly seems like she did.

The film however takes all that into consideration and strains out all the fat from the story and what we're left with is a 142-minute-long version.  Every movie that is adapted from a book goes through this process and for fans of the written word, it can be painful.  There is only one film that I saw that was based on a book that I thought completely captured the tone and left every detail in and that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Usually though, you walk away from the film with a vaguely satisfied feeling because the book was so much better.  The Hunger Games is no exception, but it is one of the better ones I've seen.

Jennifer Lawerence (Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class) is proof that the Academy was right for seeing such talent in her a few years ago.  She plays Katniss with the control of a seasoned actress.  Her fear, her pain, her frustration, her anger...it all looks genuine.  She is the star that a film series of this magnitude needs and she pulls it off perfectly.  The supporting cast is great as well and makes you sad they weren't utlized more.  Woody Harrelson is awesomely cool as always, playing her surly trainer, Haymitch.  They decided to make him less of a drunken fool in the film, which makes me wonder if they will expand his role in the later films to be bigger than the books do.  Lenny Kravitz (Precious) and Elizabeth Banks (40-Year-Old Virgin, W.) are also fun to watch as the Capital lackies that gain a streak of conscienceness.

The casting of Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are Alright, Journey 2) and Liam Hemsworth (Knowing, The Last Song) is still up in the air for me.  Neither of them showed me any signs that they should be memorable and they easily fade into the background among the other heavy-hitting talent, which is a problem when you consider how important both their characters are for the series.  It's not that they're bad actors, but they're not good or memorable as of now.

I think the real star of The Hunger Games though is director Gary Ross.  The studio took a huge gamble on him since his previous films are good but nothing like this.  He's directed Big, Seabiscuit and Pleasantville.  They're all sweet, fun movies but everyone was nervous about whether or not he could take on the vast and morally void world of The Hunger Games.  An even bigger hurdle for him was that he had to make this brutally violent story PG-13.  Not only does he accomplish all of it, but he knocks it out of the park.  His approach to this film is one of patience and calculation.  Some are arguing that his choice of using handheld camera work makes the film too jumpy and causes motion sickness.  That's true but it's that brilliant technique that allows him to not skimp on the violence and still secure his family-friendly rating.  It is however totally unneccesarry at times, such as The Reaping and others, where it's wobbily filmmaking for the sake of wobbily filmmaking.

This is just the beginning.  Same would say this is the best installment in the series, but I would disagree.  The stories yet to come are more dangerous, more complex and a lot more fun.  After seeing the cast and crew assembled to make The Hunger Games, it makes me very happy to think that it's in great hands and they'll fix the minor problems later.
The Hunger Games  (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-



Listen to Gavin's interview with Wes Bentley, who plays Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games.



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03/23/2012 6:32AM
Wes Bentley Interview
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03/26/2012 9:33PM
Good movie
this was a real good movie, and done very well but it was a dark movie very interesting though
03/28/2012 9:13PM
The book was SO much better but...
The book was better but the movie was not bad. If u hadnt read the book u wouldn't have understood it though.
03/29/2012 8:00PM
Love the book
I like the book better!!
04/08/2012 10:37AM
Movie was amazing!
I thought the movie was amazing I liked the books better but I still loved the movie its my favorite Series and movie!
04/20/2012 9:06PM
The best movie I've ever seen
I love it soooooooooo much I'm obbseesed over it I love it
04/22/2012 10:49AM
Hunger games!
Best movie ever! I am in love with the stars an the book!! Cant wait til the next movie!!!
05/06/2012 10:07AM
Loved it!!
I finally got to see the movie and I'm glad I did! It's got enough action to please any guy, and enough comlexity to make you wonder what will happen next, that is if you haven't read the books. I haven't read the books so for me,everything about it was genius. Some may disagree, but it just might not be their type of movie. I could watch this movie over and over and still want to watch it again. Overall, I thought it was a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone.
05/20/2012 7:58PM
Stuff
Hunger games isnt a ripoff of battle royale
05/29/2012 3:51PM
AMAZING
I loved the book and the movie I gotta say thats my favorite book and movie
06/10/2012 8:35PM
Hunger Games Are Awesome
You know I act the books out in our front yard even though we haven't seen the movie.... I loved the books though :)
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