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The Hunger Games - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Hunger Games
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B-
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B

I'm going to state right off the bat that not only did I not read the Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games before seeing this movie, but until the hype around this movie began, I didn't even know the trilogy of novels existed. I was only capable of judging the film -- which, based on the subject matter, seems unlikely ever to have been made without a source material that had already become a runaway success -- entirely in its own context.

Surely I was not alone, and I would expect any other Hunger Games virgins to agree: films should never rely on shorthand only decipherable by viewers who have read the books they are based on. To a degree, The Hunger Games feels like it does exactly that. For example, the history behind the country of Panem: a somewhat broader overview than a brief government-propaganda video would have been helpful.

Is there any historical basis for the otherwise completely implausible fact of a populace completely indifferent to the barbarism of selecting 24 teenagers -- ages 12 to 18 -- from the country's 12 Districts to fight each other to the death? Sure, the kids who are themselves chosen become understandably emotion, as do their family members. But everyone else? Why do all these people walk into "The Reaping" -- where the names are drawn from a fish bowl -- like expressionless automatons? For all the talk of "fear" and "hope," no one but the actual Tributes (the chosen teens) seem to have either of those feelings. It makes no sense.

But, I quibble. It's what I do. I enjoyed The Hunger Games so much, objectively flawed as it was, that I already eagerly look forward to its sequel. My greatest hope is that the next movies fill in the blanks left unexplained in this movie, in which almost no one actually discusses the moral implications of this reality TV show, or how it affects the masses. I have a feeling that, to a large degree, they will. It's a promising sign that Collins herself shares screenwriting credit.

Nevertheless, one more definitive complaint: the cinematography. Why all the shaky, hand-held camera work? It's overdone and it's distacting. I would have liked to have seen more of the action as seen from the stationery hidden cameras placed all over "The Arena," where the kids are thrown in to fight (mostly woods, with at least one stream and at least one meadow). It would have given a far greater sense of how people watching at home experienced the show.

To be fair, this is Katniss's story. And I don't know who decided to cast Jennifer Lawrence in this role and dye her blonde hair brunette, but it was an inspired choice. She's almost a revelation in this role, even though she has already been nominated for an Oscar for her work in Winter's Bone. She's a kick-ass heroine who comes across as someone fresh and different.

Admittedly, that's the fundamental appeal for me: I love girls who kick ass. But Lawrence sells the role effortlessly. The same could not quite be said of Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right -- in this case the brown hair is bleached blonde) as Peeta, the boy from Katniss's district who learns early on how to sell his likability. Through no real fault of Hutcherson's, Peeta just comes across as fairly bland. The same goes for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss's maybe-romantic interest back home in the far-reaches of poverty-stricken District 12. Both of these boys serve as distractions for Katniss for different reasons, but for us, neither character proves half as compelling as Katniss.

But compelling she certainly is -- and, by extension, so is The Hunger Games. There's something rather uncomfortable about being entertained by the spectacle of teenagers killing each other, even if they are fictional (and this also would have greatly benefited further exploration in the film), but in spite of that, this movie is specactularly entertaining. It's only after it's over that you have time to consider the implications of how and why that might be, which means that, by default, the movie stays with you.

Jennifer Lawrence aims to impress in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Overall: B+
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