THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

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Director: Gary Ross
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 142 min.

In a dystopian society, a wealthy Capitol City rules over twelve impoverished Districts, home to the laborers who keep the Capitol supplied with food, clothing, and other luxuries while their own families starve.  In punishment for a previous rebellion, each District is required to send two of their children–a boy and a girl–to the Capitol each year where they will be forced to engage in a televised fight to the death.  When her little sister’s name is selected as the female contestant from District Twelve, sixteen year old Katniss volunteers to go in her place.  She and the boy from her District, Peeta, travel to the Captiol and prepare themselves for the brutal fight for survival in the Hunger Games arena.  Katniss is determined both to survive and to retain her dignity, and the Capitol officials soon realize that they have a potential problem on their hands.

I was very impressed with the quality of this adaptation, particularly in terms of the screenwriting and acting.  The writers made few major changes to the story, and while some of the slight changes did have a noticeable effect (Katniss’ ambivalent feelings toward Peeta were somewhat Hollywood-ized), I felt that other changes were incredibly appropriate to facilitate the transition from novel to film.  The actors had clearly studied Suzanne Collins’ portrayal of their characters and were able to convey the rich complexities that could have been lost without Katniss’ narration.

The cinematography was less impressive.  While at times the shaky camera effect emphasized the chaos of the Games or Katniss’ anxiety and unfamiliarity with her surroundings, the technique would have been more effective if used more sparingly throughout the film.  In addition, some of the action sequences were fairly dark, and the images were nearly impossible to track; the audience was left watching a dark blur of motion, sometimes for thirty seconds or more.  Still, the overall artistic design and costuming created an appropriate atmosphere for the story and closely mimicked the descriptions in the novel.  The filmmakers’ imagining of Collins’ story was enjoyable and effective, both as an adaptation and a stand-alone film.  In this case, I do think the book was better, but I still highly recommend the film!

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