Watched Mar 21, 2012
Geir Friestad’s review:
Essentially Battle Royale for the Twilight crowd, The Hunger Games makes the leap from the pages to the big screen with the majority of the details intact. Sticking so closely to the source material means that the movie also shares the novel's strengths and weaknesses.
First and foremost, Katniss remains an interesting, reluctant rebel character (Jennifer Lawrence, excellent), while the rest of the cast of characters veer more towards simple archetypes, sometimes wrapped in colorful costumes, sometimes not. The dystopic setting is familiar from everything from Brave New World and onwards. The story itself lurches forward with an uneven pace, much like it did in the book, but still manages to work up a bit of suspense (more so if you're unfamiliar with the book, obviously) and the necessary sense of outrage in the viewer. On the negative side, the book's tendency towards lazy solutions (the protagonists are never faced with the quandary of having to kill a friend, the deus ex machina parachutes, etc) are just as lazy here. The terrible beast that is Chaos Cinema also rears its head in the action sequences. Whether director Gary Ross opts for tight angles, rapid cutting and shakycam to artificially create a sense of action, or just to hide the gore from the film's younger target audience with camera blur remains unclear.
Its less fortunate elements aside, I enjoyed The Hunger Games. It's an engaging yarn, and Ms. Lawrence is just as much of an electrifying screen presence here as she was in Winter's Bone. For sheer visceral power, Battle Royale remains the undisputed champion in this tiny arena, though. But I bet you already knew that.
I highly recommend checking out Elvis Mitchell's interview with director Gary Ross on his show The Treatment on KCRW! Ross is eloquent and clearly has put a lot of thought into his adaption. Beware of spoilers, though!