The Hunger Games ★★★

About a third of the way into The Hunger Games I was thinking "man, this is way better than I thought it would be." The acting was better than I had expected, and the overall look of the movie was more 'mature' than I had thought it would be: less shiny glamour, and more handheld realistic handheld camera-work.

Hunger Games, centered around a futuristic tournament-to-the-death for 24 youths, isn't quite as kiddie as I thought it would be, and yet it didn't deliver as a mature standalone thriller or action movie either. The acting was quite good, both from Jennifer Lawerence and the gigantic supporting cast: everyone from Woody Harrelson to Lenny Kravitz put in a decent performance. The problem lies mainly in the story, the thrills, and the action. There's not a lot. Once the "Games" actually start, the plot throws little in the way of curveballs, tension is minimum, and creative action scenes are lacking. Director Gary Ross delivers decent performances but with a filmography that consists entirely of Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, I suppose it isn't surprising that the suspense and action fall flat.

Plot-wise there's also some weird godlike-abilities of the producers of the "Games" to control what goes on in the arena; I assume this is made clearer in the book but it left me a little confused. The ending did set up nicely for the sequel and I'm actually interested enough to check it out, as it doesn't look like it will be a rehash of the original.

Overall though, if this were retooled to be a straight-up indie drama, I might not have bothered watching it to be honest, but it would have been more 'true' to the genre of film it was set in. The Hunger Games, however, is marketed and billed as an action movie first. And if you're an action movie, rule #1 is to deliver something interesting or worthwhile with the action, and here the Hunger Games left me.... hungry.