The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I always enjoyed the first one the most and don't know why it's always viewed as the weakest one.

Jennifer's performance is more palpable here than the sequels, where she comes across as going through the motions over time. The games aren't as up-scaled special effects wise, but they feel more tangible. I remember seeing this in theaters and thinking simultaneously that it had enough violence for PG-13 but also could've used an R rating. One of the things a lot of people seem to dislike the most is the cinematography and editing cutting between the game, the makers adding obstacles in Katniss's path, and and Toby/Stanley's commentary. But for me it's not only a decent build-up as to why Katniss tries to win with Peeta, but it's also more cutthroat and cruel to see how much the Capitol sees the tournament as a sport (I just noticed that the game-makers add in the tracker jacker nest above Katniss while she sleeps, so she has no choice but to cut it down and kill the competitors waiting for her to fall from her perch). When Rue dies, it's arguably more effective than even some of Harry Potter's on-screen deaths - without her, there is no spark that lets the districts see Katniss beyond the fairytale romance the Capitol pedals as her volunteering for her sister would probably wind down over time. She'd be a legend, but there'd be little reason for a revolution. Outside of Jennifer, Elizabeth, Josh, Wes, and Lenny are good here, but Woody Harrelson is terribly miscast and Stanley Tucci is one LSD trip away from laughing maniacally for no reason like he does in the sequels.

Since Peeta tries to be just as important as Katniss, the film lacks by cornering Katniss into a love triangle and not building up Peeta - he's sensitive and artistic but also insecure and jealous, and the film never quite figures out how to balance his betrayal of aligning with the wealthy jerks to warranting him to win alongside her. He has just as many traits as her to get lost in the viciousness of the games, but the film has too much of a grey area about why they team up together that lingers into Catching Fire.

Otherwise, I don't know - I like it...Mostly it makes me feel nostalgic when I was in college and had fandoms to distract myself from school work and had something to look forward to every semester.

3 1/2 to 4 stars

Next Up Is Catching Fire