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MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games
This film had SPOT.ph movie critic Paul Daza on the edge of his seat in excitement.
By: Paul Daza  |   Published on: Mar 24, 2012 - 11:35am
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Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss.

 

(SPOT.ph) Not having had the pleasure of reading the phenomenal bestseller on which it’s based, I went into a screening of the highly-hyped The Hunger Games armed only with what the trailer revealed, and the knowledge that it was the most anticipated movie of the year. (Not even The Avengers was causing as many ripples of excitement.) After sitting through its 142 minutes, I’m glad and relieved to report that The Hunger Games is riveting from start to finish, an odyssey of survival that plays like a teen-aged, nightmarish mish-mash of The Truman Show and Gladiator. Powerfully acted, economically directed, and uniquely exciting, The Hunger Games is big-screen entertainment at its crowd-pleasing, voyeuristic best. Whether or not you’ve read the books, it’s safe to say that you’ll come out of the movie feeling that your P170 was well spent.

 

 

Watch the trailer here.

 

Set in a futuristic, dystopian North America, The Hunger Games is about a televised reality show where 12 male-female pairs from 12 districts are forced by the oppressive government (the Capitol) to kill one another for the honor of being the last one standing. The story’s heroine is the steely Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers to be the female representative of the impoverished District 12 when her unlucky younger sister’s name is drawn. As Katniss (cool name!) tries to stay alive despite the alliances and literal backstabbing that’s part and parcel of the gruesome Games, she’s drawn to the charismatic Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a boy from her district who has admitted to having a crush on her. But as their relationship deepens, there’s no ignoring one of the contest’s rules: only one can survive the Games.

 

As Katniss and Peeta, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are superb, their attractive faces always readable but never fully transparent, so much so that we’re never sure if they’re as sincere as we want them to be. I thought it was marvelous that in two of the film’s most romantic sequences, the viewer isn’t quite sure if what Katniss and Peeta are conveying to one another is what they’re truly feeling, or if they’re just doing it for the TV cameras. More than any other element of the film, it’s how Lawrence and Hutcherson portrayed their characters that has made me want to read the books, to read how the author describes them on the page.

 


She volunteers for the Games to save her sister.

 

As for the other characters, they do manage to make an impression despite having far less screen time than the two leads. As the guy who makes the Katniss-Peeta coupling a love triangle, hunky Gale (Liam Hemsworth) totally has the audience’s sympathy in the shots where he turns his eyes away from the cruel, larger-than-life video monitors that show Katniss and Peeta’s growing affection for one another. Also praiseworthy is Amandla Sternberg as Rue, the 12-year-old who bonds with Katniss in one of the film’s best sequences.

 

That the film’s predominantly young cast emotes so splendidly is in no small part due to the unadorned efficiency of Gary Ross’ direction, whose work on films like Pleasantville and Seabiscuit marked him as a filmmaker who is as good at telling emotional stories as he is at directing actors. In The Hunger Games, I liked how his jittery, NYPD Blue-inspired camera moves conveyed the sense that a “Big Brother” was always watching the characters as they went about their daily routine, whether or not they were on TV. However, it’s when the youthful players (“tributes”) are trying to outwit, outlast, and outlive one another during the Games that the film reveals its feverishly imaginative but twisted soul. The nasty “tracker jackers” sequence, the man-made forest fire, the shocking murders of young tributes at the hands of older contestants- these are scenes you won’t easily forget.

 

The Hunger Games was directed by Gary Ross.

 

My only quibble? There’s a shot during the Games telecast that’s obviously the work of a cameraman running behind Katniss, even though she’s clearly supposed to be alone in the scene. But hey, what’s one shot among the thousands that make this the best movie launch of a book series since Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone?

 

Rating: 4.5 Spots out of  5 ••••.

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16 Comments
  • Effie Trinket
    THAT IS MAHOGANY!
    May 10 2012 @ 12:00pm     Reply  
  • Loves the Boy with the Bread
    @kankunis -- LOL! yeah, i saw that movie, too.

    the books are the best! and it is undeniable that the casting has done an excellent job starring Liam, Josh, and Jen for the movie, as well as Kravitz, Banks, and Woody. AND I CANNOT BELIEVE Josh Hutcherson can pull off the Peeta character. I am just so used to seeing him in kiddie movies (LOL).

    the movie was on a tight budget so they must have had a tough time including which part of the book goes on the big screen.

    the mockingjay pin should have been given by "Madge" not acquired from the Hob. it's a critical scene.
    May 10 2012 @ 11:56am     Reply  
  • Lisaaa
    For you to really love the movie, I suggest reading the book first. Obviously, they took out a lot of scenes from the book but nonetheless I thought the movie is one of those that were true to the book. Thumbs up!
    Apr 02 2012 @ 03:24pm     Reply  
  • Trish
    @joyah thanks for that interesting explanation about Glimmer. You could be right. It's just that for me, since they cut out a lot of substories in the book to shorten the length of the movie, that move to add a flirty substory for Glimmer seems unnecessary. It confuses more than it help move the story. Anyway, those are minor issues. I agree with Seneca death, its clever. Your point on the pin is true as well. For something that is very significant specially in book 2 and 3 when it symbolizes much more than a lucky charm, they should've given the pin a better introduction. About the very migraine-inducing camera tricks, I think it's employed in order to hide the gore created by the teens killing each other. Effective in a way because despite the darkness of the storyline (fight-to-death of teens), they were not given an R-rating which is important to be this big. But yes, it really gives headache.
    Mar 27 2012 @ 03:03pm     Reply  
  • bojikboy
    thumbs up!!
    Mar 27 2012 @ 12:45pm     Reply  
  • joyah
    The fighting scenes give me headache and I can't barely see who punches/hits who. The acquiring of pin is important so why do they make it like Katniss just bought it (or given), its just a minute of scene so why do they change it. @Trisha, about Glimmer issue, Glimmer is clearly District #1, Chloe and Cato were District 2. It was described that Glimmer is beautiful and flirty, so I assume that she get close with Cato for protection and Cato liking it back since Glimmer was indeed beautiful. I like how creative the punishment for Seneca Crane, it much more creative than the book. And they also add how Haymitch persuade Seneca to change the rules that it had to be a pair winner.

    I think the movie was brilliant and still sticks to its story as a whole. I just learned not to compare movie adaptation with the book since the movie was a compressed version (I think they really took a hard time compressing the movie).

    Now my major issue is, why can't I find a hard bound Hunger Games books on the bookstore? It worth a collection.
    Mar 26 2012 @ 04:01pm     Reply   Hide replies
    • nausea
      you are right!!! the fighting scenes (and many more) gave headache, nausea and vomiting to many viewers. probably in the name of cost-savings and to hide the inability of the actos and actresses to perform difficult stunts, the director decided to use the following techniques:

      1. use of cheap handheld camera. (by far cheaper than the traditional movie camera)
      2. close-up shots. (no expensive background needed)
      3. shaky camera. (no expensive background needed because the viewers will not be able to follow)
      Feb 19 2013 @ 07:22am     Reply  
  • Trisha
    I've seen it three times (2x on Thursday opening night and one last Saturday...yeah that's how much I loved the book and the movie) and no canon sound for the deaths of District 1 boy and even Rue. One thing that bugged me is the way they cut/edit some scenes where a character asks a question and it was never answered but the answer could've have been useful for the movie to move forward and have better impact. Two scenes that I remembered was when Caesar host asked Seneca gamemaker what's his signature on the 3(?) years of handling the Hunger Games, and also the scene on the river side when Peeta asked Katniss why can't she just leave him behind. They just cut the scene after the question. The later scene could've established how Katniss is really falling for Peeta but is confused and all. Also, no dry lips for Katniss during her 2days coma from tracker jacker bite. I mean come on..2 days no food and water... Dehydration was a big issue in the book. Just nitpicking though, still love the movie! Might watch it the 4th time.
    Mar 26 2012 @ 11:24am     Reply  
  • Pretty good
    Add to that, the actors were also good! I loved Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, the Rue actress, and the Haymitch actor.
    Mar 26 2012 @ 11:18am     Reply  
  • Pretty good
    It was a good adaptation. I only felt disappointed when Katniss didn't finished her song to the dying Rue. Jennifer Lawrence has a lovely singing voice, and I hope they have the full song in the OST.

    Other than that, I liked the movie. Katniss is so human and alive onscreen, and you can feel her pain, her love for Prim, her sister, and her toughness and abilities. I loved the background music in some scenes, especially the song when the movie ended. It helps if you've read the book. My P180 didn't go to nothing. Applause.
    Mar 26 2012 @ 11:16am     Reply  
  • just saying
    The movie stayed loyal to the book. Personally, I didn't mind if they cut out some trifle details and in my opinion, it's the best film adaptation next to Love in the Time of Cholera. I'm looking forward to Catching Fire! :)
    Mar 26 2012 @ 08:04am     Reply  
  • kankunis
    and i thought district 9 will be represented by aliens...
    Mar 26 2012 @ 07:59am     Reply  
  • parkright
    Katniss and Petta should have torrid kiss before they eat the poison berry lol!
    In the book they put the berry in their mouth before the announcement that they won.
    Idont like the character develpment of rue she die quick.
    Mar 25 2012 @ 09:01am     Reply  
  • J.Espi
    I understand that the movie had to be condensed to fit in a 2:20 timeframe. However, I think there were more scenes left on the cutting room floor than in the movie itself. I knew about the deletion of Madge, the deleted Avox backstory, and the condensation of the Career pack, but the feast on the parachute was cut out, the sleep syrup was cut out, the wound medicine was easily confused with the burn medicine (I wouldn't be suprised it was the same thing), Katniss's ear wasn't harmed at all, Katniss came before Peeta in the Private Sessions (that's going to scar Catching Fire), Haymich's "stay alive" phrase was used few and far between, Katniss's father's death was greatly exaggerated, the hybrid wolf-mutts were excluded, the "star-crossed lovers"
    However, the movie still had its good points, especially if you didn't read the book at all. Though the Cornucopia Feast scene wasn't "true to the book", it provided the same level of tension. The effect of Rue's death glided over the stage as if it actually happened in real life. The Reaping was especially intensifying. There was also the part where the Games were about to end with Cato's death, and then after the announcement... I could describe more, but I've overstayed my welcome. Rating overall from the movie (if the book was ignored), I would give this a 4.5/5
    Mar 25 2012 @ 12:34am     Reply   Hide replies
    • Jesuswasablackman
      The wolf-mutts turned up in the finale as Katniss & Peeta managed to make it to the Cornucopia.
      Mar 25 2012 @ 12:25pm     Reply  
  • thea
    * confusion with the tributes
    * he SENT
    Mar 24 2012 @ 11:23pm     Reply  
  • thea
    1. I agree with the camera tricks andconfusion on the tributes. (saw the film 2 nights in a row)
    2. The mockingjay pin. They should have atleast stick to its real origin. Not from the old merchant lady
    3. How Seneca Crane died

    Though it was really clear in the film that Cato and Clove(knife girl) are one of the last couple when the 1 victor policy was revoked. I disagree about the canon sounds. If I am not mistaken,all the tributes who died has their own canon sounds and their pictures were shown (except for the 2 tributes who died while Katniss was in coma ;)) Haymitch has a lot of funny moments too. When he was introduced,breakfast,dinner w/ cinna,effie etc,after katniss's private session w/ the gamemakers,before Cornucopia,those note he sents to katniss.
    I think Lionsgate did a great job and i would also recommend the film to everyone
    Mar 24 2012 @ 10:43pm     Reply  
  • Trisha
    Loved the book. Loved the movie. Minor issues for me with adaptation to the big screen.
    1. The camera tricks used by the director gave me headache. It's so erratic for my taste.
    2. Some loopholes too. No canon sounds on most of the tributes' deaths. It was a highlight during the berries scene. They should've been more consistent.
    3. They confuse me with the girls from District 1 and 2. During the presentation, Glimmer was called on the stage 1st. It was shown backstage that District 1 boy, then the knife girl then Cato on the line waiting for their turns. That means Glimmer was the District 1 girl. But during the tracker jacker scene, Glimmer was sleeping leaning on Cato's body so it seemed like Glimmer was District 2 girl since Cato is District 2 boy. In the book, knife girl and Cato are from District 2 that's why they, together with District 12 are the last 2 partners in the end fighting to win when the rule of only 1 winner was suspended.
    3. Was kind of waiting for funny moments with Haymich (forgot the spelling). Also the mutant dogs. I was anticipating how they would translate it to the big screen.
    4. They should've put more over-the-top make up on President Snow since he's leading the Capitol for years.
    5. Too tamed, the killing. But I'm ok with it actually.
    Anyways, those are minor probs. Still love the movie and would recommend it to everyone.
    Mar 24 2012 @ 04:50pm     Reply  
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