“The Hunger Games” is a dystopian story about a girl who… actually, I’m not going to spell out the plot of one of the most popular books ever. And seeing how the movie earned $155 million its opening weekend, I’m guessing you’ve heard about this blockbuster franchise by now. I’ve read all the books in the Hunger Games trilogy, and I caught the film on opening night.
The movie is two and a half hours long, but it doesn’t feel anywhere close to that length. In fact, the first 20 minutes feel a bit rushed. Those who’ve read the book (see: everyone) might feel a slight twinge of disappointment as, inevitably, the film omits quite a few lesser details you’ll find in the novel. Back stories seem to take a back seat, unfortunately. There’s a moment while on the train to the Capitol that Effie Trinket (played by the scene-stealing Elizabeth Banks) says, “Two hundred miles an hour, and you don’t feel a thing!” I found that statement ironic, because initially those were my thoughts exactly.
Once arriving at the Capitol and then the arena, the pacing slows to a proper speed, but the action and emotion ramp up. I understand the urgency to get right into the meat and potatoes, but this reduces the roles of some of the wonderful, lesser characters. They come off as afterthoughts in scenes clearly meant to focus on “The Girl on Fire.” The movie is clearly a vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, but rest easy—she does not steer us astray. With what little screen time they receive, however, the characters of Cinna, Haymitch and Rule leave a memorable impression, thanks to the acting performances of, respectively, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Amandla Stenberg.
While I didn’t love the pacing of the movie in the beginning, I can’t stop gushing about the way the film was shot. By using a documentary, handheld style, director Gary Ross puts the viewer in the center of the action, giving the film a gritty, emotional feel. More adept reviewers might even use the word “visceral” somewhere in their musings. This unique camera perspective provides some incredible moments. You’ll feel as if you’re actually a part of the reaping, and I’ll openly admit to getting chills when Katniss volunteers to replace her sister—as well as every time she salutes the districts, not to mention her relationship with Rue. It’s moving, inspiring. And I heard more than a few sniffles in the theatre.
The action is coarse and intense. Each time a character dies, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching an actor playing a role; it feels like you’ve witnessed a brutal reality and there’s no time to reflect. In the file, the tributes can’t afford feelings or compassion; but as a viewer, it’s impossible not to feel the emotions of the film. By the end of the Games, you truly feel as if you belong to the Districts; ready to explode in anger about what the Capitol is forcing these children to go through.
Adam Sockel is a Marketing & Outreach Specialist for OverDrive.
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