Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci

I read the first three chapters of the novel, THE HUNGER GAMES, before putting it aside. Frankly, it seemed too YA for me at the time. But my interest in it didn’t completely fade, and I looked at it longingly every so often. When something becomes a cultural phenomenon one does take notice—even if it is YA.

Movies are much easier to justify spending time with than novels for me. I went with so-so expectations. The movie delivered at a higher rate than I anticipated.

PLOT: THE HUNGER GAMES is a ritual that 12 districts in a future world participate in yearly. The winning player gets glory, but also gains more respect and food for their district. The other 23 players die. The games are televised and viewed much as the gladiator matches were in ancient Rome. Twenty-four children between ages 12-18, two from each district, are chosen by lot. When Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) younger sister is drawn, she takes her place. Their village is a poor one and has only won the games once. (Harrelson) is the fellow who survived and he becomes Lawrence’s tutor on strategy. Her fellow district participant (Hutcherson), the baker’s son, has a crush on her and their joint appearance on a TV show elicits audience interest in the couple.

I could go on and on here. The plot is a good one and you probably know it as well as me. The movie does a good job on most fronts. It holds down the level of violence—because truly who wants to watch children get slaughtered. Jennifer Lawrence is able to seize your sympathy immediately and is believable as a girl who could win this without resorting to sadism. I can’t imagine another actress being so convincing in this part.

The Hunger Games manages to be both exciting and complex enough to hold our interest. It’s critique of society is slight but salient, never going over the line either into didactism or sentimentality

On the negative side, the adults were far too campy, draining the drama out of the games whenever they came on the scene. Hard to take the games seriously when it’s run by people wigged and costumed like characters from Alice in Wonderland.

The other contestants were not developed well enough to distinguish more than a few of them. We should have dreaded the kids from the richer districts, who trained year-round for this event, more than we did. Only a few of them stood out.

The deadliness of the games was not emphasized enough at the initial drawing. Catniss’ sacrifice was not clear until later.

Most of these problems were unavoidable in a two-plus hour movie however.

I recommend this highly if you are a fan of the novels, of science fiction movies, of YA stories, of seeing a girl triumph. Who does not fall into one of these categories?

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