“The Hunger Games” – Review by Erik Bajzert

This film has been out two days, and already it’s made enough money to be worth more than my future. And how could it not? The Hunger Games novel by Suzanne Collins has garnered a massive fan base with men and women both young and old flocking towards it. I can safely tell you that I have been a proud part of that fan base since 2008, when I first started reading the awe inspiring adventures of Katniss Everdeen and company. So naturally, I was very excited for this film to finally hit the big screen. After hearing very mixed reactions from the midnight premier I, along with countless other fans, lined up Friday evening to get a glimpse of our cherished novel in living color and shaking picture. So after seeing the film and letting it linger for a couple of days, the question still stands. How was the film adaptation of The Hunger Games? The answer my dear reader…It’s almost great.

The film managed to capture the look and feel of the book effortlessly.  It was faithful to the source material and almost every bit as intriguing as when I first read the book. As a stand-alone movie on the other hand, it was merely a good film, with glimpses of greatness caught within. Was it entertaining? Yes. Could have it been better? Absolutely! Could have it been worse? You betcha!

Performance wise, this film is a masterpiece. The supporting cast is strong, with surprises from Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz galore. I was stunned over how good these two were in roles that we wouldn’t normally see them in. There’s no need to mention Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Stanley Tucci here, especially considering that their work as of late has been uniformly strong. No, what we really need to talk about is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Oh Lord was she ever good in this! She delivered a performance so good, it actually restored my faith in humanity…Okay maybe not, but you get my point.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is the cinematography. Normally I can’t stand shaky-cam. It’s the equivalent of DoInG tHiS iN A pIeCe oF wRiTiNg. It’s distracting, hard to understand and gives me a bloody headache. This film uses shaky-cam…rather generously. There are scenes that feel completely obnoxious in the sense that while we are trying to follow a scene, the camera is shaking around like a kid on a jumping bouncy castle during a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. However, there are scenes that actually (dare I say it) use shaky-cam to its advantage. The brutality just feels more brutal with it, and is something of a mixed blessing in the film. For every time the camera seems to be in a blender, there is also a time where the camera work feels masterful.

The look of this film is beautiful. The bright colors of the capital, contrasted with the grimness of District 12 and The Arena is well realized and awe-inspiring. Gary Ross clearly put a lot of time into this and by golly does it ever show.

However, the best and the worst thing about the film is the amount of story in it. Fans of the book will no doubt be impressed with the constantly moving story and the attention to detail that the film possesses. However, fans of the book and movie will feel a HUGE disconnect to the characters, specifically Rue, because of this. Things are glossed over constantly, with scenes that should hold emotional weight coming off as forced and confusing to those who have not read the books. This is the films biggest issue. You have to try really hard to make us barely care about the deaths of little children, and this film managed to do that to a certain extent.

Other than that, the film is solid. Not perfect. Not masterful. But solid. I find it very difficult to imagine a more faithful adaptation to please Collins’ legion of fans. And as a proud member of that legion, I can safely say that this version will not only suffice but actually makes me excited for the next film… but not for Mockingjay, considering that book was kind of terrible.

 

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