Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85% (Critics) / 88% (Audience)
Directed By: Gary Ross
Written By: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland
Synopsis: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match. (Source)
Full admission…I was not very enthused about the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. I had no issues with Lawrence’s abilities as an actress because I became an instant fan after watching her Oscar nominated breakout performance in WINTER’S BONE. Nope my issues were with the fact that Lawrence did not immediately scream Katniss to me. Well I am happy to admit that my initial reaction was very,very wrong. Lawrence was superb as Katniss. She brought a world weary maturity to the part that I don’t think many young actresses would have been able to while at the same time being totally convincing in the more physical aspects of the role.
As Katniss’ support team for the games Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Elizabeth Banks were all really good. Harrelson was successful in pulling of Haymitch’s rough exterior while still showing how he quickly grew to care about Katniss and Peeta. Kravitz was oozing effortless cool as Cinna, the designer of the wardrobes for the two Tributes. And Banks was a flighty delight as Effie Trinket.
Stanley Tucci needs to be given some props too for his turn as sleazy TV host Caesar Flickerman being almost unrecognizable with his Hulk Hogan spray tan, Seussian hair and obnoxiously white teeth.
The cinematography was notable too…one shot that really stood out for me was when Effie came to the Seam to select the Tributes for The Games. It was like a peacock had wondered out of the zoo and into a mining town. The brilliant colors of Effie’s entire personage contrasted with the bleak, muted colors of the location and its people was a stark bit of contrast.
There were times when the film felt like it was lagging and there was nothing of interest happening. Those periods were few and fleeting but they should be noted. I also was not all that impressed with the two leading men of the film. Lima Hemsworth as Gale was basically a cypher. Aside form his being Katniss’ best friend and carrying a torch for her there was really nothing to the character at all. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was just a total blunder in casting. While Lawrence had the charisma and skills to overcome the preconceived notions I had for the character she played, Hutcherson did nothing to make me ignore the fact that he was all wrong for the role. His height was not the main issue because, according to the book, Peeta is supposed to be a shorter fellow but Hutcherson was short and a bit sleight of build while playing a character that is supposed to be a powerhouse. He also had zero chemistry with Lawrence and seemed to not click at all with anyone in the film. There was a certain passivity to his performance that just turned me off. Neither of these two guys seem all that worthy of Katniss’ attention which pretty much dooms the potential love triangle that is at the heart of this story.
Poor Rue. I knew it was coming and I still almost cried like a baby.
Final Verdict: Admittedly not as engrossing as the book but the celluloid HUNGER GAMES is a worthy recreation of the Young Adult novel. A few miscasts and and superficial glossing over of character motivations/Panem culture and politics was annoying to me as a fan of the books but perfectly understandable against the need to trim things down to a manageable movie running time. Lawrence’s performance as well as the performances of key supporting players coupled with the intensity of the actual Hunger Games portion of the film served to make this a highly entertaining time at the movie theater. B+