The Hunger Games is dark and dreary and kinda’ awesome

Up until I’d heard about the film, I was completely unfamiliar with The Hunger Games series of books. Of course, like many adults, I dismissed them off as Twilight-ish, not really even knowing what they were about. Yes, Twilight has killed YA fiction. But that is another post entirely. I went into The Hunger Games movie with just a very basic knowledge of what it was about, based solely on the trailers.

Fortunately, I liked what I ended up seeing. Instead of a horribly written grammatically-poor joke of a story (hint – that’s another Twilight reference), here is a complex science fiction tale about the disparity between the rich and the poor in a world called Panem. It is brutal and dark and has a depth I had not really expected.

The Hunger Games is, in fact, the very opposite of Twilight. It features a strong young woman who does not need some otherwordly guy in order to feel empowered or validated. In the end, the girl is not only intelligent, but also can kick some serious butt when she needs to.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, The Hunger Games occurs in a future post-apocalyptic world. At one point, the poor rose up against the rich and lost and because of that, every year, two children (one male and one female) are chosen from each of 12 districts to fight in a tournament to the death. The main character, Katniss, actually volunteers for the games when her sister’s name is called.

The games themselves are like an extreme version of Survivor where the people in charge have their way with the contestants, manipulating them throughout the tournament like they were the Sims.

Yes, it’s not a lovey-dovey romance novel like Twilight. Thank goodness. It’s a brutal tale about survival and one girl’s fight to not lose herself, literally and figuratively, in the games. And obviously, I liked it.

The first thing that struck me about the film was its star, Jennifer Lawrence. She is perfection as Katniss. I actually found it hard to take my eyes off of her for any length of time. She really carries the weight of the film on her shoulder.

The movie was shot with an intensity that created some pretty breathtaking scenes. In particular,the scene were Katniss’ sister is called upon and when Katniss offers herself instead is jarring and emotional. I found myself seated on the edge of my chair when watching it.

I also loved the stark contrast between the monotone colors of the poor world and the rich and vibrant colors of the world of the rich at the Capitol. Some of the crazy costumes worn by the wealthy should have been ridiculous but instead they served to remind us of the gap between these two groups of people.

My only real complaint about the movie was  the relationship between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). I’m not sure why and if it’s part of the story, but the chemistry those two were supposed to have as the star-crossed lovers from District 12 just didn’t work for me. I’m wondering if it’s because their characters were just both playing a part to win the games. That whole relationship seemed very unlikely to me.  I was much more convinced when Lawrence was acting opposite Liam Hemsworth, who portrayed Gale, the boy she left back at home.

The supporting cast were fantastic, including Lenny Kravitz’ turn as one of Katniss and Peeta’s trainers. And I was delighted to see Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane, the man who was in charge of directing and producing the tournament.

I was surprised by the amount of violence in the film. I was personally disturbed by seeing kids on the screen that could not have been over the age of 12 fighting it out to the death. The director pulled no punches and shows us nearly every kill – and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. The very first scene featuring the arena shows a run for supplies that turns into a blood bath.

I’m sure a lot of detail was left out from the books, but having not read them, I did not notice this. I would definitely recommend this to fans of the books, as well as those who may not be familiar with the series. It’s a delightful survival thriller, even though the outcome is pretty much given to you early on in the film. But the voyage to the ending is the exciting part.

Pay attention, Hollywood: The Hunger Games proves that a film does NOT HAVE TO BE MADE IN 3D to get audiences to see it. Cheap tricks does not make a good movie. A good movie makes a good movie.

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