The Hunger Games [2012]

 Careful, tastefully violent adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s überfamous novel of the same name. The Hunger Games is a riveting action drama but, even though Collins participated in adapting her own book for the big screen, the transfer is not without its flaws. Key characters, such as President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) have bigger roles in the movie (that’s good) while stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) has a smaller one (that’s bad). The film takes its time establishing its characters, explaining their motives and patiently situating them in a new environment.

The titular games do not start until about halfway in, although when they do, the pacing is way off, deliberately rushing some events (like the death of an important character, which was significantly more affecting in the source material) and taking too long with others. Other scenes, like the one with “the Reaping”, that dreadful event where those who will fight to the death are chosen, are harrowing showcases of the evil machinations of a cruel government we can just hope never rules over us.

The shaky-cam style of shooting can be very uncomfortable for people with weak stomachs (like me) but it’s justified here; it’s the main reason they could show violence without being too graphic. Many people initially dismissed THG as another Twilight. Anyone with the tiniest bit of knowledge of the book or film will be able to refute that claim. One of the very few things they have in common, though, is an insufferable love triangle. The movie somehow omitted Katniss’s (Jennifer Lawrence) reasons for staging a relationship with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), as well as their doubts, something clearly designed to appeal to teenage girls smitten by Hutcherson or Liam Hemsworth (Katniss’s best friend and hunting partner Gale).

 The best thing about this very well-received blockbuster is the casting. True Grit actress Hailee Steinfeld was one of the names thrown into the discussion for the role of Katniss, which I thought was a perfect pick. The stunning Jennifer Lawrence was the final choice, though, and she has made that meaty role her own. Appearing in almost every frame, this movie belongs to her. She is, at the same time, strong and vulnerable, innocent and sexy. Her talent was evident since 2008’s The Burning Plain but, with this kind of exposure, she’ll undoubtedly become a star now. Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Kravitz, Bentley, Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Alexander Ludwig and especially Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are great in their roles. Aspects like score, art direction, costume design, makeup and sound are top-notch and help shape an identity that will surely be as distinctive as that of the Harry Potter franchise.