Movie review: Let the ‘Games’ begin!

By Annie Wilmer

Gary Ross’ portrayal of The Hunger Gamesmore closely resembles the book than the $90 million hype machine it has become.

The story follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen through her time competing in the 74th annual Hunger Games, a competition which selects one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts of post-apocalyptic North America, now called Panem, to fight to the death on television.

Created after a rebellion against the governing Capitol, the Hunger Games were designed to show the districts they are powerless against the Capitol and cannot rise up again.

Employing superb camera work and an outstanding script adaptation, the filmmakers take on this dystopian and disturbing tale with alacrity, translating a complex page-turner into a similarly gripping on-screen story.

Cramming a 374-page book into two and a half hours for a big-budget Hollywood movie seemed destined to result in a heinous flop. But Ross rises to the occasion, perfectly conveying all of the necessary plot information. Instead of having to rely on awkward on-screen introductory speeches or the whispered explanations of fellow audience members, viewers who have not read the books will instantly understand from the title slides at the beginning and by piecing together the dialogue.

Ross’ artistic abilities have earned him an Oscar nomination before for both directing and writing, and they make The Hunger Games truly amazing. His minimalistic film techniques allow the script and acting to take hold of the audience without distraction or interruption.

Despite the stacked cast, which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland, the story at the heart of The Hunger Games is the real reason for the film’s box-office success.

The midnight showings of the movie brought in $19.7 million, which is the all-time first night record for a non-sequel, and the seventh-highest grossing midnight screening ever behind three Harry Potter movies and three Twilight films.

Suzanne Collins wrote an amazingly gripping story, which Gary Ross brought to life in the woods of North Carolina.

To find such success, however, having an Academy Award-nominated actress in the lead can only help. Lawrence fully embodies heroine Katniss Everdeen in yet another brilliant performance. Lawrence and the rest of the cast bring the characters to life so powerfully I cannot imagine the movie any other way.

The story and the violence are troubling and aggressive, but because the movie is made the way it is, this world seems realistic.

While movie and book fans will debate the various merits and flaws of the widely popular Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games franchises until the cows come home, Ross’ film dwarfs all of the others, at least from an objective film-making standpoint.

The media has drawn unwarranted comparisons between The Hunger Games and the terrible Twilight saga by focusing far too much on Katniss and the love triangle which springs up around her as the Games story proceeds. This romantic element has little bearing on this first film, however, which deals largely with courage and the power of family and friendship, rather than with wishy-washy teenage love affairs.

This movie has a lot to offer for fans of the books, fans of the actors, fans of Ross and newcomers who know nothing of the story or phenomenon. Simply put, The Hunger Games is victorious on every level.

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