The newest series to achieve fandom status is the sci-fi thriller, The Hunger Games. The film version of the first book in the trilogy was released on March 23rd, and has grossed $357 million. Directed by Gary Ross and starring Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence, it is poised to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight franchise, a megalith of literary-cinematic crossovers that appeals to audiences all over the world. The Hunger Games book series, written by Clifford creator Suzanne Collins, was released in 2008.
When I went into the theatre, I hadn’t been exposed much to the storyline other than what the trailers provided, and I didn’t know what to expect. People were raving over it and Lionsgate was raking in money. My expectations were high, but I was dismally disappointed.
To be fair, a substantial amount of any novel’s plot is lost during the adaptation process. Marketed as a young adult action film, the plot’s exposition was lacking in that were was a definite ambiguity as to what exactly the Hunger Games were and why things were happening. Things made very little sense to someone like me who had not been briefed on the world of Panem, which not only made it difficult to understand, but made the plot holes that much larger. Without the explanations provided by the novels, many of the characters’ actions seemed nonsensical or confusing, which drew away from my personal interest in the story.
The Hunger Games has a cast of rising stars and recognizable faces, if not names. Starring Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men First Class), Josh Hutcherson (Zathura), Elizabeth Banks (Scrubs, The 40-Year Old Virgin ), Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci, refused, as always to disappoint. Stanley Tucci, as the flamboyant talk show host Caesar, was arguably the most entertaining performer in the film. His antics were ridiculous but they fit the character and refused to neglect the deeper subtext in the character. Leading lady Jennifer Lawrence, whose career has been catapulted into the A-List from the success of this film, does not deserve it. Her acting, much as it has been in the others of her films that I have seen, is deadpan, emotionless, and almost painful to watch. Some say that this acting style (or cop-out) fit with Katniss’s character, but it seemed more just deadpan lack of talent to me.
Despite this, the film was not altogether impossible to enjoy. As an action film set in a post-apocalyptic earth, the visuals were, as to be expected, to die for. The world of Panem was brilliantly arranged and given a very interesting modernistic life. The symbolic distinctions between District 12 and the Capitol were made blatant, perhaps even stereotypically. Action sequences were compelling and interesting. The visuals made the film worth staying through the entire nearly three-hour running time.
For fans of the books and of action films who don’t mind plot holes and sub-par acting, The Hunger Games will prove an entertaining break from everyday reality. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more thought-provoking, steer clear. If you must see the film just to decide for yourself if all the hubbub is worth it, I suggest waiting until it becomes available on DVD.