Friday, March 30, 2012

"The Hunger Games" review: perfect balance of epic story with emotional drama

Can you imagine a highly anticipated movie based on a major bestselling book that has incredible hype for months with very high expectations....ACTUALLY DELIVERING??!! In recent years you can't, right? But "The Hunger Games" actually does just that!

I confess that I have not read the book but gained a bit of insight from Rebecca who at least read the first of the three. I originally began the road to seeing this movie by not planning to go on my own but being fine with joining with Rebecca when she went. As the last few weeks ticked down to the released date I found myself being swept up up bit in the premise and taking note of the very positive word of mouth coming from advanced screenings. By the time the movie opened a week ago I was actually looking forward to it.

Jennifer Lawrence is Katness Everdeen, the strong central heroine and focus of a movie and story that could have been overblown and allowed to get just a bit too big for it's britches. But it's her strong and sometimes intense performance and director Gary Ross who keep the focus squarely on the emotion of teenagers having to kill one another. Katness is thrust into a fight to the death with twenty three other 'tributes' from 12 districts that all serve a central metropolis known as The Capitol in penance for an uprising 74 years ago that was beaten into submission by Capitol forces. Katness' incredible bravery masks her underlying fear and Lawrence never goes over the top, always remaining that young woman whose just trying to save her sister and herself without any unnecessary bravado.

The movie is definitrly brimming with tense action as Katness, accompanied by a fellow District 12 resident Peeta Mellark (blonded Josh Hutcherson) who hopes to win her heart, goes up against the likes of District 1 warrior Gale Hawthorne ("Thor" Chris Hemsworth's brother, Liam). The implied brutality of the book is exacting in it's transferal to the big screen. There is blood and the camera never shies away from what the games are all about, but it's never gratuitous or in your face. Much is left up to your imagination which makes it that much more affective.

Cinematography and editing are both outstanding, and certainly of major note is the sound design. There's a signature to it in this movie that communicates depth, weight and impact of events in and around the characters and story as they struggle to be the last alive.

Another character that could have been turned into slight comedy relief but instead becomes a sobering reminder of the dangers ahead is Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy who was the sole victor for District 12 many years ago and is now mentor for Katness.

By the time we left the theater I was totally ready for the next movie, based on the second book in the series entitled "Catching Fire" and being released later next year. Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed "The Hunger Games" and am seriously glad to see a movie whose anticipation went through the roof become a satisfying, thrilling and powerful film.


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