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Best selling novels are impervious to critical reviews . . . for those of you who have already read "The Hunger Games," the novel by Suzanne Collins, you have no need to read any of this because you already know what is going on. Your mind will fill in the gaps and you are free to discuss with your friends everything that was in the novel that was left by the wayside in the journey to the big screen.
This site, on the other hand, has been run by one Primary Rule since we started writing reviews close to twenty years ago. That rule is: You should not have to know the Source Material to understand what is going on in the movie.
By that standard The Hunger Games is the equivalent of television's Survivor, limited to teenagers with weapons. Or...
IN SHORT: The worst adaptation of a novel we've ever had to endure [Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens. 142 minutes]
The nation of Panem is divided into twelve Districts. District One, where the capitol sits, seems to be the wealthiest. It is packed with residents who have an affectation for 18th Century Austrian dress, while enjoying modern comforts such as television and indoor plumbing. Then there is District Twelve, whose resident miners look like the movie stereotypes of the mountain folk of West Virginia.
Once a year comes "Reaping Day". One boy and one girl (ages 12 - 19) are selected from each District for participation in what is called "The Hunger Games," a televised event during which all participants will endeavor to kill every other participant. The sole survivor is rewarded with all sorts of unspecified goods.
Central to this story are the residents of District Twelve. Surprising all is the choice of 16 years old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers for the Games when her 12 year old sister's name, Primrose (Willow Shields), is randomly selected. It is about as brave a moment as you can get in this story, as we get to see tearful farewells and a brief flashback as to why Kat has no father and why her mom seems to exist in a permanent stupor. Then, she and the boy Reapee, Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson), are whisked off to the Capitol for training and Death. Riding the rails with them are the District Leader Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) -- she's the one who strives to be like the Mozart wannabees in District One -- and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). Haymitch was the winner of the 50th Games, 24 years earlier. He's been living the high life at bottom of a bottle ever since
Four days of high living, potential humiliation at the hands of so-called sponsors, and a television interview with a blue haired Master of Ceremonies, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) follow. Then, all 24 contestants are left to fend for themselves in an open field and the bloodshed begins.
Sure, alliances are formed and players are hunted. Problem is, in the middle of your two and a half hour ride, the film jolts off course to show viewers in District 11 reacting to what they see on their (televisions) by rioting in the streets. The sequence comes from nowhere and goes to nowhere -- meaning it's all a set up for a future sequel.
And the hunt goes on and on.The President (Donald Sutherland) and his chief goon, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) have their own reasons for ensuring that Kat, and the hopes of District 12, have not a shot in hell of winning the Games -- none of the contestants know that the Games are rigged
oops. Shouldn't have said that. On the other hand, the manipulation of the Games' outcome is the only thing that kept us in our seat while the film ran on and on and on and on . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hunger Games, he would have paid . . .
Add a couple of bucks if you've read the book. We don't compare and, on its own two feet, The Hunger Games doesn't stand up.
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