I can’t even begin to say what a great surprise The Hunger Games was. Having recently finished the novel, I had concerns over how the film would adapt the first-person narrative, filled with introspection by the protagonist Katniss Everdeen and flashbacks to earlier in her life. What’s great about the movie: they didn’t try to do that.
Instead, we have a remarkably directed, almost dreamlike flow through the story. The film travels briskly from scene to scene, organically blending in backstory that is easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Rather than filling in the exposition through explanation, as the novel does, we are given the dystopic scenario and the formation of the Hunger Games through news broadcasts of the current year’s Games. None of this feels forced or even too heavily reinforced.
The Hunger Games is the rare film for children / young adults that trusts that the audience is an intelligent and mature one. It counts on the audience to pay attention, as names and details fly by in quick succession. There is very little sweet or sugarcoated about this world, and the movie doesn’t bother to dwell on that. The color palette is filled with bleak greys and blacks, with some very intense sequences of violence (which honestly made me wonder how on earth this movie scraped past an R rating and instead earned a PG-13).
In addition to its disturbing content, this film is also noteworthy for its strong performances. Jennifer Lawrence (as always!) is fantastic as the lead character, and pairs well with her semi-love interest Josh Hutcherson, who also gives a well-restrained and believable performance.
Following in the tradition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Hunger Games is so effective because it feels as authentic as it possibly could. Given the fantastical elements that are embedded in the story, everything else, from the characters’ dialogue, the scenery, and even the wobbly first-person camera work, ring true.
The Hunger Games is an excellent start to what I hope will be a solid film series. It is such an unusual concept for a major studio to pursue, and I welcome its confidence to present a film experience that is disturbing, harsh, and most importantly, believable.