AKA: Artemis (2012) - Working Title
AKA: Hunger Games (2012) - Short Title
(Premiere Date: March 12, 2012 [Los Angeles, Ca])
(Release Date: March 23, 2012)
Violence is Golden...
Although, I'll admit I might not have had it memorized like the legion of 12 year olds who treat the novel like a holy relic. I first heard about The Hunger Games as a favorite of 12 year olds... which is surprising (and disturbing) considering the fact that this is a post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare novel about 24 lottery chosen children between 12 and 18 years of age put into an arena to fight to the death while just about every man, woman and child in their future society watches the proceedings on television with great interest and amusement.
Might I say the subject matter is questionable for children? Might I add "Well Duh!"
Author Suzanne Collins, however, has a history of writing for Children, from her work on Clarissa Explains it All to The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo to Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! to... this bloody and violent novel of mortal combat.
The truth is, however, I, like most people, couldn't put the book down. It was terrific! Oh, it's not Shakespeare but it's a solid and interesting Science Fiction novel with well-realized characters, an enthralling story and some serious crossover appeal!
Naturally the movie must be disappointing, right? Most every book-based movie is, isn't it? Luckily the screenplay was written by Suzanne Collins herself, along with co-writers Billy Ray and Gary Ross (who also directed) and was also executive-produced by Collins! While this doesn't mean an automatic literal line-for-line transparent translation, it's as surprising as the tastelessness of "Fruit Stripe Gum" how much of the novel survived to the big screen. Oh, sure, the same basic complaints can be made about this adaptation that can be made about most others. Sure every piece of The Hunger Games might not be the way I would have done it, but then again, there's probably a reason that I'm writing about the movie instead of directing the damned thing, right?
And the same reasons apply to why you're reading about me writing it instead of directing it yourself, so get a hobby you haters!
The first and easiest comparison to apply to The Hunger Games is, obviously, Batoru rowaiaru (Battle Royale), the Japanese book, manga and movie about... high schoolers sent to an arena to fight and kill each other until only one is left.
Yeah, that already was a thing!
However, The Hunger Games (both the book and the movie), which originated independently from the Japanese stories, goes much deeper than that. Elements of Jackson's The Lottery, Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Lowry's The Giver and Richard Bachman's The Running Man and The Long Walk. That's not even to mention the intentional inclusion of Greek Mythological allusions, through and through. Yet, in spite of all of this, somehow The Hunger Games manages to be strikingly original in its own right... different, lively, special... like Sprite.
In the distant future in which the United States is not even a memory, North America has been split up into 13 districts that specialize in different casts, each producing important materials for the totalitarian Capitol's consumption. Years before our story begins, the 13 colonies revolted against the capitol and a brutal civil war broke out, leading to the destruction of the 13th District and the creation of "The Hunger Games". In this annual conflict, one boy and one girl are selected from each district by random drawing (or, in rare cases, volunteering) to be sent to the Capitol to battle each other to the death until one lavishly rewarded winner remains. This gives each District hope and solidarity, but much more importantly, keeps the citizens much more squarely under the heels of the Capitol.
Enter Katniss Everdeen (superbly played by Jennifer Lawrence), a 16 year old bow hunter who finds herself separated from her mother (Paula Malcomson), sister (Willow Shields) and her best friend (Liam Hemsworth) and sent to the Capitol to represent her District in The Hunger Games. She barely knows her fellow gamer Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and she can scarcely muster a flea's knee's worth of respect for their over-decorated chaperone Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) or their alcoholic, games-survivor mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson)!
Soon Katniss and Peeta are away from their near dark-age village and in the opulent, beautiful, decadent and super-futuristic Capitol where the totalitarian President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is breathing down their necks directly, Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) plans a brutal new arena, Master of Ceremonies Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and commentator Claudius Templesmith (Toby Jones) are practically salivating for their deaths and stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) is working to make sure they leave really good-looking corpses!
And all of this near-satirical excess is almost nothing compared to what they face when the games themselves begin.
Much has been said about the violence in the book and how this might translate to a movie. While the movie's violence has been toned-down to a PG-13 degree, the truth is... it's just barely toned down enough for that rating. An arrow to the neck with spurting blood becomes an arrow to the chest with a circle of blood on a shirt, a mauling becomes a bite, a slashing becomes a stabbing and a brutal neck-break becomes... well, still a brutal neck-break. Blood spurts still fly and kids still die. In short... it's still pretty damned questionable for kids.
On the other hand, this is far from an inhuman and bloodthirsty film. Like the book, the film's rich satire is decidedly on the side of the kids and a rebellious, anti-authority streak permeates the dark message of the film. Further, disparate performances by Amandla Stenberg (as Rue), Alexander Ludwig (as Cato), Isabelle Fuhrman (as Clove) and Jacqueline Emerson (as Fox Face), not mention Lenny Kravitz' own quality showing, help to keep this from becoming any one-dimensional tale of darkness or hope. In short, this never quite becomes Battle Royale... but then again, it never quite devolves into The Felix Unger Games either!
All told, while this film is neither perfect, or perfectly the book, it does provide two hours and twenty-two minutes of solid entertainment and works as an excellent companion piece to the novel, making one not only look forward to the sequels but to want to read (or re-read) the novels as soon as the credits finish rolling. Gary Ross has done a great job of translating this story to the big screen and James Newton Howard's stirring score provides a worthy accompaniment to this visual experience. (Viola Lynn Collins). Collins is not only beautiful (and fills out her desert-appropriate costuming quite prettily), she also makes a credible warrior and a sexy leading lady.
The film is all around well cast from promising small parts like Hemsworth's Gale to the larger part's like Hutcherson's on which a great deal of the plot must hang. Jennifer Lawrence again takes over the screen with a human and complex performance of the young girl facing impossible times. While many people who haven't read the novel might be confused by some of the on-screen happenings, one would be hard-pressed to find any legitimate complaint about Jennifer Lawrence's acting!
To state the obnoxiously obvious, of COURSE the book is better! The word "Duh!" springs to mind on that one. This is especially true because the novel is a fantastic "Must-Read" I have to say. However, The Hunger Games, the film, is a worthy experience more than worth your time to watch and enjoy and worth, at least, Four Stars out of Five! There hasn't been a Sci-Fi film like this in a long time. Echoes of THX-1138 and Logan's Run permeate and improve the view of this dichotomy of a society, while current feels of reality TV competitions and gory war scenes push the satire to lofty levels. So until Katniss and Peeta are pitted against Gogo Yubari and, well, Felix Unger, I'll see you in the next reel, kill-kids!
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reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
Who is brutally responsible for the content of this site
And at least half responsible for the fact that when he got in fights back in school, both parties always walked out alive!
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