The Hunger Games (2012) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

With a built-in audience of mostly 14-17 year-old girls, director Gary Ross (“Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit”) puts forth The Hunger Games — a rather faithful version of the first novel in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, telling the tale of a post-apocalyptic North America divided into 12 districts.

And with the country having gone through a rebellion years before, the government, led by a white-bearded Donald Sutherland, has instituted a punishment of sorts to be inflicted on the treasonous districts. This rather bizarre action includes taking a young male and female from each area and forcing all of them to fight to the death. These “Hunger Games,” have since turned into a media sensation, with celebrations and a highly-rated “reality” show to show off the chosen ones. Smarmy host, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”), even does Ryan Seacrest/Geraldo Rivera-type commentary and interviews with the selectees.

Coming out of the most remote district (No. 12) is super bow hunter Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar-nominated for “Winter’s Bone”) and baker’s apprentice Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, “Journey 2: Mysterious Island”). The movie informs us that Katniss volunteered for this punishment to protect her little sister, Primrose, who was originally chosen.

The movie also tells us that in the near future, names like Katniss, Peeta and Primrose, will become commonplace. In addition, despite the presence of an all-powerful police state dictatorship which can rip young people from the arms of their families at will, the populace dresses like rejects from any city’s Gay Pride parade, with hairdos similar to the Whos of Whoville. (One cannot help but weep for a fashion future that makes the 1970s look understated and conservative).

Anyways, Katniss and Peeta are soon whisked off to the capital, where they meet their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, “Rampage”), the overbearing chaperon Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, “Man On a Ledge” and looking like Johnny Depp in drag on the set of “Alice In Wonderland”) and clothing designer Cinna (singer Lenny Kravitz). They are also introduced to the producer of the Hunger Games TV show, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley, “American Beauty,” “Ghost Rider”), as well as the other “contestants,” each with their own special survival and/or fighting skill.

About an hour into The Hunger Games, the games actually begin. Katniss, even though an expert archer who has spent most of her youth in the woods, nevertheless has difficulty adjusting, as some weird alliances are formed specifically against her (why some of the selectees would align themselves with anyone, though, since only one can survive, is a bit questionable). Other kids, many with zeal, go after one another with swords, axes, scimitars, bows and arrows, as well as other instruments of destruction. The quick-cut, hand-held camera work made ubiquitous by flicks like “Cloverfield” diffuses some of the gore in these sequences but not so much that we don’t know what’s going on. The viewer will have to see for themselves what further happens during these games, but a few unexpected twists make the conclusion a real surprise (unless of course, one has already read the book — which, thankfully I had not).

Top-notch acting, especially from Lawrence, Tucci, Banks and Harrelson, and surprisingly by Hutcherson and Kravitz, lift this adaptation over similar films such as those in the “The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, but below those in the “Harry Potter” series and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, however. Meanwhile, Tucci’s running commentaries on the games brings to mind Richard Dawson in “The Running Man,” although the latter had much better one-liners.

Still, in these movie doldrum months, The Hunger Games, while not great, is certainly an effective and workmanlike effort. And while the subject matter of children and young teenagers fighting one another to the death may lead some parents to think twice about bringing their own kids to the picture, the movie is sure to top the box office as well as produce sequels (two books remain to be adapted) in the future.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


Movie Review: Silent House (2011)
Movie Review: Norwegian Wood (2010)

The Critical Movie Critics

I have been a movie fan for most of my life and a film critic since 1986 (my first published review was for "Platoon"). Since that time I have written for several news and entertainment publications in California, Utah and Idaho. Big fan of the Academy Awards - but wish it would go back to the five-minute dinner it was in May, 1929. A former member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and current co-host of "The Movie Guys," each Sunday afternoon on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego with Kevin Finnerty.

'Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)' have 17 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 4:37 pm Sal

    Great movie. A lot of fun,.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 5:11 pm Leslie

    I’m a big fan of the books and I,m excited to see how they’ve interpreted Suzanne Collins’ words for the movie. By all accounts they did it justice!

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 7:24 pm Wakie

    Good review other than the mispelling of the lead character’s name. The sequels you mention are already in production too so how well the hunger games does at the box office is irrelevant.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 7:54 pm Bob Plocke

    Not remarking on how good the movie was or wasn’t (sounds like it was good), I want to know is it the trend to now make every prepubescent girls fantasy novels into a movie nowadays? I’ve had enough already..

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 8:12 pm SHEEN

    I have high hope for this. Happy to read the movie has the ability to stand on its own.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2012 @ 9:43 pm Zinberger

    Casting all around is good although Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson don’t have the best chemistry. Lenny Kravitz is a show stealer.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2012 @ 6:36 am V. Seston

    My wife & I liked the movie. Had the right amount of drama and action, and not too much of the dreary teen angst that choked the Twilight movies.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2012 @ 9:20 am Jess

    It would help the credibility of your review if you actually spelled the main character’s name correctly. It’s Katniss, not Katness, as you have repeatedly spelled it.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2012 @ 11:24 am sasori


    Name fixed. Thanks for pointing our mistake out.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2012 @ 6:03 pm Sour Kurt

    You’re right. The slaughter at the cornucopia could have been gorier but it was still more graphic than I thought it would be. Imagine if this had been R-rated.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2012 @ 10:41 pm Racks

    If you haven’t read the books, I’d suggest giving them a go. While the movie is very well done and sticks closely to the story, the books will fill in some of the subjects glossed over by the film.

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 24, 2012 @ 11:26 am Horacio

    Lenny Kravitz steals scenes from who exactly? He’s in all of 10 minutes in the movie….

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 24, 2012 @ 3:00 pm ned220

    Why didn’t they just burn down the tree that she scaled to get away? So much of the movie defied common sense.

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 15, 2012 @ 11:46 am Brad

    didn’t quite live up to the hype but it was good enough to build interest in the upcoming sequels.

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 19, 2012 @ 12:47 am kayla

    I loved the books and the movie. Cant wait till catching fire. (Nov.23 or 22 2013.)

  16. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 23, 2012 @ 6:03 pm Crystal

    I thought it was too disturbing for the tween crowd it is catered towards.

  17. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 23, 2012 @ 8:41 am Charlie

    I thought it very dull for a ‘kill or be killed’ contest.

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