Thursday, March 22, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

"It's the same story every year. He tells of the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a country that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts, which brought peace and prosperity to its citizens. Then came the Dark Days, the uprising of the districts against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated. The Treaty of Treason gave us new laws to guarantee peace and, as a yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games.”

If you’ve read the YA novel The Hunger Games you’re probably pretty worried right about now with hours to go before the midnight screening you bought tickets for two weeks ago (though maybe less so if you've read any reviews). You might be thinking, can Jennifer Lawrence pull this out, are they going to get Panem “right,” and why is Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) head so large? He has a really big head; I never noticed it in The Kids Are All Right, but it’s HUGE. You also might be thinking that you’re a little old for midnight screenings (and you totally are, most likely). Anyway, I’d like to take a moment to alleviate your well-justified fears. The Hunger Games is as layered, heartbreaking and expectation-fulfilling as we’ve all been hoping. It's clearly more than another money-making franchise, in a many scenes it's transcendent. No, I’m totally serious. THG was directed by the same dude who wrote Big and directed Pleasantville and the way he balances unimaginable human suffering and moments of beauty shows a deep respect for the characters and the film’s younger audience.  There is a real tenderness to this film amidst all the slayings and human rights violations. Ross still allows Katniss time to appreciate a butterfly in a rare moment of respite in the arena and Lawrence has the chops make it authentic and not schmaltzy. THG series’ author Suzanne Collins co-adapted the screenplay with Ross and Billy Ray (State of Play, Shattered Glass) in such a way as to both honor and expand Collins’ world while giving us just what we’ve been waiting for – a Katniss we can get behind, a Katniss that will spark a revolution.