THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) Review

Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Wes Bentley

I went into THE HUNGER GAMES with more than a little trepidation. My biggest concern was that the basic plot - a group of children sent out into the wilderness with the goal of killing each other – sounded strikingly similar to one of my favorite films of all time, BATTLE ROYALE. But the two movies are only really similar when you strip them down to the bare bones, once they have been fleshed out with subplot and character development and everything else; they become two completely different movies.

In a futuristic world, the nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts which are resided over by the Capitol. Each year the Hunger Games are held and two children - one male, one female - are chosen from each district to compete. The Games are both a form of entertainment and retribution for a past rebellion. The children competing must fight to the death. When Katniss Everdeen's (Lawrence) sister is chosen, she volunteers herself instead. Along with another boy Peeta (Hutcherson) from her district, Katniss finds herself competing against the other children in the ultimate death match.

Another concern of mine was that due to the fact the book (from which this film was adapted) was so hugely popular with teens and young adults, the violent nature of the movie would need to be toned down considerably in order to pull in a younger audience. I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the books in the series so I don’t really know if the violence has been toned down or not. I would hazard a guess though and say that it probably has been, because overall THE HUNGER GAMES isn’t as bloody or gory as one might expect – especially for a movie based around the idea of people killing other people. The subject matter of children killing each other is obviously still pretty brutal though and has undoubtedly sparked plenty of debate about whether it’s appropriate for children blah, blah, blah etc. But I’ll leave the moral and ethical side of things for somebody else to discuss.

Despite my trepidation and concerns about toned down violence, THE HUNGER GAMES really surprised me. I was worried that it would drag on way too long before getting into the action but thankfully it doesn't. There’s still a bit of a wait until the actual games start, but this time is used quite well for character development and to get a feel for the people and how they feel towards the games.
And when the action does begin it travels along at a nice, brisk pace right through to final kill.

Visually the movie is quite amazing, perhaps too amazing. I had really hoped for something a lot darker and grittier, but once again I am reminded that this has to be aimed at a younger audience. When the contestants leave their quaint little districts and arrive in the big city everything is suddenly bigger, brighter and shinier. And then we come to the costumes. Why is it that all of these futuristic, dystopian films either have everybody dressing in identical drab suits or outlandish, colorful, over the top outfits? It makes me think that they could (and should) have spent less money on these horrible costumes and more in other places it was needed. Like maybe some more practical effects (those CGI dog-monster-things look terrible).

As for the acting and writing well I can’t really find much to complain about. The acting was pretty decent across the board and everything seemed to flow nice and smoothly. Jennifer Lawrence takes centre stage and she does a fine job, it’s easy to see her having quite a successful career. Once again I’ll mention that I haven’t read the book so I’m not sure how much the story here deviates from the source material.
But apart from some issues like the over use of CGI, the number of off-camera kills and the ugly fucking outfits, THE HUNGER GAMES was actually not too bad at all. I still prefer BATTLE ROYALE but both movies have their own merits and both are quite enjoyable. If you’re one of those people worried about the similarities to BATTLE ROYALE (like I was) then don’t worry, THE HUNGER GAMES has enough originality to stand on its own.


  1. I think that the movie was a fantastic adaptation of the book. Your question about the costumes is the reason why I always tell people to read the books first. In the book the clothes, crazy wigs, and other over the top accessories indicate the wealth and difference between the Capitol and the rest of the districts. This is why Effie Trinket comes across as so bizarre when she is introduced at the reaping. I just rented The Hunger Games through Blockbuster @ Home and after adding it to my queue, it showed up in my mailbox just a few days later. A Dish co-worker recommended Blockbuster to me a few months ago and I’ve been using it ever since. In the second book and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the appearance of those in the Capitol is discussed more frequently. The violence in the movie is really toned down even though in the books the injuries are described in detail. However, the movie got all of the important parts right and I can’t wait for part two to come out.

  2. Thanks for the feedback.
    I usually read books before seeing the film adaptations of them, this was one of the rare times I didn't. I'll have to get around to that before the second movie comes out.
    I understand how the costumes and hairstyles are a way of representing class and wealth, I still think that they are a bit too extravagant (and hideous) but I guess I'll have to read the book(s) and reassess my thoughts.