Written by / 3/27/2012 / No comments / , , , , ,

THE HUNGER GAMES

year: 2012 cast: Jennifer Lawrence rating: ***1/2
As a herd of children and teens are gathered for the selection of two players… one boy and one girl… who will fight to the death against 23 others on live TV resulting in one sole survivor, they're shown a short film explaining why this kind of thing happens.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the Capitol needs these violent games as a reminder of hope and spirit, or something like that. Doesn’t make too much sense, and the premise borrows from THE RUNNING MAN while the goofy looking adults – including the show’s host and backers – resemble characters from Tim Burton's Willy Wonka. But the grownups aren’t the thing here.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a teenage bow-and-arrow huntress who bravely offers herself as a replacement for her lithe younger sister to take part in The Hunger Games. She, along with the male selection, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson)  – whose meek disposition clashes with Katniss’s steady prowess – are sent to a big futuristic city: a much different world than their rural district.

During the training process we get to know both characters... while the adults (especially a snarky talk show host) provide exposition to make things clear.

The story doesn’t rush to the titular game, allowing the viewer, like the characters, to feel involved in the initial process that – while leading to a death sport with inevitably dire consequences – is filled with suspense, melancholy, and even hope as Katniss remains a constantly evolving character, learning to charm the show's viewing audience. And when the Games are underway, we’re thrust from an intentionally vapid society into a sparse brutal wilderness.

Centering on Katniss and her skills to survive… especially when teamed against by a group of cutthroat players… she eventually bonds with Peeta – and the Shakespearean love story doesn’t mar the action. Especially thanks to Jennifer Lawrence, who makes one of the greatest cinematic female heroes for the teen set. With narrowed eyes and swift agile, her natural beauty’s matched by cunning resilience while her pale vulnerability keeps us hoping she survives.

Filmed mostly in closeups and tense medium shots, THE HUNGER GAMES is replete with twists, turns and backstory only readers of the popular novels can fully understand – but the characters are everything here. It's their tale. It's their fight. And we're just along for the ride.
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