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The Hunger Games whets the appetite

The Hunger Games has finally released in India and critics are saying more good things than bad about the film. Interestingly, the movie already boasts of an 88% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

hollywood Updated: Mar 23, 2012 18:22 IST
Hindustan Times,The Hunger Games,Jennifer Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks
Direction: Gary Ross
Genre: Action
Duration: 2 hours 22 minutes

The Hunger Games has finally released in India and critics are saying more good things than bad about the film. The film, which is the story of Katniss Everdeen, is inspired from Suzanne Collins book by the same name. Interestingly, it already boasts of an 88% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Set in a post-apocalyptic America, Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to fight to the death on live television. As the nation watches, Katniss must use her skills as an archer to fight for survival in a deadly forest manipulated by the government’s game makers and protect herself from other contestants.

Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri, DNA
Rating: ***1/2

One of the best things about Hunger Games are the performances. Jennifer Lawrence’s sincere portrayal of Katniss; a girl who is tough, feisty yet kind-hearted and fiercely protective of those she loves is spot on. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the TV host of the Hunger Games, is also someone to look out for.

The film builds up the suspense quite well and manages to keep you hooked at all times. The very effective use of camera and sounds contribute largely to the plot. Many hand held shots create a feeling of urgency and sort of give an idea of the protagonist’s emotional and mental status while the forest sounds constantly remind the viewers of imminent danger and keep them guessing what will happen next.

The concept of the film is rich thematically and raises many issues. The most central one being government’s control over society (somewhat similar to what we see in Big Brother); others being class distinctions, dire poverty, and human relationships.

Verdict: The Hunger Games is well made and a 'bloody' good way to spend your weekend.

Hunger Games

Allen O’ Brien, Times of India

Rating: ***1/2

The expectations are pretty high on this one. No prizes for guessing why. The Hunger Games, the movie, is based on the bestselling young adult novel by Suzanne Collins. Naturally then, like the book, the film raises some thought provoking questions often read between the lines all throughout its screenplay... Greek mythology gets all contemporary (and topical) in here.

It's actually Jennifer's preparation for the big game that holds your attention as she pits against some highly-trained tributes who have prepared for these Games since time immemorial. That's another story, nothing seems to intimidate our PYT (Pretty Young Thing) -- not even her lack of confidence when it comes to getting people to like her. Watch her strike the apple for the first time she is all out to make an impression and ensure she is 'remembered' amongst those who matter. She scores a perfect eleven! And then there are more of Jennifer's expertise with the bow and arrow coupled with her moments of anger, desperation, will power and vulnerability. She successfully portrays just what every 16-year-old girl would want to be. A perfect ten, we say! Next is Stanley Tucci (as the talk show host), Donald Sutherland (as President of the evil nation. Wish we had more of him), Woody Harrelson's Haymitch (as the 24X7 drunk mentor and father figure) and Elizabeth Banks's Lady Gaga-inspired Effie Trinket who not just escorts tributes, but brings in ample comic relief.

Peter Bradshaw,
Rating: ****

The Hunger Games is partly an entertaining throwback to satirical pictures such as Norman Jewison's Rollerball (1975) and Sidney Lumet's Network (1976), although those movies had a very adult, sexy-sleazy feel; The Hunger Games is notably chaste, despite all the fighting. It could also have been inspired by Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese nightmare Battle Royale (2000) and Daniel Minahan's excellent and underrated satire Series 7: The Contenders (2001). The film also awoke in me a very happy memory of the classic first-season Star Trek episode "Arena", in which Captain Kirk is teleported to a uninhabited planet where he has to fight the giant reptilian Gorn, and is told there are raw materials there to create a weapon, if only he can find them.

The Hunger Games is a very enjoyable futurist adventure, presented with a compelling, beady-eyed intensity. The worry now is that with big-screen versions of the next books in Suzanne Collins's series coming down the line, the impact will be lessened, and it will become a Twilightish soap. Already there is a hint of a Team-Jacob-vs-Team-Edward conflict as Katniss may have her eye on another hunk, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). For the time being, however, this is supremely effective entertainment.

Verdict: There's a tang of satire in this televised survival-contest thriller that allows it to outrun the Twilight comparisons

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Rating: **1/2

That perverse dystopia is brought faithfully, if un-spectacularly, to life by director Gary Ross in The Hunger Games, which hews to the most important contours of Collins’s book, the first of a trilogy. If the series’s legions of fans miss a detail here or a sub-plot there, they’ll still recognize its bones and sinew, especially in Jennifer Lawrence’s eagle-eyed heroine Katniss Everdeen, who combines the unapologetic aggression of Artemis with the girlier wish-fulfillment fantasies of a bemused Cinderella.

One of the trickier aspects of bringing The Hunger Games to the screen is to avoid indulging in the very voyeuristic spectacle the story is supposed to be condemning. Ross — whose films include such anodyne, mainstream fare as Seabiscuit and Pleasantville — judiciously sidesteps the most barbaric aspects of Collins’s tale, saving it from becoming a Scholastic version of Cormac McCarthy at his most ruthless. Still, there’s no escaping the depravity of Collins’s essential premise: The number of young people who die pitiless deaths could populate the cast of “Glee,” but only one possesses real moral weight, with Katniss or the audience.

Like “Winter’s Bone” before it, “The Hunger Games” goes to torturous, even off-putting extremes to prove its heroine's mettle. (The movie isn’t likely to win over anyone who isn’t already enthralled by the book.) But Lawrence is never less than grounded and believable as a young woman forced by circumstance to assume wisdom far beyond her years. As Katniss — a tough loner who perfectly embodies the anxieties, obsessions and self-sustaining narratives of the young women who idolize her — Lawrence seems to slip effortlessly into the same persona that made her a star.

It turns out that Katniss Everdeen is the ideal heroine for her age — a steely but sympathetic transitional figure between the masochism of Bella Swan and the avenging ferocity of Lisbeth Salander.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
Rating: *****

Collins’s work has often been compared with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels (primarily because both centre on young women and have been phenomenally successful) but the concept owes more to the Japanese author Koushun Takami’s cult novel Battle Royale, itself adapted for the cinema in 2000 by Kinji Fukasaku. There are also borrowings from Stephen King’s The Running Man, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and, of course, real life: it wasn’t so long ago, geologically speaking, when panem et circenses [bread and circuses] was the state’s preferred method of keeping the rabble in order. But despite its well-worn ideas and themes, Gary Ross’s provocative, pulse-surgingly tense adaptation couldn’t feel fresher, or timelier.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
It’s easy to forgive this kind of thievery, however, when the perp actually does something with the stolen goods, and for whatever “The Hunger Games” lacks in originality, it makes up for with verve and relentless forward motion.

Like the reality shows it comments upon, the movie dazzles you with its bravado and moves fast enough to keep you from asking too many questions about its implausibility.
Verdict: Compelling but implausible, like American Idol with a Body Count

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
With Collins on board as both a co-screenwriter and executive producer, there was little chance of that, so it's more a matter of emphasis and cinematic elan. Ross, Collins and third writer Billy Ray have stressed the fascistic political side of the story, pointing up the micromanaged manipulations of the public and the games themselves while also suggesting that contemporary reality shows and televised competitions differ from this extravaganza only in their lower mortality rate.

As for visual spectacle, there's enough but, along with it, a feeling of being slightly shortchanged; the long shots of gigantic cityscapes, of a fast train gliding silkily through the country, of massive crowds gathered to see this year's gladiators before they set off to kill one another, of the decorative flames emanating from the leads' costumes as the pair is presented to the public for the first time -- all are cut a bit short, as if further exposure would reveal them as one notch below first-rate. On the other hand, the costumes and makeup are a riot of imagination designed to evoke a level of topped-out decadence comparable to that of Nero's Rome or Louis XVI's Paris.

Most noticeable of all, however, is the film's lack of hunting instinct. The novel conveyed a heady sense of blood-scent, of Katniss Everdeen's lifetime of illegal hunting paying off in survival skills that, from the outset, make her the betting favorite to win the 74th edition of the Hunger Games. While present, this critical element is skimmed over onscreen, reducing a sense of the heroine's mental calculations as well as the intensity of her physical challenges and confrontations. One senses that the filmmakers wanted to avoid showing much hunting onscreen, for fear of offending certain sensibilities; stylistically, one longs for the visceral expressiveness of, say, Walter Hill in his prime. It's also clear that the need for a PG-13 rating dictated moderation; a film accurately depicting the events of the book would certainly carry an R.

That said, Hunger Games has such a strong narrative structure, built-in forward movement and compelling central character that it can't go far wrong. From the outset, it's easy to accept a future North America, once decimated by war and now called Panem, divided into 12 districts kept under tight control by an all-powerful central government in the stunningly modernistic Capitol.
Verdict: Jennifer Lawrence is stellar in this faithful, good-enough film version of the massive best-seller.

Final Verdict

The book which was published in 2008, marked the beginning of a trilogy, rounded out by Catching Fire and Mockingjay, which has sold more than 26 million copies, with many more to come now, thanks to the film. The film looks just as promising and going by the looks of it, the film trilogy should be in the offing soon, too!

First Published: Mar 23, 2012 17:06 IST