Movie Review | The Hunger Games
Movie Summary: Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games: a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death.
First things first: in this post, when I write ‘The Hunger Games’, I’m literally talking about the movie with that name and not the series as a whole unless stated otherwise. One of the issues of taking the name of the first film for the entire franchise.
Now, that’s out of the way, the first thing to note about The Hunger Games is how comparatively cheap the film looks compared to the others in the series. There are some scenes, such as a riot in one of the settings many Districts, where it almost looks like a TV show level of budget because we get to see so little.
The emotional beats certainly work, and the spark that ignited the violence is one of the film’s major emotional points, but it requires the acting and score to help sell the events because the visual spectacle is so clearly far below what it really should be, and what it would’ve been with a higher budget like the sequels.
Fortunately, the acting is generally pretty great from the key players: Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Katniss, not bored yet with the role as she appeared to be by the end of the series; Josh Hutcherson is perfect as the dogged, yet underdog, love interest; and Woody Harrelson is terrifically entertaining as Haymitch.
There are a lot of other performances that are fun to watch, with Donald Sutherland’s malicious President Snow, Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman, and Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket among the most eye-catching, but it is the first trio mentioned who have the lion’s share of the screen time in this film and the series as a whole.
I don’t want to keep comparing The Hunger Games to its sequels, but the jump in budget so drastically changes the world these characters inhabit that it’s hard not to once you’ve seen what’s to come.
It really is the performances that save the day and the relationships that are developed across the length of the story. Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch all have distinct personalities that lead them to having certain opinions of each other at the start that realistically evolve as they get to know and understand each other.
Lawrence and Hutcherson especially stand out despite neither playing characters that are typical blockbuster leads, and their characters’ change in attitude towards each other is believably sweet, even if neither of them look close to the age of the characters they are playing.
In a way, The Hunger Games is a lot like some of the early Marvel Studios’ films: a tight budget and simple plot with paper-thin antagonists held together by excellent performances from almost universally-perfect casting.
The Hunger Games is a good film, but it has too large a world to set up with too small a budget to do it real justice. It means that the stellar performances of the central trio can sometimes come across as a touch melodramatic for what we actually see on-screen. Still a lot of fun though, and definitely a decent way of kicking off a new series.