At the outset, let me say I didn’t love it. But I really, really liked it. Gary Ross’ film adaptation of the Hunger Games has undoubtedly done justice to the bestselling cult books and doesn’t leave fans (like me!) disappointed. The screenplay stays true to the novel and the core characters are pretty much as you would have imagined them. Although I must admit Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne is far hotter (sizzzzzling in fact) than what Suzanne Collins had perhaps envisioned. And as a result, I almost defected from Team Peeta. Almost, but not quite because Josh Hutcherson does such a convincing job as the endearing Peeta Mellark that you can’t help but root for him by the end. There is no question, however, that the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence. She is an absolute superstar in the making. She carries the film on her shoulders just as effortlessly as Katniss Everdeen wields her bow and quiver.
There are more in the ensemble cast who shine, despite short screen time. Among them, a delightful Woody Harrelson as the acerbic alcoholic Haymitch, Donald Sutherland as the sinister President Snow and even Stanley Tucci as the mildly irritating, overenthusiastic game show host Caesar Flickerman (Ryan Seacrest anyone?) But unfortunately the medium is such that some of the other absorbing characters are left half-baked, foremost among them Katniss’ stylist Cinna – what a criminal waste of Lenny Kravitz. The other thing that left me a little under-whelmed was the pace. I felt it dragged in parts. Maybe because after months of eagerly waiting (yes, literally with bated breath) for the release, I had expected to be as gob smacked and spellbound as I was when I read the book. Is that why we always feel that no movie does justice to the book – because those of us who have read the book already know what is about to happen? (‘The Shining’ happens to be the only exception to this rule, and I say that even though I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. Seriously, Jack Nicholson steered that film into a realm even the book hadn’t dared enter.) But I digress.
I can bet my boots those who haven’t read the book – like my husband who accompanied me for instance – would love it. It wasn’t the standard slick, thrill-a-minute fare that is usually dished out for young-adult audiences. But I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Because that very treatment also made it credible and authentic. It’s not easy to translate a 300-page bestseller into a 140-odd minute film but The Hunger Games does emerge triumphant on that front. The setting is established cleverly and quickly and the dark, tense pulse of the book – befitting for a ‘fight unto death’ drama – is captured successfully. That’s a whole lot more than what I could say for the insipid Twilight saga. The Hunger Games is far more mature, even if at the cost of pace, and its appeal is universal, regardless of gender or even age. At least those stupid comparisons with Twilight will now end. The sodden, mushy love story with a poofter of a vampire for a male lead can remain in the galaxy of pre-pubescent girls, where it belongs.
Yes, I may have expected more gut-wrenching action and yes, I had certainly hoped for some steamy scenes between Peeta and Katniss (especially in the cave) but I guess that stuff is sacrificed at the PG13 altar. Fair enough. On the whole, the movie delivers and despite not having gone ape over it, I can’t wait for the next one. I guess that means job well done, right?
PS: For my original post on what the actual story is about, you can click here.