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"The Hunger Games" Movie Review -- How Many Kisses Does Katniss Get?

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Published on Mar 22, 2012

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"The Hunger Games" is being described as the next "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" because of its massive fan base stemming from its literary origin. Many fans of the Suzanne Collins book could not wait to see the film.

Prior to watching the movie, I did not understand the hype surrounding "The Hunger Games." But after spending nearly 2 ½ hours with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), I can now tell you that I'm a believer. "The Hunger Games" is truly the first blockbuster movie of 2012 that has surpassed my expectations.

Kudos must be given to Lawrence who successfully embodies the female protagonist of the movie and to writer/director Gary Ross for infusing the film with enough heft and style. The result is an entertaining vision of a dystopian future.

What was once North America is now known as Panem, a nation of twelve districts and a controlling Capitol. Katniss and her family live in District 12 known for mining. That is where she takes care of her mother (Paula Malcomson) and her sister Primrose "Prim" (Willow Shields).

Lawrence received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her brilliant turn as Ree in the independent movie "Winter's Bone." In many ways, Katniss is very similar to Ree. Both must navigate through dangerous social terrains in order to protect their families.

The actress has an expressive face that she is so good in showing non-verbal emotional cues. This is a good skill to have especially since "The Hunger Games" is told in first-person narrative. We have to trust and listen to Katniss in order to believe in her.

In "The Hunger Games," every year on Reaping Day, each of the districts must choose, by lottery or volunteer, one boy and one girl to represent them in the Capitol's twisted idea of grand entertainment. That entertainment is called the Hunger Games where 24 adolescent warriors known as Tributes fight each other live on TV. Only one survivor remains.

When Prim is chosen for the Games, the brave and self-sacrificing Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place. Soon, she and her new co-Tribute, Peeta Mellark (the equally good Josh Hutcherson) are being pampered and trained to prepare for the Games.

The plot of fighting to the finish for live TV is not generally an original idea. From "Death Race 2000" to the Japanese cult classic "Battle Royale," we've seen this ploy before. But what makes "The Hunger Games" so vividly fresh are the memorable characters and its skillful storytelling.

It helps that Collins co-wrote the screenplay with Ross and Billy Ray ("State of Play"). The author's message involving war, poverty, and class divisions is not lost in translation. The best part about "The Hunger Games" is its strong "what if" factor. This could happen in America and soon, our young folks will be fighting for survival in our version of the Hunger Games. Watching Reality TV is just the first step people.

It makes sense that Ross eventually won to direct the movie. He touched upon adolescent angst and social separation in the excellent "Pleasantville" and proved that he could provide visceral form of entertainment with "Seabiscuit." It took him 9 years after the Oscar-nominated film to direct a new movie, but it's all worth the wait.

The rest of the cast provides ample support especially Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the tyrannical ruler of Capitol and all of Panem. I also enjoyed Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, the drunken former victor of the Hunger Games who becomes Katniss' mentor. I even took pleasure in watching Lenny Kravitz as Katniss' stylist, Cinna.

Katniss is a great female role model. She's complex, principled, brave, and strong. But underneath it all, she has an immense capability to love. She even conquers the hearts of two men namely Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss' best friend and hunting partner from District 12.




"The Hunger Games" is thematically violent that's why Ross used the shaky camera technique in order to mask some of the brutality. The film would probably be a better R-rated movie but such move will prevent the younger kids from watching. After all, according to the film, they are our future gladiators.

RATING: "THE HUNGER GAMES" 3 ½ KISSES

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