Thursday, March 29, 2012

'Hunger Games' Left Me Fully Satisfied

Normally, when books get the silver screen treatment, the results are mixed at best, depressing at worst. There are exceptions, of course, most of the Harry Potter films were wonderfully entertaining, though the book experience is almost uniformly superior. Largely, the movies are pale, disappointing imitations.

Therefore, I didn't hold out a ton of hope that The Hunger Games film would impress me as much as the books did (pure page-turners), particularly when I learned that the filmmakers wanted to make the material palatable to the PG-13 crowd. But how far would they go? Would they water down this dark tale of an authoritarian government punishing its 12 impoverished districts for rebelling by compelling one boy and one girl from each area to compete in an annual televised fight to the death? Would they make Katniss Everdeen, the heroine from District 12, too girlish or too Angelina Jolie action figure sexy? Would her character lose her moral ferocity?

The good news is that they didn't reduce 16-year-old Katniss to a Disney Channel character nor did she come off as a sexpot They also didn't diminish the horrific poignancy of the tale of the absolute, brutal power of unchecked governmental power over a demoralized, cowed, out-gunned citizenry. All of those elements were still there, likely because the author of the trilogy, Suzanne Collins, was very involved in the film.

When my 13-year-old Hunger Games fan son and I went to see it on its opening weekend, we both agreed that while it wasn't overly gory (the violent scenes featured shaky camera movements that blurred the action so you couldn't see exactly what was happening) it still effectively drove home the points made in the series: This is a horrifying situation for all the children involved -- and you do see them as children -- and for Katniss, her violence was defensive and reluctant, yet fearless.

The scenes with little 12-year-old competitor Rue . . . they made me tear up, just as the ones in the book did. Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss) was outstanding and Stanley Tucci (as the blue-haired Hunger Games' TV host Caesar Flickerman) was fabulous.

I can only hope that they keep the team together for the next installment, Catching Fire.

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