I really hate to be a director who has to take on a project that requires converting a popular book into a movie form. Gary Ross is a brave man because the weight of the success or failure of The Hunger Games film which is based upon the altar of popular book series rests squarely upon his shoulder.
Looking back on the film very there are a few things that actually stick out about this application. Ross pushed the envelope and dare to evolve the story in the world beyond the book making the film much darker, scarier and a bit more political than I recall the book being.
If you've seen the trailer or read the book then you probably already understand the basic premise of the film however you haven't I will sum it up for you. In a post-apocalyptic world divided into districts one boy and one girl from each district must be offered up as tribute and fight to the death in a televised tournament called the Hunger Games.
The film's heroine Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), is a girl from underprivileged district 12 who bravely volunteers to take her sister's place in the Games. In order to survive, Katniss not only needs to rely on her survival skills and killer instinct she also has to win over the viewing audience who can wager on tributes and even send them potentially life-saving gifts if they are among the favorites.
Events in the movie followed the book almost religiously, hitting upon all the big moments people who've read the books wanted to see: Katniss hunting with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), the emotional Reaping ceremony, training, interviews with Caesar, the cave scene with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the muttation-filled conclusion.
Once the tributes enter the arena, that's where the bloodshed begins but don't worry folks it's a PG-13 movie so while the scenes may be brutal they are shown in very quick flashes.
It's inside the arena where the movie probably hits its emotional high, thanks to a rather shocking death to a pivotal character. The scene definitely does Collins' writing justice and sets Katniss' rebellion against The Capital in motion. It's one those scenes where if you read the book you know it's coming but you're hoping maybe the movie will change it. I'm knocking us both for you so if you want to know you can read the book our wait to actually watch it.
One scene that sticks out to me the most probably because it wasn't in the books is when bad guys Presidents Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) explain the true motivation and reason behind the game. This seeing will send chills down your spine and leave you wanting more from Snow in any future installments of the film.
There are a few things that this film didn't do well as far as living up to the book and they are rather minor but a grand point them out now. First thing I had issues with was Collins' tale is told from Katniss' point-of-view, which means much of her inner-dialogue is lost in translation to the screen. While people who read the books will know what she's thinking, nonreaders might not fully grasp Katniss' real motives behind her blossoming romance with Peeta.
The other thing I had a problem with was the fact that Katniss' two "Girl on Fire" dresses don't really live up to the wonder and amazement I had pictured in my head because the way they're written about in the book. Even though their CGI'ed it just doesn't quite work for me.
So to sum it for everything this film gets wrong it gets a dozen or so other things right or even better than I imagined. While hunger games isn't a perfect film and it's hard to really fit the entire book into the 142 I will say it's a powerfully strong piece of cinematic beauty anchored by a strong female lead and just overall great acting all around. This movie is definitely a must-see and I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.