Fresh off the airplane, I decided to celebrate my return with a trip to the theater. My movie of choice? “The Hunger Games,” a film in which children attempt to kill each other for sport. The story follows Katniss Everdeen, a girl chosen to compete in the games alongside twenty-three other young warriors. Each of them grasps for victory, knowing only one person will walk out of the arena alive.
Gary Ross has directed some pretty well-known films. In particular, he wrote “Big” with Tom Hanks and directed “Pleasantville” with Tobey Maguire. Although “The Hunger Games” was the financially successful part-one of a young adult novel trilogy, Ross has stated that he won’t be returning to direct the sequel. Even though the movie “has grossed $310 million domestically and an additional $157 million overseas,” Ross says “As a writer and director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.”
Still, he does a brilliant job with this film. Ross captures the desolation and utter helplessness that pervade the fictional country of Panem, a post-apocalyptic war-torn country residing within the borders of the former United States. Running at nearly two and a half hours, the first section of the film is largely exposition, setting the rules of the game and introducing the players. This section lays the groundwork for what happens in the arena. People who will play important roles and talents that will pop up later in deadly situations are subtly shown to the audience.
All of this build-up pays off once Katniss and her opponents are in the arena. The fast-paced nature of the game kept me riveted to the screen, eyes darting to and fro, desperately seeking more and more action. Ironically, a film that mocks the concept of making a spectacle of war and death ends up being a spectacle itself. If I have one complaint, it would be that Ross relies too heavily on handheld cameras, causing much of the film’s best action to become lost in shaky jump cuts. Several scenes would have benefited from stationary camera work.
“The Hunger Games” is a near-perfect adaption for those of us fortunate enough to have already read the books. For viewers trying to discover the reason for the hype, or those who are genuinely clueless about the original media, the movie should serve well enough as a young adult action film. Honestly, though, I’m surprised the movie received a PG-13 rating. I wouldn’t take my children to it, because that would mean I’d have to tell them I’m their real father ;)