With the media build-up to the opening of the movie “The Hunger Games,” it was no surprise that the dystopian film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ book did exceedingly well on its opening weekend.
But is it any good?
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”
Photo credit: Murray Close
Reviews are generally positive; certainly that’s the case with reviews by local critics Colin Covert and Chris Hewitt (look at that – they agreed on something!).
But some noteworthy national critics found the movie lacking depth; read on to see a range of opinions, and be sure to leave your own in the comments section.
I don’t think there has been a studio sci-fi film this idea-rich since “The Matrix.” Viewers who like a side order of political allegory with their science fiction will find much to savor here. So will romantics, fans of feminist heroines and action enthusiasts. “The Hunger Games” is that rare creation, an event movie of real significance.
“Hunger Games” pulls off the rare trick (filmmaker Francois Truffaut said it was impossible, in fact) of depicting violence without celebrating it. There’s a reason it takes more than an hour for the movie to get to the event that gives it its title. Without stinting on the action, Ross’ film shows us a sick, brutal society and then introduces us to a few characters who might be ready to start doing something about it.
From Manohla Dargis at the New York Times:
What invests Katniss with such exciting promise and keeps you rapt even when the film proves less than equally thrilling is that she also doesn’t need saving, even if she’s at an age when, most movies still insist, women go weak at the knees and whimper and weep while waiting to be saved. Again and again Katniss rescues herself with resourcefulness, guts and true aim, a combination that makes her insistently watchable, despite Mr. Ross’s soft touch and Ms. Lawrence’s bland performance. One look at District 12, which Mr. Ross conceives as a picturesque old-timey town — filled with withered Dorothea Lange types in what was once Appalachia — and it’s clear that someone here was enthralled with the actress’s breakout turn in “Winter’s Bone” as a willful, resilient child of the Ozarks.
“The Hunger Games” is an effective entertainment, and Jennifer Lawrence is strong and convincing in the central role. But the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism; compare its world with the dystopias in “Gattaca” or “The Truman Show.” Director Gary Ross and his writers (including the series’ author, Suzanne Collins) obviously think their audience wants to see lots of hunting-and-survival scenes, and has no interest in people talking about how a cruel class system is using them. Well, maybe they’re right. But I found the movie too long and deliberate as it negotiated the outskirts of its moral issues.