by Josh Wigler and Kevin P. Sullivan
When a high profile literary adaptation as big as "The Hunger Games" hits theaters, the quality of the actual movie can be a secondary detail. Luckily, a talented cast and a skilled director have not only put together a faithful adaptation, but one that doesn't suck, at all. "The Hunger Games" struck the treacherous balance between loyalty to the book and working as a standalone movie. We kind of love it.
Here are our five reasons to check out "The Hunger Games." (Although, you probably already have tickets.)
The whole cast of "Hunger Games" is pretty terrific, but the standout is obvious. Haters, take a hike: Lawrence is Katniss. She isn't an Oscar-nominated actress for nothing, and she proves it all throughout "Hunger Games" with a beautifully nuanced performance that rises far above occasionally clunky writing. As Katniss, Lawrence presents us with one of the most intensely watchable action heroines of the modern age. It's a character we can't wait to see more of in the coming years.
Gary Ross' Direction
To appreciate just how well Gary Ross handled the difficult images of Suzanne Collins' novel, you mainly have to consider what the movie doesn't do. It doesn't sensationalize or drum-up the drama. When the tributes first leave their podiums in the arena, the sound drains out and the camera focuses on the scattered chaos. Similarly, when Katniss volunteers to enter the place of her sister and Jennifer Lawrence delivers the "I volunteer!" line that seems to stick with you, there's no sweeping musical movement to tell us "THIS IS TRAGIC!" Ross demonstrates throughout the movie that he can make the tough decisions and that he was the right man for the job.
A Whole New World
On a related note, Ross is able to open up the world of "The Hunger Games" in a far greater way than what readers experience in Collins' first novel. That's not a knock against the source material -- by necessity of the first-person perspective, readers can only view events from Katniss' own POV. But in the film, that perspective comes unhinged, and as a result, viewers can visit the Control Room, they can hang with Haymitch during the games, they can gawk at Seneca Crane's incredible beard without being directly inside of Katniss' mind. It's a great choice that serves the film incredibly well.
Liam Hemsworth Cutaways
Nothing provides comic relief quite like a smash cut to the disappointed blue eyes of Liam Hemsworth. A trick Ross uses a few times during the film, the Gale Cutaway adds the perfect amount of perspective and "wuh-oh" factor to the events in the arena. "Oh, that's a really tender moment between Katniss and Peeta." Cut to Gale. "Wuh-oh." It works every time.
It Goes For It
When the first set of children are horribly slaughtered during the opening moments of the Hunger Games, one thing becomes clear right off the bat: this movie is not "Twilight." Those comparisons won't ever go away forever, but anyone who sees "Hunger Games" will view carnage and darkness the likes of which Bella and Edward and their fans have never truly known. You can't make a movie about a child-killing tournament without killing some children. "Hunger Games" definitely kills children. It's intense to watch, but the brutality is faithful to the tone and spirit of the source material -- aka, not gratuitous, but still very dangerous and very real. Fans should be very, very pleased.
Do you plan on seeing "The Hunger Games" this weekend? Hit us up in the comments section below or let us know on Twitter!