Movie Week #3: The Hunger Games

Both Mike and I have young daughters just entering their teens.  Given that statement, it should come as no surprise to hear that the movie we’re reviewing this week is ‘The Hunger Games’.  Not quite as towering a presence in the YA literature world as ‘Harry Potter’ (but heading that way!), the first book in Suzanne Collins’ immensely popular trilogy is now the first runaway blockbuster of the season, managing to stay atop the charts for multiple weeks.  So…. how was it?

I went into ‘The Hunger Games’ as a near-complete blank slate.  I say ‘near-complete’ rather than complete because I read the first couple of chapters when Alia first picked up the book and I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of the plots and characters from her ever since.

To do well at the box office, ‘The Hunger Games’ had to satisfy a certain number of criteria, but those hurdles aren’t very high (as evidence, I present the steady performance of the Twilight series of movies).  It had to present the major points of the book in a mostly-faithful manner, have believable actors playing the characters in the manner that was expected from their depictions in the novel, and had to engage the target audience with the proper amount of action, intelligence, and world-building.  Obviously, as far as the target audience was concerned, the movie met those goals, and surpassed them handily; the box office take demonstrates that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Although I’m not in the target audience for ‘The Hunger Games’, I’ll admit that it did a much better than expected job of building an interesting, engaging world, with characters whose problems immediately resonated with the audience.  I went into the movie with a moderate expectation that it would be okay, and was very happy to be proven quite wrong, as it was deserving of the hype that has grown up around it.  While some of the plot lines and details seemed a bit thin and derivative (especially to someone who’s been reading SF for 40 years), the movie didn’t have gaping logic holes or massively inconsistent characterizations.  Instead, it provides the audience with a quickly developing problem and a number of interesting and/or sympathetic characters who act like you might expect real people to do, if placed in similar situations.

I’m deliberately staying away from details of plot and in-depth examinations of the characters.  Part of the fun of the movie, for me at least as a newbie, was to see everything unfold without any expectations.  If you already know what’s going to happen, an explanation from me won’t help you, and if you don’t, then you’re better off not knowing too much when you take your seat.  Suffice it to say that I was very happy I went to see it, and I expect that I’ll watch it again (it will be a must-purchase by Alia when it is released on blu-ray) and also that I’ll line up for the next movie in the series.  Without duplicating it in any way, ‘The Hunger Games’ movie seems to be following the ‘Harry Potter’ series’ example of how to make an excellent movie out of a popular book series.

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