The Twenty-First Century

The Hunger Games [2012]

You need an actor with the dramatic heft of Donald Sutherland to deliver the eight words that vile his character’s hisses here with such lip-smacking relish: “May the odds be ever in your favor”. “The Hunger Games”, the screen version of Suzanne Collins’ novel about  a sixteen-year-old girl who volunteers to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive, isn’t a movie at all- it’s an industry and should be treated as such.What’s the investment strategy? The budget is high, $100 million. But remember that the book has already sold millions of copies (yep I did my homework) and has been translated into 26 different languages. And the young “adults” who read them are panting to see the flick even if they have to take their parents along. You do the math. And factor this in: Collins has already published two sequels. Stephanie Meyer, eat your heart out. How confident is Lionsgate that “The Hunger Games” will strike gold? We’ll have to talk about that in a month or so.What kind of star power did the budget buy? plenty. Jennifer Lawrence, terrific in “Winter’s Bone” gives a dynamite performance here as our leading lady. She owns this movie, unlike Twilight’s Bella Swan. Same goes for Josh Hutcherson (“The Kids are All Right”), Stanley Tucci (in one of his best roles) and Woody Harrelson (a former victor in the Games now acting as mentor to both our heroes). The plot? Epic by all means. But let’s keep it spoiler free shall we? What you need to know however  is that the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and that the games are a punishment invented by the Capitol of Panem for 12 districts whose rebellion against Capitol failed more than 74 years ago. In the words of the great Donald Sutherland: “you screwed us so we’ll screw you”. Sweet. Every year on Reaping Day, a boy and a girl (ages 12 to 18) from each district are chosen by lottery to fight to the death in a televised survival event created by head Games-maker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley).Yep you probably guessed it; Jennifer Lawrence is one of the competitors. So’s Josh Hutcherson, who’s secretly in love with her. Ok ok I promised not to spoil anything. Therefore, I’ll say no more.

I admit: I’ve never read the book. But the movie is long and occasionally long winded, but it’s also a great , twisty ride. If like myself, you’ve never read the book, the movie will hook you good and keep you riveted. Director Gary Ross truly raised the bar here, and adds humanity to the story. That’s always a good thing. All the actors excel, notably Lawrence and Tucci, but it’s the tale itself that hurtles the movie along. That momentum carries you over the film’s few rough patches.”The Hunger Games”, the most entertaining movie of the year so far, has enough jitters and juice to make even nonbelievers wild about the “Games”.Getting lost in this hypnotic world is what gives the movie its haunting power. I say bring on part duo.

Rating: 3/4

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