It’s backed by great performances but falls short on depicting the gruesome reality of the Hunger Games, suffers from excessive camera jerks, and becomes a watered down version of Battle Royale.

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. — (C) Lionsgate

The first part of the film is amusing. It’s a mocking satire of reality television wherein the participants are regarded as no more than entertainment, no matter how inhuman the game really is. The extravagant and pompous launch of the event shows how twisted the games are – the Capitol’s citizens cheer on and celebrate the impending death of children which are interviewed in a talk show like celebrities.

At the center of this are the protagonists Katniss and Peeta, who are portrayed with great performances. Jennifer Lawrence brings her resolve from Winter’s Bone, creating a self-assured character that you can root for. Her character is complemented by Josh Hutcherson’s sorrowful Peeta, who manages to stay strong despite being constantly overshadowed.

At the Capitol, there are also other characters who stood out – Stanley Tucci as the entertaining talk show host, Wes Bentley as the game coordinator with a manicured beard, and Donald Sutherland as the cruel president.

However, the movie suffers from some poor tricks. The camera is jerked around even when there is no actual fight going on, and when there is one, its whirled around and you barely know what’s happening. It fits in scenes where Katniss runs through the woods, but other than that its an assault to your eyes. The other characters barely register because of the editing, as the movie is too preoccupied with its protagonists and the impending game.

But when the game finally begins, it fails to live up to the build up of the first part of the movie. The movie avoids an R rating with excessive camera jerks, but the audience doesn’t get to feel the reality of the Hunger Games. By glossing over death, there’s also no sense of loss and tragedy. It turns into a watered down version of Battle Royale instead, minus the fascinating villains. Cato and his gang are more like stuck up bullies in high school compared to Mitsuko and Kiriyama. The only time that the audience is reminded of what the game entails is through Rue’s fate, played by Amandla Stenberg, and one death involving wasps.

Setting aside its flaws the movie is good, buoyed by the performance of Jennifer Lawrence. It’s still an entertaining movie, and way better than Twilight.

My Rating: 7/10

PS. I haven’t read the books and based my review solely on the film.

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