First Hit: A tad long but a satisfying storyline, some great acting and visually enticing.
This is an age old story about the have and have-nots.
The haves living their life of opulence and self-aggrandizing while they abuse the have-nots by making their young kill each other for their pleasure and television amusement. Remind you of history?
If this is a picture of how we could end up, it is very sad. Oppression of another human being is not the way out of our inability to see each and every human being as our equal.
In this version of this old story, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to step in for her younger sister who was selected, in her first year of eligibility, to be one of two warriors from the depressed area called District 12. From age 12 to age 18, once a year each district (there are 12) must submit two warriors to compete to the death as homage to their society and/or religious beliefs.
Her partner from District 12 is Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) a quiet unassuming boy who has had a difficult history. Together they are take a modern train to a very modern opulent city where they are groomed and trained to kill each other and the other 22 participants.
They are coached by a heavily drinking guide named Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson) and kind stylist named Cinna (played by Lenny Kravitz). The behind the scenes producer for the television program which everyone watches is Seneca Crane (played by Wes Bentley). He is under the guidance of President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland).
The MC for the television program where they are interviewed before being set out to kill each other is Caesar Flickerman (played by Stanley Tucci). One character which stood out for me besides the main characters was Rue (Amandla Stenberg) who was one of the 24 selected to be part of the killing. Her soft kindness and presence was one of the hopes of a better generation.
The visual shots, at times, were stunning the utopian city was well crafted to reflect both future and totalitarian Nazi like symbols. However, some of the hand-held stuff was just jerky stupid. One does not see the world in this jerky way and makes me wonder about the overuse and intentional camera movement.
Lawrence was, as she was in “Winter’s Bone” driven, clear and with feeling and kindness. She has an ability to emote strength and heartfelt empathy in one look. Hutcherson was solid as the guy who knew he was going to die, was self-effacing and yet let it be known he was in love. Harrelson was, again, superb. Kravitz was very strong as someone who cared about the participants. Tucci was on the edge of being over the top as the MC – wonderful job. Bentley was good but I was very distracted by his beard. Stenberg was sublime. Sutherland was very good as the President who controlled the games uncaringly. Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray created a strong script from the book of the same name. Gary Ross allowed this film to unfold well but some of his choices of camera shots – especially the jerky ones were ill advised and take away from being engaged with the film.
Overall: This was enjoyable if a bit long and made me wonder why this film and the books are aimed at and popular with teens.