"The Hunger Games" is a rare book-turned-movie that's able to live up to the gigantic hype of the book series it's based upon, while also standing out as a superbly crafted action blockbuster all its own. It's a marvelously entertaining thrill ride from start to finish that never forgoes its characters' humanity, nor does it ever abandon the strong political and social undertones of its source material. In the end, not only did this film exceed all my expectations of what a cinematic adaptation could accomplish, but it truly encapsulated everything I felt while reading the novel for the first time.
The story basically follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the nation of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. Every year, the Capitol forces each of its twelve districts to select a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games, a televised event in which contestants must battle each other to the death until only one person is left. Katniss of District 12 volunteers in her younger sister's place and is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts and make impossible choices in the arena if she's ever to return home.
Director Gary Ross truly encompasses all the high-stakes intensity and brutally complex emotions of the book right down to a tee. Not once does a scene go by where the tension isn't palpable and the atmosphere isn't chilling to the core. The frenetic pacing and violent cutaways of the screenplay only add to the breathlessness of the situation. But without a doubt, the movie's main backbone is its brilliant cast. Jennifer Lawrence owns the lead role of Katniss. With every facial expression she makes, you can feel her character's desperation and perseverance. You can immediately relate to her not just as a heroine, but as a true person who must do the unthinkable in order to stay alive. Josh Hutcherson also does a fantastic job as Peeta Mellark, one of Katniss' main love interests. Although he's not the primary focus of the story, his screen presence only adds to the complexity of his and Katniss' plight. In addition, Woody Harrelson absolutely nails the character of Haymitch Abernathy, as do Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Donald Sutherland as the villainous President Snow, among many others. From the gripping plot to the amazing performances, this is a marvelously directed motion picture indeed.
With its engaging narrative set-up, unforgettable cast of characters and ferociously powerful action sequences, "The Hunger Games" sets the bar surprisingly high for the rest of this year's pack of blockbusters. Perhaps my only minor complaint would be the film's excessive camera shaking at times, but that's about it. I can honestly say that watching this movie with my friends was truly an exhilarating experience all the way to the end credits. All in all, whether you've read the books or simply want to be entertained to the highest extent, I recommend purchasing this terrific adventure. You won't regret it! and is the best movie I have seen in my entire life and I have seen every movie made.