Our reviews of the 74th annual “Hunger Games”


Photo credit: Murray Close

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in “The Hunger Games.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment/Murray Close

By now, most of you have likely heard about “The Hunger Games,” which raked in an amazing $155 million, launching it into the top three on the list of highest grossing opening weekends. It tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager in a post-civil war world where an annual Hunger Games pits 24 children against each other in a fight to the death.

If you’re one of the 12 people who waited to see the movie — or if you just want to know how we felt — here are four opinions from our movie-reviewing tributes.



Lindsy Neer

Rating: 8.5

Hasn’t read the book

The premise of “the Hunger Games” sounded pretty awesome to me, an action-film junkie who loved “Battle Royale,” a Japanese film about schoolchildren left on a remote island to fight to the death until only one survives. (It ends in a similar fashion, with students outwitting the system to escape.) However, having not read “The Hunger Games” first, I had no idea how emotional the movie would be, while still fulfilling my need for fighting.

I’ll say it again: I loved this movie. I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence since she was up for an Oscar for “Winter’s Bone.” I know the books have a lot of inner dialogue, but even without it, for the most part I understood and felt Katniss’ inner struggle trying to survive the games and convince people to like her.

Lawrence wasn’t alone with the stellar performances. From what I’ve heard of the character Effie Trinket, Elizabeth Banks played her perfectly. I also loved Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz, both of whom I adore watching on screen.

Having said that, there were a few things that, since I didn’t read the book, didn’t exactly make sense. The first was Banks’ character. I don’t even remember hearing her name, never mind what her purpose was. But I was still entertained by her even though I had no clue why she was there.

Once they got to the games, I was confused as to why Peeta was spending his time helping lead Cato and the other badasses to Katniss. It’s pretty obvious he wouldn’t actually kill Katniss, so why help them? Apparently he tries to keep them away from her, but I didn’t get that vibe in the movie. To me, it seemed more like a survival tactic for him. Peeta isn’t the survivalist Katniss is and needed the stronger competitors to keep him alive. It isn’t until the tracker jackers scene that it’s obvious he’s putting himself on the line to protect Katniss.

The final thing I didn’t fully understand was Katniss’ feelings for Peeta. Yes, I know that by the end of the book she is confused about her feelings, but there weren’t enough moments in the movie where I really got that she was pretending to love him in order to appease sponsors. Granted, without her inner dialogue, this is difficult. If she’s pretending well, it’s obviously going to look like she truly cares for him.

I was hoping there would be a definite scene at the end where Peeta finds out it was all an act. We almost got it with the scene on the train on their way back to District 12, but it wasn’t enough for me.

By the end of “The Hunger Games” I was crying, but still wanting more. I was able to connect to Katniss’ character, which made her emotions all the more real for me. It didn’t help that even when Katniss and Peeta win, there’s the foreboding sense that this is just the beginning and their lives will never be fun, carefree or enjoyable.

Contact Lindsy Neer at [email protected].


Kelsey Misbrener

Rating: 9

Read the book

The extreme close-ups and Blair Witch Project style cinematography sent Hunger Games fans fighting to the death right next to the tributes in the arena. We squirmed at the sexual tension between Peeta and Katniss. We cried at Katniss’s devastating loss of Rue. We rejoiced when Seneca Crane announced the winners of the game. We felt much more invested in each character’s life than if the director chose a more zoomed-out, traditional approach to filming.

The in-your-face style especially worked when the tracker jackers attacked Katniss. Her hallucinogenic haze was even more painful to witness than it was in the book. Shaky angles and bass-heavy sounds made it seem like the audience got stung too.

Along with perfect film style, the casting was also pretty spot-on. Jennifer Lawrence played the blunt, brave and brash Katniss that matched my vision of her in the book. Josh Hutcherson’s version of Peeta was even more likable in the movie. His pure love for Katniss was never doubted; the way he looked at her every time she spoke made it clear.

Willow Shields played an innocent, loving Prim that anyone would’ve sacrificed their lives for, like Katniss did.

Effie Trinket, Caesar Flickerman and Haymitch Abernathy were also cast beautifully. The contrast of Effie with her long nails, embellished outfits and poufy hair, to the drab and plainly dressed District 12 residents at the reaping was haunting. She was a perfect example of the difference between Seam dwellers and Capitol citizens. Caesar, the interviewer played by Stanley Tucci, was a welcome comic relief to a rather heartbreaking movie. His guffawing laugh was infectious not only to the tributes, but to the audience as well. And Woody Harrelson mastered Haymitch’s tough love and alcoholic nature.

The Gale Hawthorne played by Liam Hemsworth wasn’t the best fit. Gale is supposed to be the town heartthrob, but I think Hemsworth just made it cheesy. I almost didn’t believe Katniss would be friends with him since she’s so down to earth and he seemed very full of himself.

The other tributes also weren’t very believable. Rue was cast well, but the others just seemed childish. When the Career Tributes frolicked through the woods together excitedly singing, “Let’s kill her!” I rolled my eyes. Although they obviously had the upper hand in the game because of their strong alliance, realistically they still wouldn’t be that excited about killing fellow tributes.

The tribute parade was another corny moment. I imagined a haunting ceremony with Katniss and Peeta illuminated by beautiful flames. The movie version was not nearly as hard-hitting — the flames didn’t seem to stand out much at all. I wish they’d waited until it was darker outside instead of filming in the light where the flames were only mediocre.

Though a few scenes didn’t meet my expectations, overall it was one of the best book to movie adaptations I’ve ever seen. Fans of the book will not be let down by the movie.

Contact Kelsey Misbrener at [email protected].


Rex Santus

Rating: 5

Read the book

“The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins’ impossibly popular young adult novel about televised teenage death matches, is the type of one-sit read that left me cold. I read the book swiftly; I felt exhilarated, bewildered at times. I felt like rolling my eyes at others. By the time I finished the book, however, I felt no urgency. The book, in its best moments, almost had me believing I was wrong: Maybe “The Hunger Games” does live up to the hype.

It doesn’t, and neither does its film adaptation. That isn’t to say the film is not an improvement upon its source material. Whether or not this film was any good, it was going to have a colossal, near Harry Potter-size fan base. Am I missing something? The premise is recycled (see “Battle Royale,” “The Running Man,” “Series 7: The Contenders”), and its heroine is almost too saintly for me to digest. Although she’s forced to compete in gladiatorial combat, Katniss never kills anyone unless absolutely cornered.

My disconnect with this story: The questions about morality and the depths we might go to survive which this premise poses are sidestepped for wimpy teenage romances and a pleasant lead character. Are we really supposed to believe the passive Katniss won this thing?

So it’s a huge testament to Jennifer Lawrence (a remarkable young actress, whom I’ve had my eye on since 2010s “Winter’s Bone”) that she can breathe life into this character. Her Katniss seems like a sister to Ree Dolly — Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated role — imbued with a backwoods toughness and beneath-the-surface vulnerability that make her something more than what Collins could do with four pages of exposition. Lawrence’s Katniss is convincing. I cared about her, something I cannot say about Collins’ character.

The rest of the film’s characters are mostly boring. Hutcherson can hardly keep up with Lawrence. Woody Harrelson is wasted as Haymitch. Elizabeth Banks is hardly recognizable as Effie. Donald Sutherland is decent as President Snow. Only Lenny Kravitz, as Katniss’ stylist Cinna, is worth mentioning. He and Jennifer Lawrence have twice the onscreen chemistry she has with either of her love interests. The moment the two characters share right before Katniss is lifted into the arena is the movie’s best.

Otherwise, the “action” was neutered, emasculated for a PG-13 rating. The film pulls its punches. But the producers had money on the mind, and director Gary Ross does his best to wring tension and violence out of a tween-friendly script. There are some thrilling sequences — the tracker jackers, the first confrontation between the tributes — but I can’t help but think an R-rating would’ve served “The Hunger Games” well (artistically, not financially). Also, the constant shaky camerawork was nauseating.

For all its flaws, “The Hunger Games” is adequate popcorn entertainment and will, no doubt, please its swarms of unwavering fans. For this viewer, it wasn’t enough. Doesn’t “The Hunger Games” have anything to say other than being part of the Hunger Games is awful? I don’t think it does. It all feels rehashed and tame. The film is too content with avoiding the disturbing themes it represents.

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].


Natalie Moses

Rating: 9.5

Read the book

I laughed. I cried. I fell in love. I held my breath and covered my eyes, despite knowing exactly what came next. And afterward, I stomped out of the theater filled with rage and pride, willing to join Panem’s rebellion and fight off every last Peacekeeper.

By the time I got past all the middle school badasses that were allowed out until 2:30 a.m., I remembered that Katniss, Panem and the Hunger Games aren’t even real. But that’s what the film does to you. From the very beginning, you’re transported to a place in the future where exuberant, futuristic luxury and barbaric brutality live side by side.

I was hoping that “The Hunger Games” wouldn’t be the same letdown as “The Twilight Saga” movies with an expressionless main character, but I wasn’t expecting it to blow my mind like the “Harry Potter” film series. However, it went above and beyond my expectations and did justice to the book maybe even more so than the “Harry Potter” films did.

While someone who doesn’t read the “Harry Potter” books misses out on a lot by only watching the movies, I think non-readers of “The Hunger Games” can appreciate the film just as much as a reader of the series. For example, I dragged someone (who thought it was called “The Hungry Games”) to the midnight premiere that was planning on sleeping through the show: They ended up loving it.

No details were spared on set, from makeup and costume, to stunts and scenery, not to mention visual effects. Suzanne Collins’s glamorous Capitol metropolis and its (literally) colorful people were brought to life on screen, and the depiction of what the world may actually be like in a few centuries isn’t entirely unrealistic. Everything’s similar to how things are today, just amplified and taken to extremes (think Lady Gaga clothes and the show “Survivor” on steroids). The arena and its space-age control room provided perfect battle scenes that were disturbing while not too gory. The dazzling set would be nothing without the cast that fit their parts perfectly in physical appearance as well as character portrayal.

Jennifer Lawrence was — for lack of a better term — an absolute boss in executing the role of Katniss Everdeen. The fearless main character would tenderly sing her little sister to sleep just as quick as she’d turn around and butcher anyone that tries to mess with her. Josh Hutcherson, or Peeta Mellark, managed to pull off another character that has polar opposite attributes: kindhearted and caring but strong and fierce. Liam Hemsworth does a fantastic job of being gorgeous, I mean, portraying a loyal best friend, and the crazy-eyed, drunken mentor, Haymitch, is played by Woody Harrelson.

Where most novel-turned-movies have a guaranteed core audience, “The Hunger Games” can be for anyone. It’s a little bit war movie, love story and jab at society all pulled together with a great plot and topped off with suspense that anyone from middle school to nursing home can enjoy. The odds are in your favor that if you go see this movie, you’ll undoubtedly be hungry for more.

Contact Natalie Moses at [email protected].