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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The sci-fi novel-turned-film thrills teens — and grownups, too

Imax viewing of The Hunger Games will only enhance audience appreciation of the spectacular cinematography here: the landscapes of the districts appear appropriately grim and gritty, while those of the Capitol are magically surreal. I found the shaky handheld camera shots of District 12 and the games arena overdone to the point of being nauseating, and completely unnecessary as the other elements of the film come together to convey sufficient tension and drama. Director Ross did a terrific job of communicating the horror of the games while limiting the explicit violence, somewhat, on screen.  Without hitting us over the head, a la Avatar, Ross also employed nifty 21st century tech stunts, as the game masters unleash hologram tiger-like beasts and roaring fireballs upon the players — or tributes, as they are called — with a tap on a touch screen. Equally admirable was Ross’s adroit scripting, with the help of Suzanne Collins and writer Billy Ray (State of Play), along with the actors’ adaptation of dialogue, to mimic unmistakably our culture’s fascination with reality and entertainment TV.

Through those elements, Collins and Ross make clear their messages about our modern-day entertainment/celebrity obsessed culture.  But what I most liked about The Hunger Games was the subtext it offered up on nationally sanctioned warfare, and the effect that has on the kids who sign up for it, voluntarily or involuntarily. The tributes in the games, while in the face of the most illogical, inhuman battle, refer routinely to making their districts proud, but if you watch The Hunger Games closely, you’ll also witness how hollow a goal that ends up being, for them and for the audience.

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