Driving by the Christiansburg movie theater last Thursday night, one would think that a ninth “Harry Potter” movie was about to premiere based on the crowd. But instead of wizards and wands, these people lined up to see battles and blood.
“The Hunger Games,” based on the best-selling novel, opened to excited fans all over the country last Friday. I have to say, the book lover part of me really liked the movie because of how close it was to the novel, but my inner movie critic was not as satisfied.
To save everyone from the tedious discussion of differences and similarities between the book and movie, I would have to say that for the most part, “The Hunger Games” movie stayed very true to the book. Of course some scenes were shortened and minor characters omitted, but to capture every detail of the book would have been impossible in two-and-a-half hours.
Die-hard fans of the book series will most likely nitpick about how characters didn’t look like they imagined or how a certain scene was not given enough time, but this is a movie review, not a comparative essay.
For those who have not read “The Hunger Games,” the plot is quite similar to “Gladiator” (2000), only it takes place in the future, the fighters are children ages 12 to 18 and the main character is a female — not an enslaved Roman general. OK, it’s not that similar.
In the dystopian world of Panem, the citizens of the 12 “districts” are forced to send a young girl and boy to the nation’s capital to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a televised arena-based battle. There, the children must fight to the death, until only one person remains and is crowned the victor.
Jennifer Lawrence plays protagonist Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to fight in the games after her younger sister’s name is called out in the lottery. Lawrence, an Academy Award nominee, is able to convey Katniss’s tough outer shell, while letting her vulnerable side shine through when appropriate.
Another standout performance is Woody Harrelson, who plays Haymitch, Katniss’s mentor throughout the games. Starting out as a drunken misanthrope, Haymitch slowly transforms into a somewhat caring person as he sees Katniss’s true abilities and spirit.
And both of Katniss’s two love interests Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, and Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, give decent performances. Even better, the love triangle is not exploited to the point where the whole franchise becomes a question of who will Katniss chose as her boyfriend. That’s what “The Twilight Saga” is for.
The production design was stunning. From the woodland-based arena to the modern city of the Capitol, the scenery was amazing. I definitely related to the setting of the arena as most of the movie was filmed in North Carolina. The Appalachian Mountains are not hard to identify.