Gary Ross’ Hunger Games Still Holds 10 Years Later | Pretty Reel

It’s been over 10 long years since The Hunger Games hit theaters to (mostly) critical acclaim and commercial success. The shocking story of Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) dismantling of the corrupt Capitol led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has transformed adaptations of young adult novels, transforming them from scintillating vampires and boy wizards into dark allegories of war and the circular nature of violence.

Suzanne Collins’ brilliant trilogy of novels kicked off a series steeped in YA tropes — dystopian future, love triangle, kitschy premise — and had the nerve to turn it into a powerful tragedy brimming with violence and compelling political intrigue. The story takes some interesting turns on the way to its bittersweet conclusion, which lingers on the aftermath of the nasty conflict – a choice that somehow makes the events all the more real.

Translating these novels to the screen was always going to be a difficult task. How do you market a dark franchise whose main focus revolves around the ruthless murder of innocent children?

Luckily for Lionsgate, writer/director Gary Ross rose to the challenge, and the seasoned filmmaker tackled Collins’ subject matter head-on with The Hunger Games in 2012. Boasting a rather modest budget, Ross manages to bring this future society to life. depraved through the use of handheld cameras and clever editing. And while some may balk at the restraint Ross shows when it comes to the death and mayhem of real-life games, his kinetic approach shows just enough to highlight the macabre violence while leaving the rest to our imaginations.

Yet the key to The Hunger Games’ success is its perfect cast. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Evergreen through and through — it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. His performance somehow grounds the madness; and his character is simultaneously thrilled, formidable, and disgusted by this new world. I love the scene where she’s on TV talking with Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman. She is forced to attract an audience she hates to love in order to get sponsors.

There’s a great scene between Katniss and Peeta (played by the terrific Josh Hutcherson) that could have turned out sickeningly, but which works thanks to the cast’s understated performances:

Similarly, Lawrence’s silent reaction to the death of Rue (Amandla Stenberg) makes the scene even more tragic:

Lawrence is aided by stellar players. Like I said, Hutcherson plays Peeta with enough self-doubt to cast the character as a spunky outsider, even if he’s got plenty of nobility. Liam Hemsworth makes the most of his limited screen time as Katniss Gale’s friend, while Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks provide excellent support as drunken Haymitch and made-up, playful Effie. Lenny Kravitz and Wes Bentley also lend a hand in their respective roles.

Oh, and Sutherland as the evil President Snow is literally perfection.

Ultimately, The Hunger Games does its job and establishes a unique new world and a handful of interesting characters for audiences to bond with. It certainly follows the mantra of the YA adaptation down to Snow’s enigmatic walk down the stairs in the final scene – foreshadowing other entries to come. Except that where failed attempts such as The Golden Compass, Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, Eragon, etc. relied too heavily on spectacle to appeal to moviegoers, Ross and Co. wisely focused its attention on calm character interactions to sell their story.

That doesn’t mean the movie is perfect. Some of the effects are dated and Ross’ use of the “shaky camera” gets a little gratuitous at times. Rue’s relationship with Katniss needed a little more time to breathe in order to really capture the emotional punch that comes with her death, and the grand finale involving mutant dogs and one-dimensional villain Cato (Alexander Ludwig) Seems a bit undercooked. However, when it comes to intros, The Hunger Games delivers and sets the stage for even bigger adventures in its later sequels. The decade since its release hasn’t dulled the impact of Collins’ source material either. Here we have an emotional, action-packed and powerful drama with lots of heart and lots of thrills.

The odds were certainly in his favor.

Gary Ross’ Hunger Games Still Holds 10 Years Later | Pretty Reel