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The Hunger Games

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Over the course of my illness earlier this year, being laid up and all, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading – no mate, not porn. I’ve been diving into educational books, business books, and namely, the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, I did so much reading over the course of March and April that I couldn’t even tell you what the last movie I watched was (Though I did revisit “Dragon Tattoo”, Fincher’s version, after churning through those books just to play spot-the-difference; and Olivia and I were forced to sit through “Scooby Doo 2″ for the twentieth time last night). But the brain food did me good – I learnt, I got invested, and I slowly realized the appeal of “The Hunger Games”.

Suzanne Collins’ best-seller is set in a dystopian future where, like a game of Nana bingo, kids are called out to participate in a battle royale called ‘The Hunger Games’. Run by an eccentric mix of megaminds and other sideshow-esque freaks, it’s a deadly little compete where boys and girls from different districts are forced to use their skills but mainly weapons against each other in a game to the finish.

Much like that other popular young adult book “Twilight”, there was much anticipation for the film version.

A tyro to the world of “The Hunger Games”, the most I knew about it was it’s terrific ensemble – featuring the likes of Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland and headlined by newcomers Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence, as heroine Katniss – and that it encompassed more wood than the lavatory of the playboy backrooms. Oh, and I knew Robin Hood would likely go for it – having seen the stills of the lead characters brandishing bows and arrows.

So did newbie sprout smile for the pic?

Sure did.

But first to what mightn’t have worked so well about it. You see, though I enjoyed the flick, some of it was a little lost on me because, well obviously, it was the condensed soup version of the dish. Much had been cut from the original book, some of it felt rushed, and one – it seemed; email me if I’m wrong, [director] Gary Ross! – was expected to at least have some familiarity with the world of Suzanne Collins’ starving slaughter to feel invested in the yarn. I knew a bit, but not much, and as such, found it to be an enjoyable flick – – but felt I was missing something.

After the film, I found the time to swallow the whole “Hunger Games” paper series whole. And you know what? I get it. I get the appeal now. Sure, it’s no Dr Suess’s “The Cat in the Hat” but it’s a really mesmerizing series. The character of Katniss is, as opposed to say Bella Swan, a strong, formidable and positive female role model (though kids, remember to always disarm your crossbow when playing with it inside!) that one can actually invest in. At the same time, and though it owes a lot to “Battle Royale” and [forgettable Gary Busey and Ice-T number] “Surviving the Game”, the story is pretty damn engrossing – and remains engrossing over the course of the three books (as opposed to the “50 Shades” trilogy, which I felt dipped with the second book – became a bit repetitive; only so many lashings one can take, ya know?!). The second book, “Catching Fire”, just might be the better of the three – I might even (and you’ll like this comparison Mandy!) be the “Empire Strikes Back” of the trilogy, in that things get darker, twisty and the game gets deadlier. The third, “Mockingjay”, isn’t quite to the standard of the first two books – but still, it’s a fitting conclusion. Now, after having read the “Hunger” series, I’m a little more pumped for the films. What isn’t on the screen, is in the book, so I can refer to that in my noggin when I’m feeling a little less connected with what’s going on on screen, and secondly, um… that Jennifer Lawrence is one hot pocket.

Does that mean the film wasn’t a success though? I suppose in some respects it does fail to entrap the newbie, but at the same time, it might also have been a smart move making the movie purely for the zillions of already-existent fans. They’re the ones that’ll be spending the bucks on going back again and again on seeing the film, and they’re also going to be its toughest critic. At the same time, those that do feel a bit lost by proceedings, having not read the books “Hunger Games” is based upon, might feel enticed to dash to their local Angus & Robertson and pick up the books in search of answers. That’s a win for the film.. and the brand-as-a-whole too.

But even if the story and concept is a little ‘is that?’ for newcomers, they won’t be denying the top-notch cinematography, amazing second-unit work (by some guy named Steven Soderbergh), some slick and proficient directed by “Pleasantville” alum Ross, and some really fun, really memorable performances – particularly that of the gutsy Katniss, played by the interesting and dashing Lawrence, but also an almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks, playing the comic-book-esque, Effie.

If you’re not a fan of the books, or haven’t read them, you mightn’t enjoy “Hunger Games” as much as your 14-year-old niece promises you will, but check out the books first and I think you’ll agree director Gary Ross and the deep-pocketed pals at Lionsgate have delivered on their promise to make a loyal, super fan-friendly recreation of Collins’ world.

Extras : The 2-disc DVD edition comes complete with quite a few skirt-dampening extras, including numerous featurettes, select interviews, video diaries of ‘the tributes’, an archive of the film’s immense list of marketing materials, a photo gallery and more. It’s a very fan-pleasing package – or so the girls in Year 8 at the local High School tell me.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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