Last night, like a fairy-tale princess in a pair of borrowed shoes, I had somewhere to be when the clock struck 12: At a midnight screening of the OMFG SO HIGHLY ANTICIPATED flick based on the page-turning books. Did Hunger Games — as directed by Gary Ross — deliver? I thought so. Tension, heartbreak, trackerjackers — it was all there. But not everyone thought the film adaptation was as delicious as dessert in The Capitol. Results were mixed. Below, a smattering of reviews.
…Ross and his screenwriters do well with the unenviable task of setting the table for the series, but with so many characters and subplots to service, they have to ration as stingily as the Capital. The Reaping is one of the few sequences that's given time to breathe a little, and it makes all the difference-the hushed crowd, neither roused by propaganda nor open in resistance, says everything about the fear and simmering resentment that stirs in the districts. Once Katniss volunteers, The Hunger Games jets from one plot point to another without emphasizing any to great effect. — Scott Tobias, A.V. Club
The audience at Monday's packed preview of The Hunger Games came out juiced and happy, ready to spread the good word, while all I could think was, They've just seen a movie in which twenty-plus kids are murdered. Why aren't they devastated? If the filmmakers had done their job with any courage, the audience would have been both juiced and devastated. […]Where is the pervasive, lingering sense of loss? Where is the horror? — David Edelstein, New York Magazine
If they made books out of movies, this Hunger Games would never see print. — Richard Corliss, Time
It may be that Mr. Ross is too nice a guy for a hard case like Katniss. A brilliant, possibly historic creation - stripped of sentimentality and psychosexual ornamentation, armed with Diana's bow and a ferocious will - Katniss is a new female warrior, and she keeps you watching even while you're hoping for something better the next time around… A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission. — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
The film, like the book, never settles down in tone or intent. The cold Orwellian architecture and cruel Swiftian message (kids slaying kids is a more-than-modest proposal) would indicate satire, while the nutty fluorescent hairdos suggest it's all goof - a chance to play dress-up with the bold aesthetic cues of sci-fi fascism. As for the romance at the center, well, teens will be teens. At least when they aren't busy killing each other. — Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle
Plotwise, the movie has problems… the villains aren't interesting and the TV satire is about as bitter as a marshmallow… Then there's Hollywood's never-ending quandary about what to do with black people. Wait, here's an idea: Have them play helpful subordinates to white heroes… Like the Harry Potter movies, though, this one is essentially a sellout. — Kyle Smith, New York Post
One of the trickier aspects of bringing "The Hunger Games" to the screen is to avoid indulging in the very voyeuristic spectacle the story is supposed to be condemning… The number of young people who die pitiless deaths could populate the cast of "Glee," but only one possesses real moral weight, with Katniss or the audience.
A deer stalker dressed in pyrotechnic couture, Katniss symbolizes a new, post- "Project Runway" brand of female power: one that entails not just strength, courage and spiky, if selective, compassion, but also a top-notch stylist. — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
"The Hunger Games" is an effective entertainment, and Jennifer Lawrence is strong and convincing in the central role. But the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism; compare its world with the dystopias in "Gattaca" or "The Truman Show." Director Gary Ross and his writers (including the series' author, Suzanne Collins) obviously think their audience wants to see lots of hunting-and-survival scenes, and has no interest in people talking about how a cruel class system is using them. Well, maybe they're right. But I found the movie too long and deliberate as it negotiated the outskirts of its moral issues. — Roger Ebert, Sun-Times
This Hunger Games is a muscular, honorable, unflinching translation of Collins' vision. It's brutal where it needs to be, particularly when children fight and bleed. It conveys both the miseries of the oppressed, represented by the poorly fed and clothed citizens of Panem's 12 suffering districts, and the rotted values of the oppressors, evident in the gaudy decadence of those who live in the Capitol. Best of all, the movie effectively showcases the allure of the story's remarkable, kick-ass 16-year-old heroine, Katniss Everdeen.
…Jennifer Lawrence, previously dressed as a backwoods scout in her galvanizing breakout, Winter's Bone, is, in her gravity, her intensity, and her own unmannered beauty, about as impressive a Hollywood incarnation of Katniss as one could ever imagine. Much of Katniss' experience throughout the Games - as she improvises with an ingenuity far beyond the scope of any TV Survivor contestant - is interior, silent. Lawrence is expressive in her stillness, and moves with athletic confidence. — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
So the slaughter has to be dirty and ugly and intense - and here's where the movie really triumphs. It has several really great teenage-massacre moments. The pacing is pretty relentless, one area where the movie might actually have a slight advantage over the book. By the time you get to the climax of the Games, where Katniss faces an impossible choice, you're already pretty wiped out from all the nonstop horror and danger. (Which is just as well, since the climax falls a little flat.)
We never stop believing that Katniss is being pushed to do whatever it takes - even selling pieces of her soul - to be able to care for her mom and sister. And that's really what makes someplace a dystopia, rather than just a nasty spot: the stuff it makes you do to survive, and the ways it changes you. — Charlie Jane Anders, io9