The current hottest YA Trilogy involves a futuristic reality show, recycled SF tropes, and mainstreamed dystopia. Whether you’ve read the books or not, you’ll likely enjoy the film.

You might not find it bears repeated viewings, however.

Title: The Hunger Games

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Gary Ross

Written by Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross, and Billy Ray, from the novel by Suzanne Collins.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Alexander Ludwig as Cato
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane
Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Paula Malcomson as Katniss’ Mother
Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith
Brooke Bundy as Octavia
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Amandla Stenberg as Rue
Jack Quaid as Marvel
Donald Sutherland as President Snow

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.

Premise:

In a dystopic future, two youth from each district surrounding the capitol must take part in the annual Hunger Games, which serve both as punishment for past rebellious actions and entertainment for the futuristic society.

Katniss Everdeen volunteers to go in place of her sister, and she may be playing for higher stakes than the governing powers realize.

High Points:

The film captures much of what made the novels so successful. We have teen fantasies of love, survival, and rebellion, and they’re much healthier fantasies than those found in Twilight. We also have obvious but occasionally clever satiric reflections on reality tv, media influences, socioeconomic divisions, contemporary coming-of-age, and many more topics of interest.

Teens enter an often brutal world where a combination of survival skills and personal likeability will determine their future success. I think everyone understands why that hits the mark with so many young people.

Low Points:

President Snow opines that too much hope is dangerous, and it’s a fair Machiavellian precept. However, he delivers it remarkably early on, in response to Katniss’s initial high score. His media lackeys, meanwhile, find his observation surprising. Really? In the years they’ve run the Hunger Games, this is the first time the president has ever had this response? And with so little reason? Has he read the Trilogy already?

Likewise (although we have references to past riots), the rioting in response to a certain character’s death comes as a shock to the elite. Again, are we to believe the elite only now see the potential for their Games to provoke rebellion, rather than quell it?

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 We have a film adaptation of a novel with a central premise that has been used (in variations) many times before, most notably in Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, and tropes that will be familiar to SF readers.

Effects: 6/6 Strong visual effects create a nearly-familiar world; the CGI within the tournament itself could be stronger.

Story: 5/6 The story holds up. The pace runs slow in a place or two, but the key moments generate the necessary excitement.

Acting: 6/6 A stellar cast do an excellent job of portraying the characters. Save for the principals, however, those characters lean towards being types rather than people.

Production: 5/6 The film features decent production and a distinct look.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6. I accept that the violence must be cleaned up in a film with a youthful target audience. I’m puzzled, however, by Ross’s decision to keep the camera shaking in every scene.

In total, The Hunger Games receives 33/42.