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319 of 404 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece! An excellent film about courage, hope and human dignity facing the all powerful totalitarian tyranny!, 22 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: The Hunger Games (2 Disc) [DVD] (DVD)
« Hunger Games » is certainly the best film I have seen since many many months, and it is a very successful adaptation of an excellent book.

In my personal opinion, both the book and the film are much deeper and much more ambitious, than what most critics and reviewers would make us believe. After reading the reviews in "New York Times", "Le Monde" and on "Msn.com" (to cite only few) I was surprised that they mostly missed everything that is important in this film. With a kind of amused superiority (like people from Capitol in the film), the "professional" reviewers pointed at the obvious allusions to gladiator fights, the reality shows, the importance of trashy entertainment in today's TV, the search for a new franchise able to replace "Twilight", etc., etc.

But they almost entirely failed to see that this film is first and above all about much more important things: how to keep hope, not lose the courage and preserve humanity and dignity under a totalitarian oppressive regime.

I believe that almost everybody now knows that when writing "Hunger Games" Susan Collins attempted basically a modern (even futurist) retelling of the old Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. According to this ancient tale, after losing a war, every year the city of Athens had to send a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens to the king of Crete. Once there those young people were locked in the Labyrinth, to be devoured by the monster Minotaur. This yearly punishment and humiliation lasted until Theseus, crown prince of Athens, volunteered to be one of the tributes - then, once locked in the Labyrinth, he defeated and killed the Minotaur.

In "Hunger Games" what was once United States (and I think also Canada) is now called the Panem. It is a country divided in twelve Districts remaining under the control of the Capitol central metropolis. There was once thirteen Districts, but when they rebelled against the central power, the Capitol destroyed completely the District 13 with all its population and then defeated and submitted again the twelve others. In order to remind to its subjects how absolute is its power, the Capitol claims a yearly tribute - one girl and one boy of ages from 12 to 18 from every District. The tributes are then send to an arena and forced to fight, until only one remains alive. This yearly event is called the Hunger Games and it is shown live on TV to all the population of Panem. This film tells the story of what happened at the 74th edition of Hunger Games...

For Capitol the purpose of Hunger Games is to remind yearly how powerful is the central metropolis and how dire can be the consequences of its wrath, but also - and even more importantly in my opinion - to humiliate and degrade the people of the Districts by forcing them to become accomplices (even if under duress) of a barbarian custom in which some of their own children are send to the slaughterhouse. And as all bullies and abusers know, it is much easier to oppress, abuse and brutalize victims who lack self-esteem...

Well, in this film we can see how one of the tributes from District 12, an exceptional young girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), manages to turn the tables on the Capitol and by allowing people of Panem to regain some of their dignity she will be the pebble which starts the avalanche. The exact way in which she does that will not be revealed here, but both in the book as in the film it is described in a very intelligent and very moving way...

This may seem a rather improbable thing that a 16 years old child can do something that will ultimately bring down a seemingly invincible and all-powerful tyranny, but let's not forget that in the real world, the great wave of revolutions of Arab Spring began on 18 December 2010 with a desperate gesture of a dirt-poor 27-years old Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire after having been robbed and beaten by the corrupt local police one time too much... Less than two years after, the oppressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya already collapsed, the seemingly eternal dictator of Yemen had to resign and the Syrian brutal regime is now facing a massive armed rebellion..

Bottom line, this film is first and before all a story about how even a seemingly powerless person can horribly hurt a tyrannic regime with a magic potion made of lots of courage, an ice-cold determination, a great personal dignity, a little compassion, a handful of flowers, a couple of tears and one defiant and powerful challenging gesture...

The powerful message and excellent scenario are not the only reasons why I consider "Hunger Games" as a masterpiece. Actors were selected very carefully and they perform very well. Jennifer Lawrence is simply perfect - there is no other word to describe her performance! However, after seeing her in "Winter's Bone" and "X-Men: First class" I didn't expect anything less.

But the real surprise in this film comes from Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta Mellark, the boy tribute from District 12. His character is more difficult to play, because Peeta is in the same time more limited but also more complicated than Katniss. Josh Hutcherson could have very easily fall in one of the many traps which are build in Peeta's character. By overacting or underacting he could have make him a wimp or a passive follower or an immature kid, but he avoided those snares with grace and his Peeta comes out of this film as a surprisingly complex and also a very likeable character. He is certainly not a hero and a fighter like Katniss - but until the very end he preserves his honor, in a deadly place where he shouldn't ever be send...

A special mention goes to little Amandla Stenberg, who plays 12-years old Rue, the youngest of all the tributes. Her character is both secondary and in the same time incredibly important - and this little cute pixie played it perfectly!

Other, more known actors contribute to the success of this film. Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, the only person from District 12 who ever won in the Hunger Games and is now an advisor to Katniss and Peeta (and this is a high praise coming from me because I usually do not like this actor at all). Lenny Kravitz portrayed a perfect Cinna, the man in charge of image (clothes, haircut, make up, etc.) of tributes from District 12 in all public appearances before the games begin. And finally there is the giant figure of Donald Sutherland, who plays the supreme ruler of Panem, President Coriolanus Snow. He is purely incredible. There is a moment in this film when he says to somebody "I like you" - and I believe that I have never heard such a terrible and deadly threat in one short sentence since the famous Schwarzenegger's "I will be back" in "Terminator"...

I also absolutely adored the using of the cameras. In some moments of this film we have the impression of going after the characters with a camera, like a war correspondent following the fighters (this style was also very skillfully used in "The Shield" series). Of course not all the film is turned in this way, but mixing this kind of scenes with more conventional ones gives here an excellent effect.

The games themselves are very skillfully described and are a very dramatic tale, full of surprises and twists. I found them much much better than "Battle Royale", to which this book and film are often compared. The games are deadly and brutal, but there is only limited gore - I think this film is suitable for young teenagers, although not for children younger than 12. There is also absolutely no nudity, sex or strong language and I for one found it a most excellent thing.

There are still many more good things to say about this film, but I believe you should discover them by yourself. One more thing however about the book - it is of course possible to see and greatly enjoy this film without reading the book, but I believe that reading the novel first is a good idea. If reading the whole book is out of question, I would advise to read at least the first hundred pages. It will not reveal much about the games themselves, but it will allow for a better understanding of some of the key elements: the strength of the bond between Katniss and her younger sister, the history that Katniss shares with her hunting partner Gale, the complicated relation between Katniss and her mother and last but not least, the mysterious bond existing between Katniss and Peeta Mellark.

About this last point: if you did not yet read the book I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovery so I will say just this - Katniss and Peeta lived for 16 years in the same village, but they never spoke one to another (except for an occasional "Hello") and they never touched one another in any way. And still, they share a secret as big as life and death, a secret which both bonded them together and in the same time separated them deeply... If you want to know the solution of this riddle you have either to watch very very carefully every scene of the film or simply read the book...

Conclusion: this film is a masterpiece! I loved it and I am going to buy the DVD as soon as it is available. And I am SOOO going to see the second part, as soon as it opens!
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Showing 1-10 of 33 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Apr 2012 20:01:14 BDT
Dr Johnson says:
Having seen this over the weekend I can confirm its a very good film. But I think you are going completely over the top in describing it as a masterpiece. You quote as one of your favourite films "The Seven Samurai" which does deserve the epithet. I suggest you calm down a bit!

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Apr 2012 22:59:32 BDT
Maciej says:
Hello

you are absolutely right, that this film is not in the same league than "Seven samurai". But still, for me it is a masterpiece - with the "Seven samurai" being an "uber masterpiece"...

Best regards

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 09:03:26 BDT
I think someone just likes the sound of their own 'voice'...

Posted on 27 Apr 2012 23:33:46 BDT
Excellent, thorough review, of a book and a film which have both been unfairly dismissed by some as trivial and childish. The fact that the negative reviews usually compare them to Twilight (main point of resemblance: the main characters are, or in Edward's case appear to be, teenagers) just shows the laziness, or ignorance, of the reviewers. The book is a pleasure to read - simply and elegantly written, with a plot-flow and subtlety of character-development that draws you along effortlessly. I won't even try to comment further on the details of the book, since the previous commentator covered these so well; but add that I couldn't have imagined a better movie realisation of the book than this one. And yes, I'm also buying the DVD as soon as it comes out!

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2012 08:12:40 BDT
Maciej says:
Hello

thank you very much for your kind words and let's hope for the best with the second part!

Best regards

Maciej

Posted on 5 May 2012 21:48:44 BDT
Avatouir says:
TBH I really can't see why this film has got so much praise. i mean it's kinda Ok but maybe that's just another way of saying overhyped unoriginal rubbish that's more dull than a date with atrainspotter on a wet wednesday

In reply to an earlier post on 5 May 2012 22:31:50 BDT
Maciej says:
Hello

well, everybody has the right to like and dislike anything he/she wants. I guess for people who read the book first, this film is a good occasion to live again this very pleasant experience. And in my review I tried to describe why I liked it. But of course I fully understand that for lots of people "Hunger Games" are nothing special.

Best regards

Maciej

In reply to an earlier post on 6 May 2012 13:26:55 BDT
Avatouir says:
To be honest this is a film designed for under 16's and for it's target audience it's probably brilliant. But being a little older and seeing this theme done better I cannot deny I found HG underwhelming. Actually watched Battle Royale on youtube after returning from the cinema and despite low res that was farmore gripping and engaging.
But my critique is of the film and how nobody seems allowed to have a negative opinion not on your review which is pretty good (expect i agree that masterpiece was a bit strong)

Posted on 23 May 2012 17:29:46 BDT
C. Matthews says:
Fabulous, inspiring and well written review! I feel like watching THG for what will be a 4th time...maybe I should wait for the bluray this time though...

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2012 20:08:59 BDT
Maciej says:
Thank you for your kind words and all the best!
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Maciej
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