Doug's Take: Doug's take: Familiarity with 'Hunger Games' book pays off

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 5:27 p.m. MDT

Top list: 'Hunger Games' not the only dark movie made especially for kids

Review: 'The Hunger Games' is violent, but also careful and compelling

I was literally reading the final pages of "The Hunger Games" as I walked into the screening of the much anticipated movie based on Suzanne Collins' best-seller.

As the story unfolded on the big screen, familiarity with the book paid off. One of the very few weaknesses in the film includes vague references, in flashbacks and dreams, of foundational points made very clear in the book.

"The Hunger Games" takes us to the futuristic nation of Panem, a post-apocalyptic remnant of the societies that once existed in North America. Panem is divided into 12 Districts that exist to funnel their resources, skills and products into the Capitol, where inhabitants live eccentric, opulent and even decadent lives at the expense of those relegated to the lower social strata.

Life in District 12, deemed to be the lowest in Panem's social structure, is difficult at best. Deprivation is rampant as the population fulfills its purpose by supplying coal to the Capitol. It's here that a young girl strives to keep her mother, little sister and herself from starving. With the entire movie hanging on this character, Jennifer Lawrence delivers a near-perfect Katniss Everdeen.

The story opens with Katniss and her friend Gale risking punishment — even death — by hunting in the woods trying to bring a little more food to their tables. But this is a very significant day, and the two can't help discussing the Reaping, scheduled for later in the afternoon. The Reaping requires each District to assemble all their children between the ages of 12 and 18 in the town square, where two will be selected by lottery to participate in the Hunger Games.

The annual Hunger Games are a sacrificial ritual designed to punish and remind the population of a futile rebellion against the Capitol 74 years earlier. This highly choreographed gladiatorial spectacle is designed to horrify, intimidate and even entertain as 23 of the 24 children die on national television.

For those who haven't read the book, I don't want to give away too much, but in an unprecedented act of selflessness, Katniss ends up as a contestant in the games. Along with a boy named Peeta, who once did her a great kindness, they board the train for the Capitol. There, the 24 kids will be trained, styled, judged and literally fattened up for the kill. What follows is a gut-wrenching study in every aspect of human nature that includes sinister manipulation, amazing acts of kindness, daunting courage, tragic frailty and frightening cruelty. As mentioned, Lawrence is simply perfect, and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta really grew on me. Woody Harrelson, as mentor of the two young combatants, pleasantly surprised me, and Stanley Tucci, as Caesar Flickerman, the face of the games on television, is bizarrely wonderful.

The choreography and special effects are off the charts. While purist fans of the book will notice shortcuts, deletions and a few additions, I believe the story is well served, except for the lack of clarity in the foundational back story.

"The Hunger Games" is rated PG-13 and I'm giving the film 3½ stars.

Doug's take: Familiarity with 'Hunger Games' book pays off

By DOUG WRIGHT

KSL RADIO

I was literally reading the final pages of "The Hunger Games" as I walked into the screening of the much anticipated movie based on Suzanne Collins' best-seller.

As the story unfolded on the big screen, familiarity with the book paid off. One of the very few weaknesses in the film includes vague references, in flashbacks and dreams, of foundational points made very clear in the book.

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