The Hunger Games, the highly-anticipated movie adaptation of the popular book series by Suzanne Collins, was finally released on Friday, and for the most part, critics love it. The film currently has an 86 percent freshness rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
For those who haven't read the book or know nothing about the film, The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic America called Panem, where 13 Districts replace the 50 United States. Panem is ruled by the wealthy Capitol, while each powerless district outside the Capitol is forced to provide for the country in some way. Each year, the country celebrates The Hunger Games, where each district must offer two young tributes -- a boy and a girl -- to fight to the death in an arena where cameras capture every move and broadcast them to the nation.
The story centers around Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone), a citizen of District 12, who decides to become her district's tribute in lieu of her younger sister, who was randomly selected to fight to the death. Katniss and another tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark, must beat the odds and stay alive if they hope to return back home.
While most critics have said they enjoyed the film, some say the film comes up just short compared to the novel, which fully explored the cruelties of the Capitol and the situation of these young children fighting each other to the death. Here's the best of what some reviewers had to say.
Scott Bowles, USA TODAY:
Like the select participants of its savage sport, The Hunger Games stands triumphant, if scarred and a bit wobbly from the contest. ... Twilight, this isn't: While both franchises feature a love triangle and lethal kids, Games relies more on bloodlust than sexual lust. And for the most part, it works.
Matt Patches, Hollywood.com:
The greatest triumph of 'The Hunger Games' is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town, haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and the Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with 'Truman Show'-esque additions.
Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times:
'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.'
Andy Klein, The Christian Science Monitor:
Director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) and screenwriter Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) - who share the screenplay credit with Collins - have wisely cleaved very closely to the tightly written novel. Ross manages to keep the pacing remarkably swift, given that the games themselves don't start until halfway through the 144-minute running time. Ross also got the casting dead right: Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic former champion who coaches Katniss and Peeta; Stanley Tucci as the broadcast's preening host; and Lenny Kravitz as the only city dweller Katniss might be able to trust.
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald:
This is a science-fiction movie of the blandest, most generic order, technically adequate but devoid of any wit or insight or anything more substantial and lasting than the cool image of Jennifer Lawrence wielding a wicked bow and arrow.
Jeffrey Anderson, San Francisco Examiner:
Based on novelist Suzanne Collins' wildly popular futuristic thriller for young adults, the film adaptation of 'The Hunger Games' gets by chiefly on raw, sinister suspense. ... Even the most stalwart viewers, prior fans or not, will be squirming in their seats.
Alison Gang, San Diego Union-Tribune:
'The Hunger Games' has all the signs of a 'Twilight'-style cash grab: long lines of eager fans, adolescents squealing with anticipation, plenty of pre-release hype. But take away the hullabaloo surrounding the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling young adult book and what you have is an absorbing film with a dire premise that stands pretty much on its own. Imagine that.
Bob Mondello, NPR:
The Hunger Games' pacing is brisk, its stakes as high as stakes get, and its leading lady engaging enough that the odds - at the box office at least - will be ever in its favor.
Laremy Legel, Film.com:
The most disquieting aspect of this whole enterprise can be found in those bleak moments where the strong are effectively dominating the weak. 'The Hunger Games' are being broadcast all around the country, with friends and relatives watching their loved ones perish in real time, tribute against tribute with life on the line. Director Gary Ross has made these moments brutally effective, continually chiding us for wanting the games to start again. It's the damnedest thing, but human suffering and subjugation plays miraculously well as entertainment, so long as you mix it all up with glossy production values and multiple camera angles.
The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, runs for 142 minutes, and is is rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens.
Have you seen The Hunger Games yet? Did you like it, or find it disappointing in any way? Does it live up to the book? Let us know in the comments section below.