Tomatometer Watch: The Hunger Games

by | March 19, 2012 | Comments

The Hunger Games


Questions on a Hunger Games fan’s mind ever since Hollywood announced the movie: Does Jennifer Lawrence capture the bottled emotion and intense physicality of Katniss Everdeen? Does director Gary Ross — known for engaging but decidedly undark films Pleasantville and Seabiscuit — render faithfully the sci-fi dystopia and capital decadence of Panem? Does Lionsgate have a blockbuster franchise on their hands? To all three questions, the odds are in our favor for this answer: YES.

After a salvo of positive tweets from writers after the Hunger Games premiere (@silaslesnick: “A new sci-fi classic”; @firstshowing: “Had a LOTR-epic feeling by the end”; @jenyamato: “Captured what I loved in the books”), the critic reviews coming in now shape a similar early consensus. Xan Brooks of the Guardian: “The Hunger Games is the rarest of beasts: A Hollywood action blockbuster that is smart, taut and knotty.”

“Despite its well-worn ideas and themes, Gary Ross’s provocative, pulse-surgingly tense adaptation couldn’t feel fresher,” writes Robbie Collin (Daily Telegraph), “Or timelier.”

James Rocchi (Box Office Magazine) concludes his review with incredible praise, this line among it: “As action, as allegory, as cinema, The Hunger Games is the best American science-fiction film since The Matrix.”

As a book series, author Suzanne Collins was careful to write to all audiences without resorting to lowest common deominator tactics, a quality that appears to be upheld for the movie, judging by quotes from The Playlist’s Todd Gilchrist (“It appeals to genre fans regardless of gender”) and Total Film’s Matthew Leyland (“This is both credible science fiction and a teen tale that doesn’t patronise or pander to its audience”).

While all reviews are thus far fresh, there are reservations to consider. Justin Chang (Variety) calls The Hunger Games “a watchable enough picture that feels content to realize someone else’s vision rather than claim it as it own.” And from Time Out’s Tom Huddleston: “Overall, this is a solid take …It could have done with a little less narrative incident and a little more cinematic sparkle.”

If the numbers stand, this will be Jennifer Lawrence’s sixth straight fresh movie, with three of them having gone Certified Fresh (X-Men: First Class, Like Crazy, and Winter’s Bone). For Gary Ross it will be 3-for-3 fresh as director, with Pleasntville and Seabiscuit also having gone Certified Fresh.

The Hunger Games is out in theaters Friday, March 23.