The first installment of Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy hits theaters March 23, 2012, but early reviews are in. The wildly anticipated post-apocalyptic thriller has yielded gushing reviews. With no consensus yet, "The Hunger Games" currently runs a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. That should change as more print critics weigh in. (TOH will review the movie Monday.)
While some reviewers suggest that the source material (which Collins admits is largely derivative) could be presented with a fresher eye and the film adaptation may be too faithful, most agree that "Hunger Games" the movie will launch a frachise. (Stop the presses!) Whatever the film's flaws, they hardly matter, the critics protest, because of "Winter's Bone" star Jennifer Lawrence's performance.
Early reviews and latest clips and trailers below:
Xan Brooks, The Guardian:
"The Hunger Games" is that rarest of beasts: a Hollywood action blockbuster that is smart, taut and knotty. Ably filleted from the Suzanne Collins bestseller, it's a compelling, lightly satirical tale of a post-apocalyptic entertainment industry, set in a dystopian US in which the terrified contestants are selected via lottery and second place does not exist.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
… an amply faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' monster young-adult best-seller that could have used a higher blood count in more ways than one. As she did in her breakthrough film "Winter's Bone," Jennifer Lawrence anchors this futuristic and politicized elaboration of "The Most Dangerous Game" with impressive gravity and presence, while director Gary Ross gets enough of what matters in the book up on the screen to satisfy its legions of fans worldwide.
Justin Chang, Variety:
Lawrence, who auditioned brilliantly for this role with her even rawer turn in "Winter's Bone," again projects a heartrending combo of vulnerability, grit and soul while convincingly playing several years her junior. The camera remains so glued to her every expression and gesture that no one else, save perhaps Lenny Kravitz as Katniss' suave professional stylist, is given the opportunity to hold the screen against her.
Todd Gilchrist, The Playlist:
[Director Gary Ross'] adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed young-adult novel is a truly remarkable achievement: he turns escapism into a deeply emotional experience. Instantly razing comparisons – qualitative especially — to other female-friendly series such as “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” is the first film in a long time that deserves Hollywood’s instant-franchise ambitions because it appeals to genre fans regardless of gender by crafting a story that’s both epic and intimate, spectacular and subtle.
This is a gripping, impressively mounted action movie – but its adherence to finicky details in the novel means that there’s not enough time to fully explore Collins’s complex world or the characters who inhabit it.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph:
But despite its well-worn ideas and themes, Gary Ross’s provocative, pulse-surgingly tense adaptation couldn’t feel fresher, or timelier… "The Hunger Games" is an essential science fiction film for our times; perhaps the essential science fiction film of our times. Whatever your age, it demands to be devoured.
Matthew Leyland, Total Film
Still, the camera does mostly cling to Katniss, requiring a Herculean amount of heavy lifting from Lawrence. She bears the load. Stoical or heart-on-sleeve, afraid or defiant, the starlet hits the mark. Factor in archery skills to make Robin Hood soil his Lincoln greens and you have Katniss as Collins intended.
Tim Grierson, Screen International
Sadly, there’s a sense of familiarity that "The Hunger Games" can’t completely shake off. Recalling everything from "Lord Of The Flies" to "A.I." to "The Running Man" to the cult Japanese thriller "Battle Royale," the movie feels more like a solidly crafted amalgam of disparate influences than a wholly original vision. (Adding to this feeling is effects work that can occasionally look less than cutting-edge.) Still, what holds "The Hunger Games" together is the filmmakers’ laser-like focus on Katniss, creating a most unlikely coming-of-age story in which a shy tomboy finds love and self-confidence in the deadliest of situations.