The Hunger Games
The film takes off at the selection ceremony, a nationally televised event complete with armed soldiers and a bubbly bubblehead host, during which Katniss’s younger sister, Primrose, is chosen. Katniss quickly volunteers to take Prim’s place, going with Peeta, District 12’s tributes. The two are whisked off to the Capitol, where they’re plucked and primped by a team of gaudily hued stylists, a potentially razor-sharp sequence that should underscore the Capitol’s decadence but here comes across a huge happy scene when they enters the Capitol. Katniss may not be in Never-Never Land, but neither does she seem in danger.
That changes once she and Peeta are transported to the outdoor arena where, with wits and weapons, they battle the other tributes and assorted perils generated by the game makers who dole out death via computer touch screen. There, in a rapidly cut massacre that pits boy against girl and finds youngsters killing and falling and dying in a frantic, fragmented blur, director and his assistants, set the stage and stark mood. For Katniss, though frozen in fear, follows the advice of her and Peeta’s mentor, Haymitch, and runs in the opposite direction. It’s a strong, visceral scene that quickens the pace and pulse, and distills the story’s horror — suffer the little children to enter the arena — in blunt visual terms.
Part of what makes the “Hunger Games” books so effective is that they literalize the familiar drama of adolescence, translating the emotional assaults, peer pressure, cliques and the tortured rest into warfare. Fans of the Japanese cult film “Battle Royale” may see some overlap with its allegory about students sent to an island to fight to the death. If you’ve seen the pint-size assassins in the recent action flicks “Kick-Ass” which feature prepubescent girl who lock, load and shoot without batting a lash, you may think you’ve also seen it before. Although the girl in this movie is vaguely sexualized,...