‘The Hunger Games’: The Reviews Are In!

Critics praise director Gary Ross' 'rich realization of the book's many worlds,' from District 12 to the Capitol as film hits theaters.

“It didn’t surprise me, which was good,” Jennifer Lawrence told MTV News of her first viewing of “The Hunger Games.”

We suppose that makes sense, seeing as Lawrence is the face of the YA adaptation and that the responsibility of bringing heroine Katniss Everdeen to the screen is, dauntingly, hers alone. But we confess, it did surprise us. There were pitfalls aplenty for director Gary Ross. He could have succumbed to “Twilight” fever and played up the story’s simmering-in-the-background love triangle. Cowering in awe or fear of the series’ million of fans, he could have been excessively deferential to the source material, declining to expand the “Hunger Games” world beyond Katniss’ first-person narration. Or, more simply, Ross could have just made a crappy movie.

None of that came to pass. Our worries were unfounded. In “Hunger Games,” Ross has given us not only a kickass adaptation of a beloved book, but a kickass movie, full stop — an opinion shared not only by MTV News and Lawrence but by the vast majority of critics. Read on for a deep dive into “The Hunger Games” reviews.

The Story
“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. … For fans, the script hits every beat, a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins’ original novel — but those unfamiliar shouldn’t worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he’s the writer of ‘Big,’ ‘Pleasantville’ and ‘Seabiscuit’), and he’s comfortable dropping us right into the action.” — Matt Patches, Hollywood.com

The Adaptation
” ‘The Hunger Games’ works almost better as a movie than a book; its pacing is slightly and effectively altered (the movie’s a little more than half over by the time the Games actually start), its visuals striking, its close-in filming style parallels the intimacy of the first-person book. And it carefully walks a difficult line: How do you tell an essentially violent story without glorifying that violence?” — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

The Performances
“As Katniss, the extravagantly talented Jennifer Lawrence renders her character with surgical precision. Her defiance against the Hunger Games’ overlords is instinctual. Her stoic composure in the face of danger doesn’t come so naturally; when it slips we see the vulnerable girl clearly. Lawrence delivers an absolutely assured performance but she’s hardly the whole show. As her fellow competitor Peeta, Josh Hutcherson moves persuasively along an arc that begins in conflicted feelings and deepens to friendship, loyalty and love. Donald Sutherland is subtle and sinister as President Snow. … Stanley Tucci makes a vile, vampire-like impression as the Games’ on-air master of ceremonies, sporting a navy blue 17th-century periwig and pearly, carnivorous teeth.” — Colin Covert Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Dissenters
“Was it wrong to expect something more from ‘The Hunger Games’ other than pajama-party fodder? Suzanne Collins’ dystopian sci-fi novel — the first in a trilogy — was rife with potential for a bold, daring entertainment that blended dark satire and social commentary with big action beats and thrills. Instead, what director Gary Ross opted for is an earnest, plodding thumb-sucker — a sugar-coated pacifier to appease the screaming hordes. 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.” — Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

The Final Word
“Just wow. Since launching this site in 2009, I’ve been anxious and excited to someday see the film version of ‘The Hunger Games.’ I expected some level of ‘Hollywood’ — pointless changes, glamorization, fakeness, and always had that nagging worry that the movie would be a huge disappointment. After seeing it I can say … this movie is amazing. Fans of the books and non-fans alike will be entertained, intrigued, and moved by Gary Ross’ film version of Suzanne Collins’ novel.” — Kimmy West, Mockingjay.net

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Hunger Games.”

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