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The Hunger Games (***)
directed by Gary Ross
written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray, from the novel by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games
Principal Cast
Stanley Tucci -- Caesar Flickerman
Wes Bentley -- Seneca Crane
Jennifer Lawrence -- Katniss Everdeen
Willow Shields -- Primrose Everdeen
Liam Hemsworth -- Gale Hawthorne
Elizabeth Banks -- Effie Trinket
Paula Malcomson -- Katniss' Mother
Josh Hutcherson -- Peeta Mellark
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

In some situations the only moral thing to do is to die. The Hunger Games acknowledges that fact. But it also rigs the game in order to have a happy ending.

John D. MacDonald, in his books about Travis McGee, will sometimes have Travis McGee in a situation where the only moral thing to do would be to die. Travis McGee does not die. He is a deeply moral man, but to preserve his own life, he will kill any number of innocents. Backed into a corner, he becomes a pair of ragged claws on the ocean floor. That is, I'm sure, part of the appeal of the Travis McGee books.

There is an element of this is all adventure fiction. In real life, when people use lethal force, innocents die. It happens in war, in police work, in any situation where people start to shoot at each other. In fiction, however, we want a happy ending, and so the people who die in adventure fiction are somehow consigned to the role of non-people. The hero, to save the life of his daughter or his best friend, starts killing henchmen. Sometimes these henchmen are just hired hands, who have no reason to think their boss is a villain. Nevertheless, it is ok to kill them, because they're "bad guys." The lives of henchmen are cheap.

In The Hunger Games, the 24 young contestants quickly sort themselves out into good guys and bad guys. My big problem with the move is that the good guys only kill bad guys. The set-up is not followed to its logical conclusion until the very end. Up to then, when a good guy needs to die to satisfy the needs of the plot, a bad guy takes care of it.

"Two go in, one comes out." That's a catch phrase from Beyond Thunderdome but it is the basic plot device of any number of films, from Gladiator to The Hunger Games. To ratchet the stakes up a notch, in The Hunger Games, the participants are children, some as young as twelve years old.

I have a bone to pick with the author about that. Seems to me a cunning, evil dictator bent on keeping his populace happy with bread and circuses would make the starting age for the games thirteen. The twelve-year-olds die too easily, and are too sympathetic for the evil dictator's purposes. In The Hunger Games, the smallest gladiators are exploited for quick pathos and just as quickly forgotten.

But my biggest problem with The Hunger Games is, as I said, that the good guys somehow manage to only kill bad people, and yet still stay alive. The plot has to go through some major contortions to make that happen, which punctures my otherwise willing suspension of disbelief.

I enjoyed the movie. The only major negative is the black and white characterization. On the plus side, there are excellent costumes and sets, some fine acting, reasonably exciting PG-13 action. The Appalachian setting of District Twelve is powerfully realistic, a strong reminder to those who long for the good old days just how bad the good old days really were. Life in the decadent cities is colorfully drawn.

I will go to see the sequel.

Copyright © 2012 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon. Visit his web site at

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