By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 20, 2012 at 10:21AM
If you don't have a teenage girl at home constantly reminding you already, it falls to me to inform you that "The Hunger Games" opens this Friday, riding a crest of buzz and excitement guaranteed to make it the biggest box office hit of the year so far, almost overnight. But if the responsibility of accompanying such a Katniss Everdeen fan to the theater this weekend falls to you, you may be heartened to know that critics are swooning for "The Hunger Games" as well -- on Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a 100% approval rating out of 26 critics. And these ain't the fanboys and girls from KatnissLover.com; plenty of heavy hitters have already weighed in, and they've all come down on the side of recommendation. You can see a sample of the early reviews below.
Before we get to them, though, an observation. 26 critics, all positive. An absolutely rabid fan base. These are the perfect conditions for an Internet firestorm (talk about "catching fire!"). All it will take are about 10-20 more positive reviews, followed by 1 lone negative voice to set it all off. And realistically, a movie as big and as hyped and as heavily based on novel as "The Hunger Games" couldn't possibly escape the review gauntlet without a single negative notice, right? Someone's going to have to pan it eventually. Paging Kyle Smith!
Early "Hunger Games Reviews
"The script adheres rather closely to Collins' novel -- no surprise there since she co-wrote it with Ross and Billy Ray -- although it does truncate some of the subplots that give the book its greatest emotional heft as well as soften the brutal violence of the games themselves, ostensibly in the name of securing a PG-13 rating. Still, the makers of 'The Hunger Games' have managed the difficult feat of crafting a film that feels both epic and intimate at once."
"'Hunger Games' has such a strong narrative structure, built-in forward movement and compelling central character that it can't go far wrong."
"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... 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."
"Gary Ross has generally done a decent job bringing Suzanne Collins' story to life, although you'll certainly get more out of the movie if you've read the book and can fill in the blanks."
"Too often when it comes to big screen adaptations of beloved best-selling novels, we spend the bulk of a review pointing out all of the places the filmmaker went wrong. With 'The Hunger Games,' it’s a distinct pleasure to sing about all of the places the masterful translation went right."
Mark Bell, Film Threat
"In the end, 'The Hunger Games' is a fine film, though I do wonder how it will play for those that haven’t read the books."
Rick Groen, Globe and Mail
"For once, don't be put off by the hype: the book may be written for young adults, but the movie is a thoroughly mature affair."
"The thing that finally pushes 'The Hunger Games' over the top is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, and finally, here's a pop culture phenomenon centered around a female character who I can fully endorse, who manages real strength without simply being a female version of a male character."
"Among the movie’s only real shortcomings are its frenetic, handheld visual style, and its occasional (unexplained to rubes like yours truly) digressions to satiate fans of the source material... That said, the great thing about shortcomings like those is that they only further serve to highlight what a great job the filmmakers did otherwise bringing this material to life."
"'The Hunger Games' is the best American science-fiction film since 'The Matrix,' and if Ross and his crew stay with the series for the next two books, we may get that rarest of things: a blockbuster franchise that earns our money through craft, emotion and execution, not merely marketing and effects."