The Hunger Games: Review

Right around this time one year ago I was reading an advanced movie preview for 2012 and one movie synopsis caught my eye:  What is The Hunger Games?  I read up and was immediately intrigued by what I was reading.  Upon learning it was being adapted from a previously released book I bought said book and knocked it out in about three sitting, very addictive.  Thus I was pretty pump when the movie was approaching but was equally perplexed why this movie was being dubbed “The Next Twilight” in terms of franchising.   This is a movie about children being forced to brutally murder each other not lame sparkly vampires subliminally channeling anti-feminist rhetoric. (She just needs a man, sort of a man)  I refused to get swept up in the taunts of my peers as I boasted excitement for this flick as I assured them this wasn’t some lame tween centric franchise and I was right, it was just dull mis-lesson in humanity and story telling.

The Hunger Games is about a fictional world of what was once North America is now divided in districts and controlled by the evil Capitol lead by Jack Bauer’s cotton faced father President Snow, the leader of Panem who forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

First off I just want to address one thing, enough of the “It’s just Battle Royal” bullshit.  I’m very proud you’ve seen that movie but being dismissive of The Hunger Games because it has a similar plot is just dumb.  The Lion King is Hamlet,  Star Wars is the Hero’s classic Journey, etc. Every story is chiseled from a template, but how you dress that story is what matters more.  I know your so happy with yourself that you managed to watch a 12 year old Japanese sub-titled action flick but get a hold of yourself please.

My bad, where was I…?  Right Hunger Royal, anyhow this movie stars Jennifer Lawrence as the hero Katniss Everdeen who takes take of her mother and sister in the impoverished district 12 by breaking the law to head into the forest and  hunt for food with her good friend…Thor’s brother, who we assume is important to the story but as very little screen time.

I'm sorry who are you again?

So after Katniss little nugget of a sister Prim is chosen to do battle in the Hunger Games Katniss steps up to take her spot and she’s shuffled off to do battle with 23 other teens including another tribute from District 12 the muppet faced Peeta (“Petah”) played by Josh Hutcherson.  That’s bare bones of the story which you knew going into it and excited to see what director Gary Ross was going to do with the material he was given and the answer was: not much.

Jennifer Lawrence does a good job doing her best to convey emotions without the help of inner dialog.  Her best scene is inside a training facility where she is being ignored and forces the game makers to play attention.  This scene grabbed me even more so than some of the emotional scenes that I thought we were pretty weak and rushed.  Lawerence shines, she can’t help it, but she doesn’t come close to touching her permanence in Winter’s Bone.   The other two stand outs in this flick are Donald Sutherland because he’s a boss and Stanley Tucci who plays a talk show host and has one of the better scenes of the flick with Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta in a televised interview.  Hutcherson who was actually better than expected, meaning I didn’t hate him.

The actors were all fine for the most part, but it was just painful to watch so many opportunities for awesomeness get flushed down the toilet.  Ross missed so many points to build genuine suspense and intrigue and just skipped it for quiet scenes of nothing.  The most unnerving scene in the book is when all 24 waiting to enter the game to tear each other apart just waiting as the count down goes from 40 to 1.  The scene in the movie really missed out on building tension here and when we hit 1 and these kids go to town on each other, it’s just shaky cam Hollywood garbage.  On top of that sometimes the world of Panem looked really cheap.  Sometimes looking like the future as depicted in a movie made in 1973, along with the THX-1388 inspired troops.  I was expecting something pretty big and epic, but it’s pretty underwhelming and the CGI is cheap at times.  This includes what I thought was going to be a really cool finale which was pretty disappointing.

It’s the first person narration by author Suzanne Collins that makes the Hunger Games so gripping, everything that is lost in the movie.   The dread that is carried by young teenager’s who think they’re going to be killed on national television is completely lost in this flick, along with the reflection of society’s dark side that some of these kids embrace becoming killing machines, it’s all thrown away for commercial purposes.  When this movie came out last week a few stories hit the web and tv that this was too violent for kids.  Having read the book, the brutality is pretty graphic so I thought after hearing that, the movie itself must be as relentless, but it’s not, not even close.  It’s not even the absence of the violence, it’s the absence of it’s repercussions that is non-existent as well.

Odds are if you’ve never read the book you will get caught up in a very interesting fictional world and the characters that inhabit it.  If you have a grasp of the books and the story you will be terribly underwhelmed at it’s delivery.   The rumors on the interwebs are director Gary Ross wants some heavy paper for the sequel and the studio is balking at this.  Good for them, seriously! The money this movie pulled in over the last few weeks was the product of a stellar promotions team that made this movie a happening.  Jennifer Lawrence and the prospect of getting wrapped up in this new fictional world make this movie worth a view, but if I were you I’d wait for DVD or Blu-Ray.

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~ by ATOM on April 7, 2012.

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