Thursday, April 12, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES - REVIEW

The Hunger Games
March 21, 2012
142 min

Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray
(Based on "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins)



Overall "The Hunger Games" is a nice start to a new film series, proving potential in actors new and old. However, aspects of the filmmaking fumble and it is hard to not find fault with the narrative itself.

FILLING THE WORLD

The future of North America is bleak as imagined in Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games." The land of Panem is shaped into twelve districts, divided not only by region, but by class. Each year the districts offer up two tributes (a male and a female) to fight to the death on national television. The infamous event is dubbed The Hunger Games. Only one contestant will emerge victorious. A fatherless teen from District 12, Katniss Everdeen, finds herself swiped away from her humble home, sister, and mother to prove herself. She proves from the get-go that she is handy with a bow.

Katniss Everdeen is played by Jennifer Lawrence who turned heads two years ago in her breakthrough lead performance in "Winter's Bone." She was nominated for an Oscar. It undoubtedly sealed the deal for her here and she proves it was not a fluke. People have pointed out the similarity between her role in both films, again, not a fluke I'm sure. Fellow tribute Josh Hutcherson, tutor Woody Harrelson, TV host Stanely Tucci, and President Donald Sutherland all fill the ranks nicely.

THE GAMES

After seeing the film I briefly spoke to a cinematographer in my film school about it. He griped about the establishing shots, or utter lack thereof. He's right. I only recall two and they were brief. When we get to the games we lose sense of our location altogether. Furthermore, much of the film is apparently hand-held. It feels right during the fights themselves and even aids in an attempt to not revel in the kid-on-kid killing, but it also adds to the cheapness. There is something to be said about well choreographed action on both the actors' and camera operators' part. This style masks the skills if they even existed. I'll take coherency over chaos any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Methinks the best films can achieve both. Collins is accused of ripping off "Battle Royale," the Japanese cult classic. I am not sure about that, but I am sure it is far more memorable a film.

 We cannot entirely blame "The Hunger Games" for lacking the production value of the likes of the "Harry Potter" adaptations, but no action set-pieces in a film largely about combat? I am not hesitant to say that it is not based on a story of Rowling-caliber anyway. Collins is an efficient writer and returned to work on the screenplay itself, but the material has some better left unadapted moments. The narrative's crisis is as screwy as ever I have encountered (yes, I'm talking about those creatures). It was a turnoff on the page and seeing it visualized is even worse. 

ADAPT

"The Hunger Games" is the latest book-to-screen phenomenon, which is why the comparison to "Harry Potter" comes so easily. From day one it became clear (the box office spoke) that we will receive a second and third film. Might they split that final installment into two film, which seems to be the norm these days? Is there even enough material there to suit such treatment. I have been told left and right that the literary series is one of diminishing returns, which has me far from eager to pick up "Catching Fire," but as it is a monstrous zeitgeist and as I am a pop-culture follower, I must partake.

It is often exciting to see the page brought to life, though I feel a film should stand up on its own accord. Saying a film stayed true to the book ought not be adequate for a favorable review. In this case I have pointed out where I felt alterations should have been made. Furthermore, saying books are better than movies is a rather asinine comment. The two are completely different mediums functioning on incredibly dissimilar levels. More on book-to-screen adaptations in another post though.

IN CLOSING

Overall, "The Hunger Games" is certainly competent. The reaping sequence, which was included in every trailer for this film, uses effective silence that really lets this crucial moment for Katniss live. Lawrence's manipulation over her face, throat, and posture prove her adeptness in this scene and others. Thankfully the love-triangle takes a back seat and is much more than something hoping to be the next "Twilight." I applaud the comparisons and commentary on reality TV (something a bit more substantial than "Battle Royale" offered), which largely factor in this "love-triangle." Most surprising is this film's running time (nearly 2 and 1/2 hours) and how it hardly feels it. I was easily engaged in this film, even if I could not stop wishing they had done things differently.

"Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire!"
- Caesar Flickerman



★★★

CONTENT: strong violence (between children and teens)

Updated 11/22/13

3 comments:

Bellator said...

I have yet to read "The Hunger Games" but I want to. I can say though that the Battle Royale manga is excellent! It is definitely only intended for mature audiences though. Seriously.

Tara said...

I loved the book and movie. And I really appreciated that the cameras turned away so that we didn't have to see all the gore that the book described so vividly.

Galyn said...

I don't much about this other that I heard that Miley Cyrus was dating the young man that played the lead in this movie.