Thursday, April 19, 2012


Directed By: Gary Ross

The Hunger Games has finally arrived in theaters, to my extreme excitement. I read the books very recently, and, like many fans before me, I got sucked into this incredibly addicting story immediately. I have shared my opinion on the books, in earlier posts, so I will not bore you with my criticisms of Suzanne Collins. However, what is clear, is that Lions Gate finally has a winning franchise on its hands. The Hunger Games has enjoyed 4+ weeks at the top of the box office to date, and has grossed over 500 million dollars.

Hunger Games Cast

It has taken me some time to gather my thoughts about this film. I watched it a few more times and did a bit of research on the actors, crew and production. I wanted to make sure that my review was not completely tainted by my fandom. I wanted to see if I could approach this review from a place of understanding, rather than a place of emotion.

Firstly, I am going to say, I am not going to compare this film to the Japanese blood-bath, Battle Royale, or the botched abortion that is Twilight. Just about every review I've read has mentioned one or both of these films as a way to delegitimize The Hunger Games. I reject the premise that just because a story has roots in an older idea, that it is somehow not as good.

No idea is original. The absolute hubris involved in claiming 100% originality, especially when it comes to literature, and its offspring, theater and narrative film, is mind-boggling. So repress the urge to brush something aside just because its 'been done before,' especially if you consider yourself a student of film and art.

The Hunger Games is a pretty simple concept. In a future American distopia, 12 districts are ruled by the brutal Capital. In payment for the rebellion of their forefathers, every year, each district must give up two young people between the ages of 12 to 17 to fight to the death. The entire event is broadcast on TV and is mandatory viewing for all citizens.

Not everyone is going to like this film, and it suffers from a great many flaws. But overall, I think it's enjoyable, for those of us who read the book and are fans. I don't know if the film plays as well for audience members who are not familiar with the story. I thought the book was rather predictable, and I felt the movie followed suit. The predictability is not a bad thing, and I think that is part of this story's appeal. You know Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is chosen as tribute, and you know she is going to win, but nevertheless you want to take that journey with her.

The film is quite refreshing for those of us who love these types of films. It is a rarity for big blockbusters to have a female heroine who is strong, independent, and capable of doing more than pining over boys, talking about shoes, and suffering though high school. I think this film proves that there is a place for women and girls in this genera and that they can generate just as much buzz and box office returns as their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, this film is far from perfect and I am sure my criticisms will be shared by many. I think the number one biggest, (but understandable) mistake was the PG-13 rating. I understand that the rating was set in stone from the beginning in order to ensure teen fans would be able to see it. But it did a great disservice to the film. Part of the appeal of this story is the violence and they cut the film off at the knees, and made it watered down and soft.

The film also suffers from a lot of jarring camera movement. I personally love this style and use it quite often in my own films. But I understand that for some accustomed to a more traditional shooting style, the handheld becomes too distracting. On one hand, the shaky cam emphasizes the driving nature of the film, but on the other hand, it is relentless and there is not enough variety.

Overall though, the cinematography was one of the high points of this film, which is not surprising coming from veteran Tom Stern. The lighting was great, and the general look and feel was just right. I was afraid the film would take effects too far, especially the scenes in the Capital, and it would become cartoonish. But I think Ross and Stern showed a lot of restraint by approaching it from the reality point of view instead of the sci-fi point of view.

Our heroine, Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence is perfect. Lawrence is poised to be a huge star, and it's not just her girl next door appeal. She's the young starlet for a generation sick and tired of air heads, and fame whores. As Katniss, she's one of those girls who lives in the shadows, not because she isn't beautiful, not because she isn't smart, but because she has more on her mind than young love and pretty dresses. Katniss is a hunter, a caregiver, a breadwinner, a fighter, and not about to take shit from anyone. I think there is a part of all girls that wish they could be more like Katniss, which is why this franchise is going to be so massive.

The film has a decent supporting cast. It stars one of my all time favorites, Mr. Woody Harrelson as the perpetually drunk tribute mentor Haymitch, and Elizabeth Banks, as the uptight, clown faced Effie. The two play quite well off of each other and I think its safe to say that this is one of Banks's best roles to date. Too long has she suffered in B-movies and crappy TV shows. Too long I say! I am happy to see Banks in this film and she did quite well.

The film also stars Josh Hutcherson as the all too adorable and romantic Peeta Mellark and Miley Cyrus's boyfriend, as Gale, Katniss's ruggedly handsome hunting buddy, who does little more than look good. Hutcherson, is the perfect Peeta, gentle, slight, and great at looking like he's in pain. I am excited to see how the 'love triangle' plays out in the next films. It is not the most interesting part of the book, but Huterson and Lawrence have great on screen chemistry and I want to see more.

So if you want to see this movie, see it in theaters, if you don't have any interest in this franchise then go ahead and skip it. You wont be missing anything mind blowing. However, there are 2 more movies coming out over the next few years, and the word is, Gary Ross is out, and they will be bringing on a new director. So, don't put this to bed quite yet. The Hunger Games still has some surprises to come.

B- : Great cast, entertaining, but far too soft.