Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games (Film)

Battle Royale is a 2000 Japanese film based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Koushun Takami. The main plot revolves around a dystopian future where the government selects a group of young people to fight to the death for their cruel amusement-

What’s that? This isn’t Battle Royale? This is The Hunger Games? Huh. Okay.

The Hunger Games is a 2012 American film based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. The main plot revolves around a dystopian future where the government selects a group of young people to fight to the death for their cruel amusement.

Alright, alright, it’s not exactly the most original of sentiments as far as this flick goes but the fact is if you’re even remotely familiar with Battle Royale you’ll be unable to shake the feeling that you’ve heard this idea somewhere before. Sorry Miss Collins but this is your fate. Anyway this film was directed by Gary Ross who has only directed two feature length films prior to this but they were Pleasantville and Seabiscuit which were both pretty critically acclaimed movies. Collins also wrote the screenplay, which is really goddamn rare in Hollywood when the author of the book also writes the script. So there’s that.

Now I joke about the Battle Royale connection but there might be a stronger case for similarities in tone and style to Twilight as they are both young adult novels and I’m pretty certain that it was Hollywood’s quest to find the “next Twilight” that led to this film’s existence. Going into this flick there’s a lot of things to be concerned with. But the film has been doing crazy well so that usually means it’s really good right?

 Haha, of course not! Full review after the jump.

It's all fun and games until someone gets shot with an arrow
In an unspecified future Katniss Everdeen (Jenifer Lawrence) is a sixteen year old girl living in the mining town District 12. She is eligible for the forthcoming 74th Annual Hunger Games, an insidious contest where two children from every district is selected to fight to the death on live television as punishment for all the districts rebelling against the government years and years ago. Luckily for Katniss her name isn’t drawn. Unluckily for Katniss her young, twelve year old sister’s name is. To keep her out of the games Katniss volunteers to take her place and is shipped off, along with local boy Peeta, to the capital to battle for her life.

So Jenifer Lawrence is pretty good at Katniss. She was just “okay” in X-Men: First Class but she’s considerably more interesting here. True, she has more to do, but she’s a great fit here. In fact this is almost certainly a star making performance especially since she clearly has other non-Hunger Games work lined up in the near future. I suspect we’ll be hearing her name often over the next few year. Also I should mention that Lenny Kravitz, in what I’m told is his acting debut, does a pretty decent job considering he’s not actually an actor. He may have recorded a shitty version of American Woman but I certainly can’t criticize his acting skills. The more work he gets the better he’ll get, which is more than I can say for other actors currently getting work in Hollywood (coughcoughjanuraryjonescough). Also more credit: I totally thought Effie Trinket was a dude in drag doing a crazy Joker impression but it turns out it was Elizabeth Banks. At this point I’ve seen her in about a million things and I still couldn’t tell it was her. That’s pretty neat. she going to eat her?
The world structure of the film and the world itself work very well together. This is undoubtedly a well thought out film with a well written story, and credit where credit is due, Suzanne Collins did a pretty good job turning her book into a film.

Truth be told it’s all very simple: from a film making stand point this is a really good movie. Everything about its structure and plot and even the characters is pretty good, though not fantastically so. And it avoids pretty much all of the issues people were concerned about as far as Twilight-comparisons go. For example Katniss is awesome. She’s a strong, capable young woman who has several moments of being a badass to her name. And the dreaded love triangle that really brought the Twilight comparisons is really understated and not at all central to the main plot (This may well change in the sequel). There’s is something of a romantic subplot that the main plot is interconnected with but it’s actually not what it seems.

The biggest problems with the movie are pretty standard for a novel turned film. The beginning segment in District 12 could have used more time spent on life in that town as we kind of leave too quickly. This is even truer during the part of the film that takes place in the Capital. I actually thought that the preparation for the Hunger Games was the best part of the movie, but it went by a lot faster than I would have liked. We barely get to know any of the contestants that aren’t Katniss and Peeta, which sucks. There are a lot of characters in this film but not a lot of them have a heck of a lot of time to develop. Without naming names or giving big spoilers a character dies and we’re supposed to be very affected by it but we hardly spent any time with the person so it’s nowhere near as emotionally draining as I think they were going for. Basically the film moves extremely fast, almost certainly so we could they could fit all the important things from the book into the movie. It feels like a lot of content has been sacrificed which is too bad.

Meh, I liked him better in Captain America
One tiny thing that bugged me was the violence being shown in that made it seemed fairly tuned down. It’s a bit hard to describe but bottom line with a movie with such a dark tone I was sadden by the fact that wasn’t more graphically violent. Of course asking for such a thing from a PG-13 film based on a book for teenagers is probably a bit silly, and certainly I’m not even that huge of a fan of extreme violence but it really seemed like this movie could have used a bit more. Also weirdly the movie wraps up surprisingly well. Unlike John Carter the flick ends in a way where if no sequel ever came it wouldn’t really matter. I’ve been told the ending on the book was slightly different. It’s weird.

This is a really good movie, let’s not say anything that disputes that. It also shares pretty much nothing in common with Battle Royale outside of the obvious stuff. If you say that this film rips it off you’d also have to say it ripped off other things like Firefly (Both their settings have a similar background) and a giant list of other films and books. The problem is mainly that after watching it I didn’t really find myself leaving with a strong emotional response. I kind of left the theater not caring about this movie one way or the other. Even writing this review was a chore. Maybe it didn’t appeal to my senses but the fact is that according to the rules of this blog a movie that leaves me feeling indifferent gets an automatic score. Still it’s a film that is probably well worth your time and I encourage all of you to check it out and see it for yourself.

Also there's a lot of racists out there.
Dumbest. Controversy. Ever.

I’m giving The Hunger Games 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Strong Female Lead

-Well written plot

-Interesting world


-Plot moves too fast

-Development for secondary characters is lacking

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