Reviews: The Hunger Games
Much better than expected.
I've heard lots of people against this film, or at the very least, neutral. However, seeing a clip from the second film made me want to watch the series (after having read the books many times), and I was quite impressed. Everything about the film makes a clear effort with clear intent, and it does well. It's appropriately emotional and grim in all the right places, and knows the message of the books and follows through on that. All of the performances have nice realism and there's frequently some great subtlety in the characters' interactions. Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, and Woody Harrelson are particularly notable, and are irreplaceable as their characters. Most of the film follows the book, and where it diverges plot-wise, it's either a necessity or generally ineffectual to the plot. The exposition is notable, as this film tells the narration-heavy story of the book without any recorded narration for Katniss at all. All we get is some text introducing the concept of the world, and some notes for the locations we're in. The rest is told through clever shots and the film is able to leave the Games to give us shots of the districts and commentating that drops pieces of knowledge we got from Katniss' narration in the book. It's an admirable adaptation that gets across all it needs to without a single entry to thought-voiceover. Seeing the behind-the-scenes of the Games is also a really nice addition that gives us some valuable insight into the Capitol and its strategy with the Games and districts, and there's some nice stuff laid outside the Games that segues into the tensions later in the books. The cinematography I actually thought was excellent. The motion of the camera and the various shots are all calculated for the right mood. Effie Trinket is made monstrous through disconcerting close-ups, the horror of the Games is conveyed yet censored well with shaky cam, and there are judicious uses of score as well. Perhaps some cuts and scenes don't flow together well, but I liked their efforts. This is a really nice film that does a lot with what it's given, and I was pleasantly surprised. If this is the weakest entry, I'm glad I'm seeing the others.
I gotta be honest, I did went to the theater with the negative mindset and how "This is just a lame rip-off of Battle Royale and stuff", however when I watched it again, I could tell that it's just a plain bad movie, but I'll see in more points:
- Story: While the premise is straight-forward, the more you look at it, the more it is headscratching: Aside from forcing children to do the hunger games, why does it 75 years for somebody to do react about it? When did Lady Gaga ruled the USA? What's with this hope snow talks about? did he play GOW III?
- Characters: Mary-sue, boring guy, tagalong girl, bad guys, and F*CKING HAYMITCH! (and keep in mind he's not a great character either, but he's the only decent character in this movie) I'm dissapointed they couldn't show the other characters, they could be good enough.
- Pacing : I thought that the three acts were the perfect lengh, but god the fight scenes are boring, and the camera work is horrible.
- SFX: Meh, I gotta admit it's good.
Hunger Games Left Me Starving For Better Fare
Notes: I've read the first book and seen the movie. This review will also contain spoilers. So. The Hunger Games, a.k.a. "the new Harry Potter". I'm sorry, but I just don't see it. I had to force myself to finish the book (and I'm a voracious reader - had the highest count of checked out books in my high school board's district library). Katniss is unrelatable for me. She's either petulant or bland, there's no middle ground. I ended up rooting for characters like Clove, Glimmer, Cato and Gale - at least they had some shades of depth to them! The writing style was very hard to work around (I've read books set in the present tense before, so it's not that). I didn't go into the movie with high hopes, so I can't say whether I'm disappointed or grimly satisfied. Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss was underwhelming. She either had a blank, slack-jawed look on her face or a sullen glare. She did gain some points with me when she was allowed to act (during the Tracker Jacker sting scene when she screams at her mother), but other than that, it was a giant let-down (sort of a slightly-more-emotional Bella Swann, who I also strongly disliked). Josh Hutcherson was similarly awful, and the others mostly faded into the background (I actually rolled my eyes during Rue's death scene). The camera work was terrible, too jittery and unfocused for viewers to actually see and understand what was going on. We barely got to know any of the tributes, so seeing them die didn't really matter on an emotional level. Our theatre was entirely silent throughtout the whole film - only my aunt's jumping when the "fauxtation" appeared out of the bushes reminded me that I wasn't watching it by myself. There were some highlights, though, mainly the adult actors (and a few of the younger actors). They did the best with what they were given, which, sadly, wasn't much. Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Isabelle Fuhrmann, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Wes Bentley deserve kudos for their work. Final score: 3/10 Will I Be Reading Any Of The Other Books/Seeing Any Of The Other Movies?: No. Other Comments: Battle Royale did it first and better. Sorry.
Liked it better than the book
Slight spoilers. Like the title says, I generally liked to movie better than the novel. Two things that bugged me about the book was a) how exposition heavy it was, and b) Katnissí rather prevalent Protagonist Centered Morality. So in the movie, instead of having to read several (slightly unnecessary) pages about how Katnissí dress or hair or food looks like, I can just watch it. Easy. Some scenes have also been shortened, such as the rather long and boring cave scene with Peeta, and a lot of pre-game material. Also, I donít actually have to hear Katnissís thoughts here, which I thought was an improvement. I do think they could have used this opportunity to develop the other tributes just a bit more in order to actually make me care for the faceless/unnamed kids that just got killed. Still, the movie, like the novel, is mainly tied to Katnissí perspective so I suppose it makes sense. I did however like that they added a slight Not So Different approach to some of the tributes (such as Foxface and even Cato). The book was rather: Career = Complete Monster, which I thought was oversimplifying matters. Some things I missed from the books was the explanation of the mockingjay and the fact that Peeta came off a rather shallow, not just as a love interest (which is pretty much the point of their relationship, itís an act) but as a character. Even Rue left a much stronger impression on me. I still find it quite implausible that the games have lasted for 75 years without any major rebellions, especially with the Capitol being so Obviously Evil and all, but hey, itís fiction. All in all, itís a good movie, based on a good novel. Not the best Iíve seen this year, and definitely not the worst. Iíll be waiting for the sequel(s). (If you find any spelling/grammar fail, do tell).
The writing quality of the books leaves much to be desired—it seems to be designed for middle-schoolers. According to my friend, the story line was predictable from the very beginning. However, I went to see the movie and was pleasantly surprised. The Hunger Games is one series where just watching the movies would almost be better than reading the books. While the author may not have intended it, the underlying theme that came across to me was a critique against our current society. Especially in the movie. Watching the relationship between Peeta and Katniss develop was painful because you realized how fake it was. It made me wonder about the other 'reality' TV shows we watch on a regular basis. The whole inanity of it all was much more apparent in the movie than the book and I enjoyed it for that. While there's definitely things to be critical about, I enjoyed the commentary, whether or not it was intended to be such.
Almost Perfect Adaptation
The Hunger Games conveys almost everything the book wanted to convey. There are changes to the story but they're well thought-out changes that use some pretty clever tricks to show the things that don't translate to film and then taken advantage of the things films can do, the acting and directing are great and interesting. It has all the details that should be there but it doesn't point them out. Instead a background shot will just have the things a reader knows it should have but to a new-comer it's no more different or confusing than any other establishing shot. There are problems. The placement of the music could be poor. In one part someone is following the blood trail of someone close to them with happy-moment music. Peta and Gale were just slightly to handsome, they were cast like Twilight, but in the end the film still recognised that this is the one rare place where the heroine has more important priorities than who she goes home with. Although they did a lot to establish setting and ideas there was still a lot left up to the viewer. Finally there was no real visual style, but in a way that did fit. The Hunger Games aren't so much a story and if it had style maybe it would be another film where you're not meant to realise how terrible it is that people are dying. Which brings us onto the problem of The Hunger Games in general, that was somehow focused by the film. Why do we want to watch it? It conveyed what the books aimed to convey but that wasn't joy or amusment but how horrid this world would actually be. Some professional reviewers didn't get it and described Katniss as an action hero. One even complained that Katniss only kills one person! We understand why we want fun, excitement, fear, even tragedy but it's none of those. If it had been about the holocaust, even a fictional event in the holocaust, we'd understand why people would watch such a stark look at human beings. Yet The Hunger Games universe is entirely fictional. Does it make a difference? We know humans can be fine with watching other fighting to the death as entertainment. We know regimes can be cruel and oppressive and that people will go along with it and actually fight. But in the end it not real. Does that mean we don't have the same reason to watch it as a similar film in a setting that did happen? I don't know.
First things first: I haven't read the books, and I hadn't a clue what I was about to watch. All I could garner from the trailers was that this was going to be another one of those generic, one-note dystopia stories; the kind which only exist in fiction, with societies based around an absurdly simple and obvious flaw. The Hunger Games is one of those movies, but that doesn't matter much. Hunger may be set in a one-note, backwards police state with terrible dress sense and a silly obsession with blood sports, but this isn't the focus of the story. The fascists who hold the games, and indeed the games themselves, are just the framing device to provide an interesting, cruel scenario in which children have to deal with killing one another for survival. The film does a good job of that. It is well acted, convincing, and the sense of misery and desperation really comes across. You feel bad for these teenagers, and you wonder how they are going to get out of this horrible situation. You wonder how you would get out of it. There are several elements that take you out of it, like the rubbish CGI, the obnoxious shaky-cam action, and the choice to make a bunch of the contestants into two-dimensional, jock, psychopathic assholes. That last one was especially annoying. If we are supposed to feel sorry for these kids, making most of them into unloveable jerks is counter-intuitive. Having contestants who were brainwashed into committing terrible acts would have been enough, but the film goes one step too far by showing them guffaw over dead twelve year olds. Only in the final showdown is one of the jocks given a chance to show his other side, but by then it is too little too late. You've already lumped them in with the fascist adults. I've been talking a lot about the negatives, but in spite of the films various flaws, I would still recommend it. People are going to compare it to Battle Royale or whatever, but Hunger tells its own story. I would even go so far as to say it tells its own story far better.