Note: I have not read the books, nor do I really have any interest to.
The Hunger Games is the first big blockbuster film of 2012, and while it’s not a superhero film like the many other blockbusters to come, it embodies what superheroes try to embody themselves: hope. This is merely a film dependent solely on the idea that even when death appears imminent, people still cling to hope.
Saying that now though, the movie is really just a social commentary on reality television and it’s ills. The entire concept is that people die, everyone watches them die, and (almost) everyone accepts it as necessary to keep some notion of peace. For those unaware with the film and the books, it takes place in, I guess a futuristic world as opposed to another universe altogether, because everything about the environment is still Earth, there’s just upgrades in the technology. Roughly 75 years ago there was an uprising that destroyed District 13, causing a great power struggle between the Capitol (government) and the citizens of each respective district (there are 12, post-uprising). Each district, as a means of keeping the peace, offers both a boy and a girl between 12 and 18 years old to be a “sacrifice” and participate in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between 24 sacrifices.
I did have to look up some of that information mainly about why The Hunger Games ended up existing because although there was an introductory video and some opening text that explained the concept, I didn’t quite understand the whole notion of it’s existence other than as punishment for war. That is probably the only gripe I have with the details in this movie, because I feel like, having not read the books, this was a pretty detailed adaptation of the novel. It’s hard to imagine that there could be much else to include especially seeing as how the film is a hefty 144 minutes.
I think it’s because of the length of the film that I feel disappointed, even though I felt like I was going to be disappointed anyways. Having seen the trailers and knowing the basic outline (kids fight to death live on television), I didn’t expect much because it was a PG-13 film. This is why so many comparisons to a film like Battle Royale occur (I have not personally seen the film, but I’ve heard enough about it to know that it’s essentially the same basic concept, but rated R) because that is a film that had an R rating and thus was allowed to show just how violent a fight to the death would be. With that being said, The Hunger Games delivers in violence as much as it could, and should have, given it’s rating and preferred demographic. But going back to the length of the film, it is 144 minutes or 2 hours and 24 minutes, which is what I expect from these types of films, but I don’t think it earns that sort of length. It felt like half the movie was spent hyping the games up, and then the other half was just the games themselves, and to be completely honest, I found the hype to be better than the actual games. There’s a lot more cheesiness in the arena, especially because they weave this relationship into the story making it almost impossible not to laugh at some of the dialogue. Plus, there’s a lot of scenes that feel way too drawn out to try and create an emotional reaction to Katniss’s circumstances, but it’s too long and loses any effect it might have had.
On top of all that, pretty much everyone in the film could have been replaced with another actor and it still would have retained it’s quality. The only shout-outs I have to give in the film are Stanley Tucci who plays gay so well, Elizabeth Banks for being so out there and will never play a role like that outside of this series, Woody Harrelson for getting to have a head full of hair, and the one performance that I think was truly noteworthy was Jennifer Lawrence. They cast her so perfectly for Katniss Everdeen that it makes the entire film so much more enjoyable just because she’s truly giving a great acting performance. It’s hard to imagine another female who could play that role off the top of my head, but she deserves her praise. However, Josh Hutcherson who plays a whiny kid who just wants attention from his crush, Katniss, really could have been played by almost anyone else. I don’t think he was bad in his role, but he wasn’t perfect., and I think that has to do with some of the cheesiness weaved into the story.
An example of this cheesiness is probably why this movie has one of the funniest scenes in the film, and it’s not really a spoiler so don’t worry about it. But anyways, Peeta (Hutcherson’s character, though the entire film I thought no one was pronouncing his name wrong, turns out he’s a baker’s boy so Peeta just became cheesier) has learned how to camouflage himself exceptionally well. I mean, EXCEPTIONALLY, because he can apply texture and gradient, the perfect colours, and the movie doesn’t really get to explain how he does it, but he does it twice in the film. The first time, he’s sort of just blending with a tree, and he offers to explain how he does it, but never does, and says that he learned from making cakes. Then there’s a scene in the movie where the announcer of the tournament says during the games to the contestants something that makes Katniss go searching for Peeta (not going to spoil it). She finally finds him bleeding, while laying down with the rocks near a river, completely camouflaged. I shit you not, it was the funniest thing I had seen in a serious film, in the longest time. It’s really this Peeta character that presents some of the worst scenes in the film, but this is solely because of the writing.
There’s not much else for me to talk about except that I will say the shaky-cam that’s used in this movie an incredulous amount, could have been toned down a bit. It absolutely beat it to death, and I understand why it was used so much, but it wasn’t necessary for every scene. There was one in the beginning where Katniss is just running to meet Gale (Liam Hemsworth, who gets virtually no screen time but you can tell in the sequel he will get way more) and it’s a 2 minute long run, and the camera would not stop shaking, which felt absolutely pointless.
To summarize my feelings about this movie. It was enjoyable, and as I said Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for the role and can display a wide array of emotions that makes the movie much more interesting to view. However, the cheesiness in the film, along with the drawn out length, and the mediocre cast, makes this big budget film more forgettable than it should have been. It had all the right things going for it, and I know it’s already made a crapload of money, and will get it’s proposed trilogy, but it didn’t make me feel like wanting to watch the second film. I will ultimately end up watching it I think, but beyond the fact that the concept interests me and Lawrence is a great actress, I see no reason to buy the films when they come out. I will recommend the film though, because it is definitely not terrible, in fact, it has it’s moments where it shines as a movie, but without Jennifer Lawrence it would have all fallen apart I believe.