Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW - The odds are in your favor if you see The Hunger Games

"Teens or Adults, book series fans or general movie goers, chicks or dudes, this movie can appeal to all of the above. Despite a few minor issues, with great acting from a very strong cast and a gripping concept, this production pulls it together for a movie that's deserving of the hype."


I’d like to start this off by finishing my sandwich that I didn’t have to kill a teenager for at a young age. Mmm…delicious.

Ah, The Hunger Games. Who was able to go all last week without seeing or hearing anything about this movie? Yup, me neither. But, due to hearing a lot of good things about it along with the book, I'm okay with that. What I haven’t enjoyed, and what has bothered me even more after seeing the movie, is all the comparisons to Twilight I've been seeing in the media. Let’s get this straight: they are both considered “young adult” books with teenaged female main characters, and that’s really as far as any comparison should go. The Hunger Games has a strong independent female lead and carries very heavy themes of desperation, survival, tyranny, and a completely morally bankrupt view of human life. Twilight carries themes of angsty stalker stripper-body-glitter people with a hunger for blood (or as they are considered in those books “vampires”…still hard for me to grasp), unhealthy expectations of love, and has a helpless/overly dependent female lead. So hopefully I’ve helped clear that up.

I’d also like to add that I’m into movies, not novels (I’m not a fast reader), so I didn’t read the book…even though it came highly recommended by my pretty wife (scoring points while writing movie reviews…oh yeah!). Given the novel's strong following and the news surrounding the development and production of the movie being so positive, I thought about not watching a full trailer before seeing the movie (a rare feat for yours truly). Then, once I saw the positive movie reviews start to pour in, I just decided to save my virgin eyes and ears for the full film. And I’m happy I did!

Just a warning: I’m going to get into some detail here, but nothing that isn't either explained during the first 10 minutes of the movie or spoils any major plot point. Some may even consider it helpful!

The Hunger Games begins by giving insight into the Games and the times. It’s the not-so-distant future and an uprising against the government (due to mistreatment, an economic collapse, and times of extreme desperation/hardship) has left the US (now called Panem) divided into 12 impoverished Districts dominated by a Capital filled with the wealthy and authority. As penance for the people’s attempted overthrow, and as a reminder of their place, the tyrannical Capital now randomly select one 12-18 year old male and female from each District and place them into the annual Hunger Games. The Games are a contest of survival to the last one standing for the “honor of their district" and take place in a large environmentally controlled forest.

It's cruel enough without the inclusion of another twisted fact: it’s televised for the amusement of those living in the Capital (and they LOVE it) and the demoralized citizens of the 12 Districts are given ample access to watch as well (and are even forced to at times). It’s also worth noting that forest where the games take place can be instantaneously manipulated by the show’s director to become more dangerous if deemed necessary to keep ratings up. Yup...a real chick flick, just like Twilight.

The plot follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence, known for: X-Men First Class, Winter’s Bone) of District 12 who volunteers to take her 12 year old sister’s place in the Hunger Game. She ends up coupled with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, known for nothing really amazing) to represent their District. Does a romance develop? Yes, of course, but it’s actually interesting and not what you’d expect! Imagine that!

The movie does a fantastic job of explaining all of these details without becoming convoluted and I wanted to stress these details because they encompass one of the film's major strengths: the emotional climate. It’s a film that creates moral outrage by seeing the desperation of innocent youth forced into violent acts of desperation (and they can be bloody and brutal), has some imagery and situations akin to Nazi concentration camps, and can really effect the viewer by putting themselves in the scenario of “what if that were my beloved partner, sibling, or child chosen for, and killed in, the Games?” All of this while viewing the delight (and at times indifference) of the ludicrously looking and lavishly decorated citizens of the Capital as they enjoy these morally reprehensible events…it's well done and even has a good chance of get you choked up during a few scenes (one in particular).

The action and special effects in this film are also well done. For a PG-13 movie staring teenagers killing each other, it was naturally (though a bit surprisingly) bloody and violent during the Games. But not senselessly so! The camera always cuts away before showing a killing blow, though it leaves nothing to the imagination as to how they died. The fight scenes are filmed very Bourne-esque with the close shaky-cam, though it still does a good job of showing exactly what’s going on. And the FX showing the augmentation of the Games’ environment were great as well.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few chinks in the armor here. The script is a bit dry in places and the character development can feel a bit lacking. For example, there are a few very brief flashback scenes that could have used further explanation. The plot can become a bit predictable at times. This isn’t something that often bothers me unless I feel there’s next to no guessing or threat involved, which thankfully wasn’t the case here. It would have been nice to learn more about the other districts as it appeared that, in one of the competing teen's districts, they have an almost Spartan-like pride in the games. I also felt they could have shown more of the nationwide landscape to give a stronger grasp of the devastating wars that caused this future social climate. And some of the costumes can come off as looking a bit cheap considering who's wearing them, primarily the law enforcement. But, really, those last few points are ignorable as nitpicks and the other faults can be forgiven as they don’t erode the overall impact of the movie if you're taken in by the affecting grip it can have. If you're a fan of the books most of these faults probably won't bother you much at all since you already know what's up.

So, all in all, The Hunger Games is a very good and enjoyable movie all around. Teens or Adults, book series fans or general movie goers, chicks or dudes, this movie can appeal to all of the above. Despite a few minor issues, with great acting from a very strong cast and a gripping concept, this production pulls it together for a movie that's deserving of the hype. Here's looking forward to Catching Fire! Now I’m off to, again, attempt to convince my wife that growing this beard (worn by Wes Bently as Seneca Crane in the film) is a good idea:


General audience score: 8.5/10
*Fans of the books score: 9/10

*For those of you interested in a fan of the book's perspective, I'd suggest checking out my wife's oh-so-tasteful review here:  The Hunger Games movie and book review

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review.
    We went to see this movie and liked it too.
    I hate that any culture would think that it is justified to use kids for fighting.

    Here's to better futures.