Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Review

The executives at Lionsgate must have salivated when they decided to make The Hunger Games. It has the Twilight formula. Take best selling young adults book. Set said movie in a science fiction- fantasy world. And here's the important part, make sure the heroes are teenagers and have a love story with them. Voila. Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, it isn't that easy. A crappy teenage movie may not sell.

The Hunger Games is based on Suzanne Collins' best selling young adult novel of the same name. Taking place in the future, the government has divided the country into twelve districts. Because of a past rebellion, the government orders each district to send a male and female teenager from 12-18 to compete in "The Hunger Games" in which the teenagers fight to the death. The games are broadcast nationwide, with cameras everywhere in the wooded arena. It's part reality show, and gladiator contest. The games have their own obnoxious talk show hosted by Caesar Flickerman. (Stanley Tucci) And overseeing this dystopian future is President Coriolanus Snow. (Donald Sutherland)

District Twelve is a dirt poor district where mining is a primary source of income for the residents. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is adept at hunting with a bow to provide food for her indigent family. When Katniss' younger sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is also chosen from the district. Training them is alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy. (Woody Harrelson) He teaches them more than just how to kill each other, he teaches them about being popular so they can get sponsors. Sponsors are those people who may fly in medicine on a parachute if a contestant needs it. Peeta plays the game well, when he tells Flickerman on his show that he is in love with Katniss.

As I was watching the movie, I wondered what was the rebellion about that caused this dystopian society. I thought why would these games have a calming effect on the masses. After all, wouldn't this barbarism cause an uprising more than once? And that is one of the problems with The Hunger Games. We are not thinking but reacting. Director Gary Ross (Dave, Seabiscuit) knows how to pull the heart strings. But his movie lacks smarts. Then there is the uneven make-up, costumes and art direction. The District Twelve scenes look they belong to The Coal Miner's Daughter not the future. And what about that make-up, and hair? Elizabeth Banks character, Effie Trinket, looks like she was dipped in seventeenth century foppishness. Flickerman's blue hair looks ludicrous. Yeah, it might be in the book but it's a bad idea for the movie because it's too over the top in a distracting way.

But even with those problems, the movie takes off during the training scenes. It's all set up by a video flashback where a previous winner is looking at a bloody stone used to kill his final competitor. Director Ross gets great performances from his actors. There's a tension to them. And that comes across the screen. You feel dread because except for one, all these kids will die. When the game is on, Ross' direction is tight. He certainly knows how to stage a scene. The movie occasionally makes a mistake like a flashback in the middle of the game but those missteps are few.

Don't go to The Hunger Games looking for cerebral moviemaking. The gladiator type conflict was done much better in the original Star Trek episode, "Arena" because it was smarter. The Hunger Games is a teenage version of Gladiator. (2000) Still, The Hunger Games is an emotional thriller. The grade is B.


Fowl Ideas said...

Gladiatorial combat is a tool intended to distract the masses who might otherwise dedicate their hero worship to real people attempting to solve real problems to the detriment of those in power. For an example, compare what the average American knows about football stats with what they know about the people who are running their government. The Hunger Games is more about that phenomenon than anything else.

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