The Hunger Games: America’s New Obsession
It should be known that I have never read any of the books; this review is strictly based off of the film adaptation.
Just when the last Harry Potter movie came out, and the Twilight movies were about to wrap up, along comes The Hunger Games to once again start a multi-billion dollar movie franchise to suck money out of America’s youth. From what I’ve heard, there will apparently be four movies, with the last two movies being “Part 1” and “Part 2” of the third book. These movies are almost guaranteed to gross a billion dollars combined, not to mention the millions of dollars made off of movie-related promotional items. It seems that America has found its latest multi-billion dollar movie obsession; The Hunger Games will be in the news for a very, very long time.
Going into this movie, I expected a sort of MTV feel-good teenage hope story that made audiences happy, and people who had read the books even happier. However, after I saw this movie I was pleasantly surprised by the way it was put together and the way I felt connected to the story even though I’ve never read any of the books. Even though the story is pretty much Gamer + Battle Royale + Stephen King’s The Long Walk + weirdness, this movie presented a unique, engaging idea that held my attention the entire way through.
However, with that being said, I really thought that the idea was better than the movie. I felt that they really should have expanded on the barbaric nature of this event, instead of making hesitant rule makers who are more concerned with the politics of the games than the actual outcome. This film had a golden ticket: its story gave it a perfect gateway to political and socially commentary. However, this movie chose to completely ignore this golden ticket, and instead focus more on a frankly boring teeny-love relationship between the two main characters. The bottom line is that this movie was trying to be a cool, revolutionary dystopian film like V for Vandetta or Children of Men, but it just ended up grazing the surface of its satirical potential. While this movie had an enthralling storyline and an interesting concept, it will never come close to being as good as some of the top dystopian films of our era.
I thought that the acting in this movie was slightly above-average, as expected from a movie with this target audience. This film had a motley, almost completely random group of actors, but they somehow made it work. Stanley Tucci, as the outgoing television host Caesar Flickerman, and Elizabeth Banks, as District 12 escort Effie Trinket probably gave the best performances in this movie, both playing the strangely flamboyant representatives of The Capitol. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson (who looks like he has down syndrome) both gave decent performances in this movie, as expected of young actors of their caliber. However, one thing that made me very mad about this film was its use of Toby Jones. TJ is one hell of a character actor, yet he is in this movie for only about 5 seconds, as the counterpart to Tucci’s character of Flickerman.
Some of the feedback I was seeing online subsequent to the release of this movie was praising this movie for its originality and “superb” acting. For example, one article I saw was entitled “Hunger Games: Best Picture 2013?” Don’t be dumb, I enjoyed this movie, but no PG-13 teenybopper movie that grosses 300 million plus is going to win an Oscar, ever; not to mention one that came out in March. Movies like this always seem to get overhyped, and seem to overshadow the Shawshanks and Fight Clubs of our time.
One thing that also really bugged me about this movie was the way it had been PG-13ified to appeal to a broader and less frugal audience. It seemed like all of the fight scenes employed a heavy use of shaky-cam to make the violence less visible and less brutal. This not only made me feel sick while watching the movie, but it also weakened a vital factor to the credibility of the story: the savagery of the games. It was one of the many factors that made the Capitol seem not that savage, (also the indecisiveness to kill off one of more contestants?) which diminished any chance they had for developing crucial themes. This could’ve easily been fixed by having the Gamemaker kill off a contestant for breaking the rules. Also, there was no realization that one of these characters might have to kill off a close friend in order to win the game. Katniss and Rue were hanging out together for the majority of the games, without so much as sharing a single look of the realization that one of them would have to kill the other in the end.
I know that I spent the majority of this review ripping on small parts of The Hunger Games, but that’s because almost every review out there is extremely positive. Even though I like to rip on this movie, I still found it very entertaining and fun to watch. Nevertheless, I thought this movie this movie could have been a lot better, and it missed a significant amount of chances to take it’s themes to the next level. For a more brutal and honestly superior version of this movie, I would recommend the Japanese film Battle Royale (although it’s a tough watch - far more violent and weird). The bottom line is that while The Hunger Games is a very enjoyable watch, as a piece of social commentary, political insight or biting satire it fails miserably.
My Rating: 7.5/10