Hunger Games, the (2012)

March 27, 2012 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

The thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to have complex feelings. The Hunger Games explores how much of what we feel is conditioned and how much is natural, through an ultimate test of violence. 24 individuals, chosen from the futuristic ghettos a.k.a districts, are thrown into a man-controlled arena, filled with numerous dangerous and scattered with weapons. They are forced to kill and survive until there is only one left. This Gary Ross directed film follows a young lady named Katniss, who volunteers as tribute to save her little sister from going to battle in the Hunger games to please the residents of the advanced metropolis called the Capitol.

The costume designs and set pieces are all very visually captivating and distinct in that it doesn’t remind one of another future world’s style. The set pieces and settings pop out like a rainbow from a cartoon show, and the people of the Capitol are dressed in attire from an awkwardly unique fashion show (it helps to have Judiana Makovsky on board as a designer). The bright, colorful set pieces work in contradicting the violence of the main event at hand. Even if the film clocks in at over two and a half hours, Ross paces the film just right, allowing ample time for character development that makes the action count.

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most talented young actors out there today, and she’s a treat to see as Katniss, a natural survivor that’s smart enough to adapt to different scenarios. Lawrence, as Katniss, is fierce and maddeningly on fire, but still has enough vulnerability to be relative and caring. She’s not a hero, but she’s heroic, and it’s hard for the audience not to root for her. Her emotions are transparent in just the right moments. There’s a scene where Cinna, played wonderfully by Lenny Kravitz, is talking to Katniss right before she enters the arena and she trembles in such a natural way that it’s easy for the audience to feel her fear. She turns that fear into strength in the arena just as convincingly. Katniss is a wonderful female film heroine, and Lawrence makes her completely believable. Josh Hutcherson, who plays the timid Peeta, is solid. Peeta and Katniss have a complicated relationship that becomes interesting with the intervention of the media.

The supporting actors are all a treat to watch, including Stanley Tucci as the lavish talk show host, Lenny Kravitz as the stylist, Cinna, Elizabeth Banks as the perky Effie, and of course, Woody Harrelson as the drunken Haymitch. They all fill their roles rather well, and are colorful enough to make the most of their screen-time.

The Hunger Games shows a manipulation of feelings, especially through media, where we can be strung like puppets to feel for such things as “reality” television. Perhaps the most engaging thought the Hunger Games can potentially spark is how violence may be the only way to find some version of peace in the world.

Potential Drawbacks:

Is the film similar to Battle Royale? Yes, the plots are quite similar in some aspects. In all honesty, the two films are different enough to not rage.

There’s also those that have read the books, and think the books are better. Let’s face it: most of the time the books are better. There are exceptions: Goodfellas, the Godfather, Drive, Dexter, and so on.

The action scenes are horribly shot. This may be because the action scenes needed to be toned down in the blood and gore factor because of the PG-13 rating, so they just used handheld cameras to film the action scenes and started Harlem shaking until they couldn’t tell who was winning a fight or if anybody lost an appendage or two.

For varying factors, the first half of the film was actually better than the second half. It was more interesting, and the characters were developed very well. Once they get into the arena, the film falls down a few notches. This may be because of the toned down violence, the lack of action, pulled-punches or missed opportunities.  I suppose one could say that complaining about the lack of violence in the film reinforces the message of the film. There’s also the spurts of cringe-worthy, cheesy dialogue from the love-struck Peeta, although it never reaches Twilight levels.

Film Recommendations:

The Running Man
Death Race
Battle Royale

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