Hunger Games Movie Review
Decent movie, although it did feel a little malnourished.
Yes, I went to a midnight screening last night with 1,000,000,000,000 teenage girls. Fortunately I had some friends along with me so I didn’t feel too creepy. And no I did not read the book ahead of time, so I will be reviewing this movie solely on it’s own merits.
First off, this is the much better looking sister of the whole Twilight series. It has a lot in common with Twilight: fairly attractive teenage boys (or so the audience seemed to feel), a relatively bland looking main girl thrust into a horrific series of violence and action, a star crossed romance, and a plot that makes you want to disconnect the higher functions of your brain. However, in general the story is less lame, the acting almost borders on good instead of making you wish you were watching grade school kids performing Hamlet, the special effects didn’t feel glossed in to facilitate a dumb love story, in spite of the massive 144 minute run time pacing was great and didn’t slow down, everyone kept their shirts on, and absolutely no one sparkled in daylight. Overall a credible movie, and in spite of my grumpy old man approach I found myself entertained. (Buffy Staked Edward image courtesy of the TV Show T Shirts).
That being said, the “violence” suffered from the PG-13 demon in a big way. The writers and director (Gary Ross-Ross-Pleasantville, Seabisquit, Big) seemed to be making an effort to remain true to the book, but according to my friends who have read it failed in some really big ways. However, that effort resulted in about a million supporting characters all screaming for some kind of back story or development left dying on the vine. Honestly, either give us something or relegate them to the faceless bad guy minion category. In an effort to lighten the plot some pretty big plot holes were added in, all of which might have been better understood by the ignorant audience (in this case, me) had they spent another 15 minutes on expository back story or just a better understanding of the characters involved. The denouement (that’s fancy review speech for the ending) felt rushed and campy, both of which could have been alleviated with more story. However, if I had gotten all the movie I felt was needed this thing would have gone like four hours and I would have missed a lot taking bathroom breaks.
Speaking of bathroom breaks, a suggestion given to me by one of my 18 friends named Mike was to look for a good chance to cut out and use the restroom. I am going to suggest the beginning of the cave/soup scene. Seemed like a lot of emotional touchy/feelie stuff that did pretty much nothing to advance the plot, and it goes on for a while so you will have time to take care of most of your business.
Anyway, the movie itself. It stars Jeniffer Lawrence (X-Men First Class (young Mystique), Winters Bone, Like Crazy) as Katniss Everdeen, a young girl living in a bucolic dystopic future where everyone seems to be in serious danger of starvation and she has to support her family by hunting with a bow. She and her 12 year old sister Primrose (Willow Shields-Beyond the Blackboard, In Plain Sight) are entered into the drawing for the Hunger Games, some kind of Battle Royale contest that happens every year where kids from the 12 districts battle to the death in punishment for some kind of rebellion or something (remember all that missing development I mentioned?). Primrose gets selected, but Katniss volunteers in her place to save her life. The other guy from her district is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson-Journey to the Center of the Earth, American Splendor, the Kids are All Right), a guy that she has some kind of ill defined previous relationship with (I’m serious here. He fed her bread or something, but did she hate him or love him? He later reveals he had feeling for her, but can someone tell me what the hell was going on between them before the games? Oh, yeah. Missing story development). He is supposed to be the charismatic one, which will serve him later as the sadistic bastards in charge of this crime against humanity opt to support the kids with cans of soup or whatnot. Anyway, the two of them and the other 22 tributes are put through a PR blitz and training/evaluation montage that, like a lot of this film, felt incomplete. There we are sort of introduced to some of the other contestants, but these supporting characters are introduced to us in the most cursory and insubstantial manner. It was like trying to grow a plant but the only source of light is a tiny pinhole (the story and characters being the plant and the light being character development). The biggest victim of this is the antagonist Cato (Alexander Ludwig-Escape to Witch Mountain, a Little Thing Called Murder, The Seeker; the Dark is Rising), who is supposed to have some kind of troubled past that is hinted at in the last scene but never comes to fruition. I just read over a list of all the contestants and they all seem to have some kind of cool story. I’m not saying develop all of them, but one or two would not have been remiss.
Anyway, during the training we get to know former victor Haymitch Abernathy (the great Woody Harrleson-Natural Born Killers, Cheers, Friends with Benefits) who is there to mentor them, and meet the president played by the great Donald Sutherland looking a lot like a skinny Santa Claus. Eventually the kids are injected into the fight arena, where PG-13 bloody mayhem ensues. It is here that a lot of the plot holes surface like unsightly pimples, and towards the end the story takes a big detour down Dopey Lane.
The stars. Better than I expected. Two stars. The story wasn’t really that bad. One star. Woody Harrelson. One star. Donald Sutherland. One star. Acting all around was commendable. Not Oscar worthy, but worthwhile. One star. Some of the futuristic scenes in the capitol city were pretty cool. One star. Excellent pacing for a film this long, and admirable camera work. One star. I really like the idea of exposing young ladies to science fiction in any form, in hopes that future male nerds don’t suffer the pain of finding girls who can talk about anything remotely interesting. One star. For all that it was PG-13 and therefore completely lacking in gravitas, the fight action was pretty cool. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. Those plot holes I spotted, while not huge, were weighty and distracting, like accidentally swallowing a snooker ball. One black hole. No attempt was made at all to appeal to straight males. The girls were, while not necessarily bland, definitely not Megan Fox hot and for the most part wore baggy futuristic combat fatigues. One black hole. The costumes the upper class citizens wore throughout the film actually caused eye pain. Imagine if a troupe of circus clowns took over a steam punk clothing factory. One black hole. The whole movie was headed towards a really cool and tragic ending, but then pulled the rip cord and took the easy way out. One black hole. The sadistic glee that the adults took watching kids brutally maul each other to death was more than a little off putting. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of four stars, which is way more than I thought it would get. I honestly expected it to suck more. A pleasantly surprising movie. If I were to take into account the audience for which is was intended (teenage girls) than this movie is absolutely brilliant and accomplishes exactly it’s goal (of launching another huge money making franchise bent on depriving kids of their disposable income and some brain cells). Should you see it? If you have no Y chromosome absolutely. If you read the book absolutely, but plan on spending an hour or so afterward bitching about all the things they couldn’t fit in. Great date movie, but if you are a single male loser you might just wait for video. However, if for whatever reason you are going (date, group of friends, stalking expedition, etc) be sure to watch Battle Royale and then annoying everyone around you by telling them all in excruciating detail how it is all just a rip off of a Japanese movie made in 2000.
Thanks for reading. Looks like every other film in the world didn’t want to compete with this monster, so not a lot to see this weekend. A guy sent me a screener for his independent film. Looks like some kind of crime drama. I will watch it these weekend and review it for you. It is pretty low budget, so I will be taking that into account as I watch it. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions. Comments feel free to post here. Thanks again, and talk to you soon.