When a popular book is being filmed into a movie, the hype machine revs up and preps for a massive ad campaign that’s hard to dodge. When this particular book came out, by the time the first person came to me and recommended the book, I heard that The Hunger Games is becoming a movie. So I decided to hold off from hearing about anything about the book, including story, trailers, commercials and online teasers. And frankly it was the hardest task I could think of. But, I’ve seen it now, so here’s my opinion on the movie. And there might be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen it and want to be surprised, then why are you reading a review before seeing a movie?
Up and coming actress Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, which to me, doesn’t sound like a 16 year old wilderness hunter in post-apocalyptic America, but a 16th level blood-elf hunter from World of Warcraft. She chooses to volunteer for an annual tournament in lieu of her younger sister. That 74th annual tournament, which appropriately is called the title of the film, is where 24 young kids and teens engage in mortal combat, last man standing wins. It never mentions what they win, but my guess is that they win a pat on the back, a $20 gift certificate to the Keg steakhouse and immunity from being voted off the island.
Before I get any further, let’s deal with the biggest flaw in this movie. The Shakey Cam. The camera is the worst I have seen in years, and in some parts it ruined the film altogether. Seriously, were tripods part of the Writers Guild of America strike, and they are still awaiting a deal for better pay and dental? This is really starting to irritate me that they are constantly falling on this notion that to show chaos on the screen, they have to make the film unwatchable and come with epilepsy warnings. No joke, there were some of the scenes that I had to stare at the ceiling of the theatre, wait for the specific scene to end, and imagine in my mind what’s going on in the film based on the sound. This is not how to make a movie, people.
The other big issue I had was the scenario itself. This is apparently the 74th annual event where innocent kids get slaughtered for television, and you’re telling me not one group of people anywhere, at any time, thought this was a barbaric way of entertaining, and formed a militia protest group to stop this madness? Not once in 74 years? I couldn’t get over that. And not only that, if the show is just watching them in the woods sleeping, walking and waiting for the next kill, how can the ratings be any good from that? You’re telling me everyone is literally standing for days watching this tripe? I’d rather watch a Gray’s Anatomy marathon than that.
I assume that the whole revolt against the system and the class warfare social commentary to the whole thing happens at the other books / movies, but a movie should be able to stand on its own in terms of its own message, especially the first of a planned trilogy. The end left so many things in the air and led to many questions, and made the characters less likable at the end, because you assume they become better people in the next installment. The first movie is essentially blackmailing you to watch the next two movies to get the ending that makes more sense, and when that happens, I feel ripped off. It’s the movie equivalent to video game DLC.
The other issue I had was the visuals. Everything had a feel like Lady Gaga making a music video inspired by a Marilyn Manson music video. There’s nothing that stands out as original, like I’ve seen this before, and given a fluff that makes it more mainstream, and it feels like it missed the point of whatever the point is to the original material. And the costumes of the rich people are just madness. They look like they were kicked out of the Harajuku fan club. And the “richer” people all act like idiots. I get that they are supposed to be ignorant to the common issues of the lower class people, but it gets to the point where you feel like the movie Idiocracy is slowly becoming more accurate.
The movie has inspirations from movies like The Truman Show and The Running Man, and books that I have actually read, like Battle Royale and Ender’s Game. But based on what I have seen, I would recommend those books over these. Battle Royale is about a classroom if younger students in a similar battle to the death, last man standing grudge match, and the book really grabs you into feeling bad for the kids who don’t feel right to kill, and yet get moved by when they become that proverbial man by taking that kill. In turn, Ender’s Game has a great protagonist that you watch grow into something inspiring and influential. Here Katniss is just a girl who killed to survive, and now wants to go home and check her emails. Not only that, you don’t get much information about the other kids that our hero is up against, with exception of two or so others, so you can’t either relate to the other characters, or cheer when the villains die.
But with all the bad things I have said about it, let’s get into the things I did like.
First, Jennifer Lawrence. I really liked the emotions she portrayed in the film, and the potential she has going into the next installment. Usually when a younger girl gets an Oscar nomination, they slide into obscurity, never to be heard from again. But in this case, you can actually see a future with her, and hope for the best that she gets an Oscar win within the next 20 years or so. The only stigma this young girl has is that she shares the first initial and last name of the “Whoa” kid from Blossom. She has the talent, and it definitely needs to be inspired and coached by other veteran actors.
Like, for example, Woody Harrelson. I did not expect him to be in the movie, and quite frankly, I’m glad he was, albeit brief. His career has been on an incline in recent years, in an attempt to veer away from just being the guy from Cheers, so I expect bigger and better things from him.
But the surprise breakout performance? Lenny Kravitz. I’m serious. His role was pretty minor, but he took it by the jugular, and made it exciting. And I say good for him. Let’s see if this guy can be next Justin Timberlake, and if there’s any justice, outshine him in the category of former singers turned actors.
There’s a couple of scenes near the end that actually pulls at the heartstrings, including a heart-wrenching death scene, and the way they were shot was really well done. They also proved my point that you don’t need to take the video camera, throw it in a dryer, turn the dryer on, and force the audience to assume what’s going on in the scene. A perfect example of what I am talking about is a great scene that doesn’t need the blurry effect happened near the opening. In the scene where they are drawing for the names, and there’s no music and sombre atmosphere and it was also incredibly done. You can tell the director wanted these scenes to stand out, and it was great to actually see the action.
Overall, the movie is good, and that’s as high as I will go with a rating. It gave me enough incentive to see the next films, even though I will need to bring the Gravol next time. It intrigued me as a trilogy more than Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which just bored me to tears, and let me opt out of seeing the next two movies voluntarily. Even though I had a lot of issues with the film, the overall presentation of the film gets an okay symbol from my left hand far more than a thumbs up, and that’s certainly better than the middle finger gesture.
Although the target audience is the young teens, I would recommend this movie to people that can stomach the shaky cam, and to people who enjoy light action films. It’s certainly not a stand-out action film, or anything revolutionary, and some of the levels of predictability doesn’t make it a movie that will be remembered decades down the road, but at least you can be entertained by the film.
So, thanks for reading, and may the odds be ever in your favour. You know, come to think of it, that’s a really condesending way to wish someone good luck. It’s like saying “Hope you don’t screw up and die out there”. If someone wished me that before a poker game, I might have to shoot an arrow through their knee. What would be a better way to wish someone luck? Hmm, how about “Hope you get the result you want”. Well, it’s a work in progress.