The Hunger Games - 2 out of 5
When this book series came out, I read the synopsis and said, "it sounds like Battle Royale and The Lottery had a baby and was now in its budding teenage years." I declared loudly, and much to the annoyance of the Target employees and shoppers, that the story didn't interest me so I moved on. To be honest, the film adaptation didn't interest me either (I also declared this loudly at my local cinema...and again to the annoyance of those around me) and I didn't even bother to watch the trailer for it. But now that it is out on DVD, I decided to give it a shot for the sake of my blog and a chance that I might fall into the pit of the film's popularity but, let me put it this way, the movie did nothing to change my desire to read the book series.
|You were better as Mystique.|
For the two of you out there unfamiliar with the story of The Hunger Games, it takes place in the future within a dystopian post-apocalypse nation (now called Panem)--because a utopian post-apocalyptic world wouldn't sell any hardcovers. In this new world, the districts of the nation are punished for a past rebellion (becomes somebody can't let it go!) by making two youngsters (a boy and a girl) from each district to compete in a televised survival show where they fight to the death call the Hunger Games. The sole survivor of which will be slathered in riches, a hearty gravy, a gift certificate to Applebee's and possibly a Playstation 3--although it is in the future so it might be a PS10 by then.
|You, on the other hand, have NEVER been good.|
After volunteering for her sister who was chosen, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is off to fight for her life with her district companion Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson)--both of whom have very realistic and non-silly sounding names. Together they head off to the big city (The Capital) where they are primped and trained by the likes of Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and, for some reason, Lenny Kravitz. Then, when all is said and done, it's off to win the hearts of the viewers and sponsors like Maximus and get your slaughter on for the Hunger Games.
|If Kravitz just broke into "Are You Gonna Go My Way," it would have SEVERELY|
improved the movie for me.
Now, it needs to be clearly stated that I have not read the book series so I won't make any comparisons to the source material. I'm looking at this from a strictly film perspective, not as how well the adaptation was done. This blog is about movie reviews, not book reviews.
That being said, I wasn't too blown away by The Hunger Games. There's nothing majorly wrong with it, it's just its story wasn't very interesting to me. When other critics compared the book and film to the Japanese blood bath Battle Royale, I simultaneously see and understand their viewpoint but, on the opposite side of the coin, find it unfair to compare the two. Sure the stories are very similar but they are sold to two completely different audiences. The Hunger Games is a watered-down, bubble gum pop culture scifi epic meant for tweens and mass audiences. That's not a bad thing, it is what it is--a mainstream, flash-bang money maker that gets the butts in the theaters and brings the riot of pre-teens (and creepy moms taking a break from Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey) to the Barnes and Noble--and to be honest, anything that gets kids to read in this day and age is great in and of itself. Battle Royale is meant for a maturer audience who's more interested in blood, guts and violence rather than a poorly tacked on love story.
|Stanley Tucci has got blue hair...clearly we are in the future here, people.|
To be honest, this story is as old as time. Spectacles about people fighting to the death for the entertainment of the unwashed masses has filled books, shows and even real-life for ages--long before Mad Max was going beyond Thunderdome. Aside from the orgies and vomitoriums, what the hell else was the Romans going to do with their time? So I find no fault in the cliche story this movie contains other than the reality is that is wasn't made for a 31-year-old single nerd who's freetime is spent constructing Star Wars puzzles and LEGO creations.
|Somewhere, Treebeard is crying because of how racist this looks. I mean, come on,|
a human doing rock-face?!?
From a storytelling perspective, The Hunger Games failed to resonate with me and kept this from hitting my middle of the road score. The biggest detractor this movie had going for it and stopped me from getting even mild enjoyment was the complete lack of character development. By the time the credits rolled, each character was exactly the same as they started out as. For example, Katniss starts out as a confident young woman who becomes a "fish out of water" when she hits the games but, with no real or powerful motivation within the plot, she reverts to how she was at the beginning with little to no growth within her character. Sure, the film offers some flimsy premise for this change but the lack of character development and, in turn, the resulting lack of emotional attachment I was capable of having for any of these characters makes this explanation weak, at best. Peeta, on the other hand, doesn't change at all. But that's mostly due to the terrible acting of Josh Hutcherson. With the budget this movie had, couldn't they afford a better actor?
Which brings me to the film's strongest aspect: the acting. While Hutcherson is terrible and Lawrence is just a small step about Kristen Stewart in the acting department, the surrounding cast brings it to the screen in spades...spades made of pure gold! Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones and Donald Sutherland...all very talented and established actors bring their eccentric, colorful characters to life very well. However, all pale in comparison to Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy--I think I once partied with an Amish dude during Rumspringa named Haymitch Abernathy.
|Woody kicked the door in of this movie and said, "Fuck you, Hunger Games, look|
The moment Harrelson appears on screen, he demands attention and steals the movie as Abernathy--a past winner of the Games and current drunk. Harrelson's portrayal of this emotionally broken character was so terrific that I wanted the film to be entirely about him as his few scenes proved to be just not enough.
|Wait a second...Why the hell didn't anyone tell me ManBearPig was in this movie?!?|
The Hunger Games is the next step up for the generation raised on Harry Potter. It offers up a nice taste of the more mature entertainment they will get to experience in their later years. The film has its audience but it just wasn't me. The story is far too familiar for me and the lack of anything truly unique to this formula did nothing and was about as resonating as the weak acting from the two leads and the even weaker and paltry action. Furthermore, the lack of any character development made it hard to care for the characters--especially the ones who died. Even the Games' antagonist was just a vague discription of a man who had no purpose other than being a generic douche. I'm not even entirely sure if he had a name.
|Uh oh...Hutcherson is LaBeouf'ing.|
The Hunger Games is a phenomenon. The fans love it and love it with such a passion that if you say you have no interest in reading the books or you didn't like the movie, they're liable to pull a knife on you...luckily, 9 times out of 10, Crocodile Dundee is there to point out their knife isn't a knife. I've already been called every name in the book for not liking this one (asshole, snob, prick...those are just a few of the names I've been called for having a different opinion). While I didn't enjoy the movie and, hence, now continue to no longer have any interest in reading the novels, I won't hold it against the fans for their unbridled passion because, at heart, we're all fanboys for something. For some, it's our favorite sports team or political party we affiliate ourselves with...for me, it's Star Wars. So, we all have our loves we obsess over. For me, though, it just won't be The Hunger Games.