The Hunger Games
Running Time: 142 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley
Directed By: Gary Ross
Rating: 4 out of 10
12 boys and 12 girls are sent to an arena to battle it out in front of the world. There can only be one survivor in this fight to the death.
Writer Suzanne Collins, wrote the Hunger Games book series, and it quickly became a global phenomenon. What started out as a book for tweens, soon ballooned into a series enjoyed by all ages. (That includes you 50 year old business man on the subway, who removed the dust jacket to hide what he was reading.) The first Hunger Games book was a solid read but it did not translate well onto the big screen. This story follows a girl named Katniss Everdeen, in a world in an apocalyptic state. 12 unique districts now hold the world’s populace behind closed gates, and under the control and watchful eye of the Capitol. Every year, 1 boy and 1 girl,(or Tributes as they are called) get sent from each district to the Capitol City, to fight to the death for glory and riches. The battle is being broad cast across the land as the 24 contestants battle it out in a controlled bio dome environment, until there is only one tribute left.
The film can be forgiven the slow start as it introduces us to the multitude of key players that make up this story. That being said, it seems super prolonged without providing much substance. The story tries to make you feel sympathy for Katniss, and her poor district, but never really pulls it off. This key flaw will make itself apparent as Katniss fights for her life. The story keeps going and going, and drags and drags, but it never satisfies. A scene where the tributes are training (For the games) and showing off their particular attributes, seems hurried and lacking strength. Another scene where the tributes are interviewed for television, will get little emotional response even though this is supposed to be an intimate and gripping scene. Most of all, it is just disappointing to watch as the tributes boringly crawl their way to the Hunger Games death battle.
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, does an okay job with the role. She has a strong presence when she needs to have one. She also has the emotional range to pull off most of the dramatic scenes. She is believable with her signature weapon, (Bow and Arrow) and holds her own during the action sequences. Her is he or isn’t he love interest Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson was a complete mess. I hated his hair, his cheesy dialogue, and most of all his delivery. He also didn’t even have the right look to be opposite Lawrence. This guy is supposed to be able to throw hundred pound weights with ease. We are supposed to believe that when he looks 5 feet tall and weighs a hundred pounds? He was a complete miss for me. There were many characters in this film but two stood out for me as my favorites. The first was Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks. She is Katniss and Peeta’s guide or hostess during the Games. She was made up to look like a character out of a Tim Burton film. She nailed the role through her odd delivery and strange mannerisms. Next was Haymitch, played by Woody Harrelson, who was Katniss and Peeta’s mentor. He was not a hard sell as a cantankerous and moody mentor, and although it is hard to watch him with obvious fake hair, he does a nice job with the role. Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth all have roles in this movie if you are fans of theirs.
Finally the film makes it to the fight for the tributes lives and the wait is not remotely worth it. The battle scenes are nauseating to look at, with quick editing and shaky camera work. When a death blow does occur, it is remarkably tame in its execution. Swords, spears, knives, and arrows are driven home at frequent intervals, but offered no satisfying realism. Tributes obviously die but you will not care in the slightest. This is where I found the movie at its worst. We are told Cato (Boy from district 1) is the so called bad guy. We are also told Rue (Girl from district 11) is someone to be emotionally invested in. But with the rushed back story, you could care less. The film fights its way to the end with a little love, a little blood, a lot of fighting, and little for me to recommend. The books had more of an all age range appreciation, while the movie was clearly aiming for early teens. A couple of minor things bothered me as well with this film. Things like Katniss having a fuller figure when she is supposed to be starving. Or her quiver seemingly holding an endless supply of arrows, when it starts with like six in it, is hard to over look. Especially when this film has so many other things going wrong with it.
Director Gary Ross, (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) takes on a new genre and he did an average job with it. That is even with the finished product being so weak. Having to make this film PG-13 ruined its all age appeal. This films long run time is unforgivable considering the lack of overall character development. The camera work is horrendous and the key moment action sequences were average. Having said all that, the casting was strong and I can see the appeal to the younger crowds (Its target audience) so that is to be commended.
I cannot recommend this film as it was starving for a steady hand on the camera and hungered for consistency.
T Factor + If you don’t need realistic scenes of violence this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like deep back stories for your characters this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Battle Royale, The Condemned.