Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

“Welcome! We salute your courage and your sacrifice and we wish you Happy Hunger Games!”

Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson
Writers: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray

Just to put it right up front and centre, I haven’t read the books and I don’t really want to. However I saw the trailers and I was intrigued. Knowing that this movie is based off a book aimed at teenagers; can The Hunger Games be anything meaningful? As of writing this review the movie has made a heap of cash and so it’s apparent that the other two books will be adapted. So is this saga destined to be the next Harry Potter or the next Twilight?

The movie explores some very interesting themes, and it can get rather dark for a movie obviously aimed at a younger audience. However I hate movies that pander to teenagers and children so it was nice to see a movie that is brave with its material. For those who don’t know the story, The Hunger Games are basically gladiatorial games where 24 kids from the ages of 12 to 18 compete to the death. These games are imposed upon twelve districts that tried to rebel against the ruling government but failed. As you can tell there is a fair amount of material that can be used in this movie, and I for one was intrigued enough by this world to gladly welcome the sequel.

Acting wise there needed to be really strong performances in order to get some of the heavier themes across. Wisely for the adult roles they crammed it with many recognizable faces. Out of the adults I really liked Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), he got to hit some great comedic beats and yet he also creates a wonderful character arc, all thanks to the subtlest of touches. Now Jennifer Lawrence had a huge weight on her shoulders trying to carry this film. She comes through very strong which is good seeming how important Katniss Everdeen is to not just this movie; but a rich tradition of strong female leads in science fiction. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark is fine, but I don’t think he really gets enough attention. Considering that he seems that his character is important for the next few movies, a little more attention on him would have been appreciated.

While I did love the world and the ideas present I was left wanting more. There were some things that weren’t explained that needed to be, and it did come across as some sloppy scripting. Also the movie was long and yet there were some things that were left in the background, which I think hurt, the overall movie. It always hard to adapt a book to a movie, as there is normally too much in a book to put into a feature length movie, so with this flaw I can forgive the film and just hope there is more detail when the second movie roles around.

Now for the biggest problem with this movie. Visually the movie’s beautiful effects and setting are all ruined by the style of Gary Ross. I honestly hope he has nothing to do with the next film because I honestly got motion sick from the constant movement. Now the action is hard to see as the camera moves around so much, but this might be acceptable as the movie is trying to hide the more violent deaths of the children. I understand this, but it’s when we get to the establishment shots of the movie, or quite dramatic scenes, I have a real problem. How am I supposed to soak in the depressing nature of the District 12 when I can’t see anything? Thankfully it doesn’t happen all the time, the camera does seem to calm down when in the main capital, but I shouldn’t be standing up after the movie and feeling nausea and unbalanced thanks to a visual style that doesn’t not feel right for a movie like this.

If you’ve read the books I’m sure you’ve already seen it, so really this review is to any science fiction fans who are wondering if it’s worth their time. Honestly I think the world is rich enough for you to warrant a watch, but I would say wait until it comes out on DVD as this might lessen the effects of the visual style. I can only hope a new director is in for the sequel and hopefully then this movie saga can be elevated from good to great.

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