The Hunger Games (2012)
The Hunger Games (2012)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 22 min.

Release Date: March 23rd, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Gary Ross Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland

 


 

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he concept of nationally televised fights to the death has found many incarnations in film. “The Hunger Games,” based on the unusually popular novel by Suzanne Collins, once again sets the stage in a dystopian future where teenagers must battle for their lives. But despite its intriguing, albeit recycled plotline, several plaguing elements eat away at the intensity and – perhaps more importantly – the believability. Meddling hosts tamper with the battleground, cheapening the competition with otherworldly beasts and scientifically altered creatures. Ridiculous costume designs feign futurism with few characters filling in the appropriate attitude. General predictability overlays every plot twist down to the inexcusably easy ways out of predicaments. And an unhinged shaky cam hinders visibility even in moments of calm. Diehard fans might be able to overlook these faults, but those unfamiliar with the source material will likely be all too aware of the numerous poor decisions that ultimately detract from the fun.

Once the terrible wars and uprisings were quelled and peace was again restored, the Capitol, holding complete power over the 12 districts of the country of Panem, instituted the Hunger Games as penance and an annual reminder of past transgressions. The televised extravaganza pits 24 youths from the districts against each other in a bloody battle to the death where only one survivor can emerge victorious. When her younger sister is chosen for the Games, brave 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place and is sent to train at the Capitol along with fellow District 12 teenager Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). With only four days to prepare for the two-week-long event, Katniss and Peeta must form an unlikely friendship if they hope to survive.

In an attempt to circumvent an R rating, “The Hunger Games” makes some detrimentally sacrificial choices. In the name of being artsy, the editing and camera movements are so blurred, jerky, intent on close-ups, and unfocused on the action that it’s frequently difficult to sort out commotions. The frame is constantly moving away from violent material – if the theme of slaughtering 12-18 year old kids for sport is too mature for a PG-13, the filmmakers should have just gone for the stricter rating to enable them to show pertinent barbaric elements of the story. Or they should have found a manner to portray it effectively. Here, it looks like butterfingered dodging of the subject.

While “The Hunger Games” will inevitably be compared in story to “Battle Royale,” “The Running Man,” “Escape from New York,” “Death Race 2000” or countless other “survival of the fittest” or “most dangerous game” plots, it’s actually the unrelated technical and visual concepts that appear most derivative. The first half of the film is overly occupied with the pageantry of the gladiatorial fights, which forces secondhand fashion to assault the senses. “The Fifth Element” was too influential in the costume and makeup design, which crosses runway extravagance, Paris mimes, and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”; the sets transition abruptly from commonplace post-apocalyptic poverty (along the lines of “The Road,” “Mad Max” or “The Book of Eli”) to colorful futuristic cityscapes (similar to those in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy or a fluorescent “Blade Runner”).

There’s still entertainment to be found in the performances, even with the manipulative nature of dying preteens, a forced romance, desperate but unfulfilled totalitarian government overthrow, and cheap ultramodern trickery (such as genetically engineered wasps, a technologically molded environment, super medicine, or continually changing rules of warfare). The basic ideas could have been cleverer if not for the futurism spin. Surrounding all of the adventuresome science-fiction aspects is still the evils of the media, the insatiable and uncontrollable public consumption of repulsive spectacle, and the introspective nature of a movie theater audience observing human districts watching the very same abandoning of morality. At least it’s forged to be quite close to the novel.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10