Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hunger Games

After Hunger Games, the first in Lionsgate’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, earned $152.5 in its first weekend, making it the third-highest debut of all time behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.2 million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million), well, I caved to the pressure and went to see what all the hype was about.

The Huger Games also set the record for the highest-grossing film outside of summer and the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel. Combine that with the decent reviews I had read, and it became apparent there was something special about this movie based off a young-adult novel.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect as the movie reminded me of the Twilight Saga. I never saw any of those films, nor do I care to, but the whole tween craze surrounding it was baffling to me. It seemed as if the studio was more concerned about building a franchise and capitalizing on young consumers than making a quality film. Maybe the Twilight movies are good, but the point I’m trying to make is that I was worried Hunger Games would be propped up on a great marketing campaign rather than standing on its own two feet.

Now I usually go to the movies with my buddies, but this didn’t seem like a film for a bunch of late-20-year-old guys to be going into together. With that said, I deviated from the buddies format and actually went on a date, with a girl who had read the books I might add. It’s a trivial detail, but a good opportunity to give a shout out to Estrella.

For those who don’t know about the Hunger Games, and you must be living under a rock if you don’t, IMDb describes the premise: “Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.”

Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead role, and I must admit I wasn’t familiar with her before the Hunger Games. With that said, imagine how surprised I was to learn she played Mystique in X-Men: First Class. I’m a comic book geek, and I was surprised I didn’t connect those dots. I take it as a testament to Lawrence’s acting abilities, because obviously she was able to portray two very different characters in a way that I didn’t even realize it was the same actress.

Lawrence did an excellent job, and I was pleased with the acting throughout. I had never read Collins’ novels, so I was unfamiliar with the characters, but I felt the featured talent brought them to life and allowed me to make a connection. That’s especially true for Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark (I thought he was named Peter until I was informed otherwise after the movie), Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket (though if you pay attention, Banks' character's name is never mentioned in the film). I was disappointed that Liam Hemsworth didn’t get more time as Gale Hawthorne, though my date said there will be more of him in the sequel.

Speaking of more Hawthorne, it’s obvious there is a love triangle being set up between him and Mellark in a battle for Katniss. I’m not a big fan and it is reminiscent of Twilight, but it’s obvious it works with the teenage crowd. Perhaps these love triangles should just consider a ménage à trois, but then I guess it’d be a whole different movie altogether, though I'd be more apt to watch it.

Anyway, back to the characters. While I was pleased with many of them, I was disappointed with the portrayal of others, especially all of the other tributes. With 24 in contention, only five or six are introduced in a meaningful way. That meant when the vast majority of them perish, it is a battle to the death after all, I felt nothing. In fact, I often had trouble determining who had just died. Cannon shots signified their deaths, but it really was cannon fire for fodder. What does it boil down to? There should have been more secondary character development.

I’d have also liked to see Director Gary Ross make the film a bit more violent and graphic. The film’s premise is a battle to the death, so cutting away before a deathblow or skimping on the blood seemed anticlimactic. Now keep in mind I am a male in my late 20s talking here. I understand the film wasn’t intended for my demographic and they certainly couldn’t have produced a movie with such violence and achieved the same success, especially if they wanted to keep the PG-13 rating. With that said, I didn’t hold it against the film as I knew what I was getting myself into. I’m just saying, a full-out bloodbath would have been entertaining.

Children slaughtering their peers, all of whom are between 12-18 years old I believe, is off putting, but also the film’s biggest draw. Collins developed a detailed and engaging story, while Ross successfully brought it to the big screen. All in all, I enjoyed Hunger Games and will certainly see the subsequent films in the franchise. Given I was the exception to the rule in that I didn’t know much about the Hunger Games franchise before seeing the film, I can confidently say whether you bask in naïvety, like I did, or are a hardcore fan, you’ll enjoy watching this movie.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 75%

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  1. Good review Chad. It has the slightly grubby, cobbled-together look of a futuristic flick from the ’70s, but that is part of its charm. It’s also a lot better than any of the Twilight movies, which isn’t saying much, but it isn't sappy, mopey, or just plain bad and that’s all that matters.

  2. Thank you sir. I wasn't expecting much, so left entertained and impressed. Don't ask for much more out of the price of admission.