Movie Review: The Hunger Games
Is this movie better than the book? Very few movies are. The book really needs to be bad and the movie really needs to be good in order for this rare occasion to present itself. It’s the unfortunate mishap of film. It’s never long and full enough to capture all the scenes, nuances and character development allowed in the text of a novel.
Does The Hunger Games the movie capture the several moods and moments within the book that make it what it is? Yes. It does that. And more, it adds elements lacking in the story because of the limited first-person narrative.
The acting here was solid and the casting, though contentious in some circles, was ultimately spot-on (though I will always have a different Peeta in my brain). The costuming was exquisite and some of the set pieces insanely iconic. Specifically, The Reaping scene. Each time I watched it, it inspired chills and horror. The entire mood evoked by the score, the lighting and the focus of the camera was ultimately somber. I wouldn’t say the audience leaves the theatre with a feeling of “wasn’t that so awesome?” but rather, a feeling of having witnessed something horrific and, like the main characters, survived. Like Katniss, we’d like to forget some of the more disturbing aspects of The Hunger Games.
Unless you count a few unruly audience members during the first and second viewings of the movie, there wasn’t much to complain about here. The 2.5 hour run time seems to breeze by in 45 minutes (unless you have a full bladder). The few complaints I have seem silly and could be said of many movies or many adaptations, so they’re almost not worth uttering. I would have rather eliminated a few of the “behind the game-makers scenes” and done with some more moments between Katniss and Peeta. Or with Katniss remembering Gale. Or Katniss remembering Prim. OR fully drawing out the bread scene.
Shaky cam within the first 15 minutes really distracted me. When you are trying to orient yourself in the beginning of a film, so much shakiness is almost painful to bear witness too. But, the shaky cam and quick cuts added to the heightened emotions and documentary/reality feel that made the Reaping so powerful and memorable.
Jennifer Lawrence effortlessly carries this film. I’ve been so wrapped up in The Hunger Games mania for the last few months, it didn’t even register until after the second viewing that I was sitting in a theatre full of people of all ages watching a film centered on a female protagonist who is not overly sexualized. Sure, the full figure of Lawrence is clothed in a few tight-fitting outfits during some scenes, but there are no heaving chests and thigh-high slits. Even the romantic angle was tamed and given heroic threads – her love for Peeta was wrapped up in healing and protecting him.
Audience members of all ages, genders and races are turning out to see Katniss, regardless of her gender, race and age. That’s a pretty awesome phenomena, no matter how you feel about the content. Yes, I will address you Battle Royale parallelists – the concept of people forced into death battle for entertainment existed before Battle Royale. It’s ingrained in Western culture from Greek and Roman times up through stories/films like Running Man and No Escape.
It’s easy to get lost in the hype and forget about the foundation making this story so moving and engaging. Luckily, the film doesn’t stray far from these themes and it’s seemingly impossible for the audience to ignore them either. The Hunger Games is about the tragedy of oppression, kids killing kids, and the horrors of excess when so many are feeling want. There is a conversation about the nature of humanity and what we are willing to do in order to survive.
There’s important content here, and my greatest fear is it will all be lost in the rush of a $153 million opening weekend and attractive box office stars. Indeed, I had some small hope Lionsgate would use the opportunity of the release of “The Hunger Games” to combat hunger. You know, address the themes present in the art.
Maybe that’s just my brain constantly crying out for social justice on some level, but I was disappointed there was no effort to collect extra funds for food banks or to even invite local food banks to collect donations at theatres. Is it weird my mind should go there? I don’t think so, not given the story being told. My greatest complaint is that the entertainment industry missed an opportunity to do more than just collect millions of dollars in cash. It could have connected the dots in a more profound way.
Bechdel Test: “The Hunger Games” features more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names, but do not speak to one another so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.