If it's crap ... We'll tell you
The Hunger Games (12)
Director: Gary Ross
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woodey Harrelson
Running Time: 142 Minutes.
Genre: Action | Adventure
Prologue: Now, normally I never do this. Under most circumstances there isn’t much need for apology in a film review. However, this has been my first written review in almost half a year. Something of which I’m not exactly proud of. Thus, I am officially ushering in the return of the review with 'The Hunger Games' - please feel free to comment and discuss.
Will it leave you hungry for more?
I think you'd all agree with me if I were to say that the term 'young adult' is a relatively new expression. And despite its almost overnight rise to fame, the 'Young Adult' section of your local library is most likely teaming with shrill pubescent girls just waiting to get their fix of the latest Harry Potter knockoff. Am I aging myself as a writer by using the word library? I guess, but the phrase 'App Store' just doesn’t have the same ring to me. 'The Hunger Games' is a recent and highly successful series of novels that attempts to capitalize on the success of prior adult fiction juggernauts 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight'. Is it pure magic; or is it just as unappetizing as those blood sucking my little ponies?
Based on the best-selling young-adult novel by author Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tells the dark tale of a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who is selected to compete in a vicious televised tournament in which 24 teenagers from a post-apocalyptic society fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses. In the future, North America is no more. In its place has risen Panem, a divided nation split into 12 districts. Every year, each district selects a teen of each gender (called "Tributes") to test their worth in a competition known as the Hunger Games, which are broadcast across the nation as entertainment, and to reinforce the government's total power. When her younger sister is selected as District 12's latest "Tribute," Katniss volunteers to take her place, and trains under hard-drinking former Hunger Games champion Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) to sharpen her killer instincts. Now in order to survive the game and emerge the victor, this young combatant must put all of her skills to the ultimate test. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth co-star.
The story itself, is fantastic. The source material is beautifully written with dark and mature themes coating the fiction and the fantasy. It requires an intelligent audience – those who are able to absorb and discuss on larger themes such as civil revolution, corporate takeover and the fact that, supposedly, in the near future we will all end up dressing like Lady Gaga. No, but in all honesty I was extremely impressed with the quality of writing on display here. The script is filled with shimmering dialogue, the characters are given more development in the first five minutes that Bella and Edward are given throughout four movies and all in all this is a supremely crafted film with twists and turns that will both keep you on the edge of your seat and make you reach for the Kleenex. Its evidenced that this was based on extremely strong material. The characterization is impeccable, the pacing staggering...my only gripe was I felt as if the romantic subplot was incredibly underdeveloped; with out leads lacking in quite a bit of chemistry.
My main issues with the film does not, for once second, stem from the way it was written, it’s exceptionally well written - the direction however, feels sloppy and amateurish. I would expect this kind of work from a first timer who was still learning the ropes; and I wasn't sure of who directed this film until the credits began to roll. When I found out it was Gary Ross ( director of 'Pleasantville' and 'Big') I was shocked. This does not feel like the work of a veteran director. The film makes countless mistakes and misses several opportunities - be it the elongated cave scene that was disjointedly sappy, the muddled action sequences which ruin a lot of the third act or the fact that we ought to feel these kids blood on our hands. In order for us to care, a lot more of focus should have resolved around the way these children die - for me, the direction as a whole was perplexing.
Despite this, the acting is fabulous. Lawrence is a delight and Hutchinson does a good job keeping up with her. The film is littered with famous faces, Wes Bently, Stanley Tucci and most notably Donald Sutherland as the brilliant President Snow. Its a superb cast and shows true promise for the next generation of actors. I feel as if fans with take no um-bridge with the people Ross chose to step into the shoes of their bright, colorful characters.
A dark and engaging action/drama laced with social critique and dystopian sci-fi. The set and costume design mirror this premise with startling accuracy. The score is mesmerizing and swells at just the right moments to create a real sense of death and danger. This is a bleak world saturated with bright pink and green – and thus looks staggering. If I had any real issue it would be the hand held camera. While not usually an issue for me, here it gets in the way of the beauty. It makes what should be staggering action sequences look dirty and messy.
Verdict: A powerful, exciting and wholly brilliant experience, that is constantly handicapped by amateur mistakes. Ross's first venture into the world of The Hunger Games reminds me a lot of the way Columbus handled the first Harry Potter film - there's a lot that can be worked on here; issues with pacing, direction and underdeveloped villains - but thanks to it's faithfulness to the book, great acting and powerful writing I never found myself tiring of it. The Hunger Games isn't likely to fill your appetite, but it will certainly leave you wanting seconds.
+ Beautifully acted, Lawrence carries the whole film on her shoulders and to a commendable outcome.
+ The plot is expertly crafted with deep undertones.
+ Sublime soundtrack and visual artistry.
- The direction is all over the place, with atrociously filmed action sequences.
- A couple of the villains are under developed and not scary.
See this if you enjoyed: Battle Royale (2000), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) City Of Ember (2008)