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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

At long last, I not only read The Hunger Games, but I saw the movie immediately afterward. Both I was eagerly anticipating, and both left me with a feeling that all of this could have been much bigger, much better, and far more memorable. And so I begin.

Following a showing of the two-and-a-half hour cinematic adaption of The Hunger Games, I began to wonder what the fleeting and unaffected film was trying to do, other than the apparent goal of just be made. It is sadly lifeless, like many of the fallen tributes, with even the living ones not possessive of conviction or personality.

While the much anticipated film feels lethargic and disjointed, the length is not necessarily a problem, just what the director does with it. There is nothing that needs to be cut, everything just needs to be better.

It simply seems there is no direction whatsoever given to the cast. The established and veteran actors—Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and especially Stanley Tucci—command every scene, and while they are fantastic, their scenes are in stark contrast to the aimless younger stars who simply seem to repeat the lines written in the book.

The actors shouldn’t be to blame, it just seems they are all acting in different movies.

The plot should have much emotion behind it, raise compelling issues, and elicit such powerful reactions from the audience, and it doesn’t—maybe it does a bit, but only if you really want to go after it. The film only alights on themes of political and economic oppression, loss of innocence, friendship and romance, love and death, ideas that permeate the basic premise of the novel.  The book is certainly geared towards children, but so too seems the movie—but not for any child, just simple-minded ones, ones for which we need to apparently lower the expectations and ask for nothing of them in the film.

I hesitate to completely blame the director only because the few, brief scenes in the movie that were not in the book were among the most memorable, including one that sees a riot in a poorest of districts following the death of their tribute. This scene, however, and another one at the very end, was too short and thrown into a movie that at no other point challenges the audience, leaving those moments to feel completely out of place.

Even when one of the protagonist tributes dies (if you haven’t seen the film or read the book by now, the statute of limitations on avoiding spoilers is long since passed), and the entire audience knows it’s coming, there it also no sadness with it.

It is part to do with a lack of direction for the young stars, and poor direction by Mr. Gary Ross, but it is too in part due to a complete lack of fitting music. There is a meager, soft score, littering the film occasionally with no particular purpose. At first the softness and stillness of the movie is fitting, as the audience is introduced to the poor Katniss Everdeen living in the gray coal mining town. The Reaping too works with little music behind it, as Katniss volunteering in her sister’s stead is probably the most powerful scene in the entire film.

From there though, the movie changes settings to the ostentatious capital, home to celebration and excess, and then to the arena where life and death hang in the balance. While the environment changes, and the cast becomes greater, the music maintains its same small presence. John Williams or Hans Zimmer this is not, with a meek sound that is inapt for what should be an epic and sweeping movie.

And inapt is the word of choose for the entire movie. From makeup, direction, acting, and sound, the film lacks depth, nuance, and coherence, and ultimately instead of being insulting to the audience, it is simply sad. A film will such a simple yet enticing notion has so much potential and can do so much. Perhaps such a huge task was too overwhelming. It is the hope that part two in the series, and the finale to the trilogy will be darker, more serious, and should ask more of an audience.

With so many remakes over the last few years of films that were only in pop culture for a brief time, perhaps someone else can endeavor to re-imagine The Hungers Games as something that adults would prefer. The dumbing-down of cinema seemed to be on the ebb, and this summer we’ve The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises helmed by two very clever and intelligent men in Joss Whedon and Christopher Nolan, both of whom have proven capable in managing movies with a big cast, sweeping story, and huge expectations.

Unfortunately I’m glad I waited to experience The Hunger Games, with time tempering expectations, and the film failing to meet even those softened hopes. Though a second book., one with much more to delve into, with an older cast, older audience, and new director, will bring those hopes and ideals back to their rightful, lofty place.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hunger Games

  1. Unfortunately, I suspect that the second film will be underwhelming too. The first book was really the money-maker of the three; I don’t see how, if they failed to entice excitement and emotion with the first, that they will succeed in doing it with the other two. But I love being wrong.

    Posted by vegancinephile | May 1, 2012, 21:03
    • I’ve definitely lowered my expectations, but hopefully a new director will bring some positive changes. Hungers Games has already been forgotten by now though, with The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises completely overshadowing it.

      Posted by Anthony Marcusa | May 9, 2012, 15:30
  2. So true!

    Posted by vegancinephile | May 9, 2012, 19:01

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