Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games - Why I'm Still Hungry


THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchenson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland. Directed by Gary Ross. Screenplay by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray. Based on the book by Suzanne Collins. Produced by Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik. Run Time: 142. Color. U.S. Science Fiction, Action, Adventure.
Before I start this review, I should admit that I have never read any of the books by Suzanne Collins. However, a movie should stand on its own and not necessarily be judged by how well it follows the book it is based on. And to be honest, there may be some things that the book explains better than the movie does. A book can take pages and pages to explain something that the movie has to do in a few minutes or less. Things like the premise, which passes before the movie audience in a few frames of text.
Being new to the world of The Hunger Games, I don’t believe that the movie makes the premise all that believable. Because the districts, which are numbered rather than named, revolted against their country, the 12 districts must pay tribute by putting up two teenagers, one boy and one girl, to fight to the death in what will be called the Hunger Games. These games, which would make what the Romans did seem almost tame, are broadcast to the 12 districts. In only one is there a riot, when you would imagine there would be revolts every year in every district and their innocent children are taken to their deaths by the state. It would stand to reason that the Games would lead to the same behavior that they were designed to curb.
And people watch as the tributes, what the combatants are called, are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) when they know that most of them will be dead in a matter of days. How horrifying it is that the interviews are conducted in such a civil and carefree manner. And the leader of the country, President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) has as much concern for his countrymen, especially those in Districts 10, 11 and 12 as one would have for a housefly. One wonders what kind of government this country has since the President is treated more like a king.
I won’t go into too much detail about the plot of the film, since it is still out in the theaters. However, there are points where I felt the movie dragged (the beginning) and motivations that seemed to be questionable at best. I couldn’t understand how in a one against the rest contest why five of them would band together when in the end, they would have to kill each other to win. Nor did I understand why Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) would be so willing to help her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) after he betrayed her.
That aside, I did find myself rooting for Katniss. But I think that has as much to do with Lawrence’s acting abilities as with how well the story is told. I also thought that about Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, a former victor in the Games who serves as a drunken but supportive mentor to the two contestants from District 12. I was also impressed by Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, the stylist for the District 12 tributes. Tucci, who plays Caesar as an over the top version of his own character Nigel from The Devil Wears Prada, is usually always good in the parts that he plays.
On the other side of the coin, while I’m a big fan of Donald Sutherland’s I’m not sure what he brought to the character of the President that any older male actor couldn’t. But I have to assume Sutherland has bills to pay like everyone else. The part seemed to be a bit of a waste of his talents.
Again, while I don’t know if this comes from the book or not, but the costumes for those who live in the Capitol (the Capitol’s name), dress in polar opposite to the drab outfits worn in the districts (at least 11 and 12). But their outfits are over the top, not only in their bright colors, but the fashion is Dr. Seuss meets Brazil (the film not the country) meets the 1940s. It was so out there that it almost seems incongruent with a culture that thinks teenagers killing each other with arrows, spears and blunt instruments is good entertainment.
So bottom line, would I recommend this film? If you’re a fan of the book, no doubt you’ve already gone, judging by the opening weekend gross that was north of $150 million and are making plans to see it again. But if you’re like me and have not read the books, the only reason to go would be to see what all the fuss is supposed to be about. Otherwise, you might be better served holding on to your money to see the summer blockbusters The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, which are both coming out later this year.

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