I can’t get on board with a movie about children killing each other.
And that’s pretty much the whole schtick of The Hunger Games so I’ll just go ahead and say I didn’t necessarily love this movie. I also don’t think it’s bad, it’s just not for me. There were also a lot of things that worked against me really getting submerged in the story and I just kept thinking very skeptically about the whole thing and the situations people were being put in.
If you don’t know what it’s about, I’m probably not the best person to give you a synopsis. But if I must it would be something along the lines of: A long time ago, there was this uprising of these 12 districts against this fancy city, and at the end of it, the fancy city won and so they decided that to keep it from happening again they’d have a competition every year where they gather two children from each district (as tributes) and have them murder each other. Everybody in the fancy city loves it, everybody in most of the poor districts hate it, and Lenny Kravitz doesn’t seem to have a bias either way.
ALTHOUGH just to quote Lenny for a second, I believe he once said “I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes”. But Lenny, you are accepting both of those things in this film! Come on! Fight the power!
But I digress. The acting in the film is solid, I liked everybody except Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson, but that could have just been their characters. Although, if I were to be completely honest I would say maybe it was that I didn’t like Elizabeth Banks’ character but I know for a fact Woody Harrelson was just not good and neither was his character. One person that was awesome though was the aforementioned Lenny Kravitz. He kills it. Maybe it was just because having a rockstar in a movie is awesome, or maybe it was because he has this great line that sounds like it could be a lyric in a rock song, but whatever it is Lenny is the man in this movie. My favorite person by far. Although Jennifer Lawrence is also great, and Josh Hutcherson is ok. And I’m sure Liam Hemsworth is going to have a bigger role in the sequels.
The pacing of the movie overall is very good and keeps you engaged. There were definitely parts I felt moved too fast (bits of the story could have been explained in more detail for those of us unfamiliar with the books) and there were also parts that were too slow, but overall it was comfortable. It definitely got more exciting as the competition was about to begin and there was a real sense of tension, and for good reason. Things get crazy pretty quick.
As the games begin there is this moment where there is this little curly haired kid digging through the metal cornucopia (this thing that has all the weapons and supplies in it and the kids are supposed to run to it to try and grab stuff in the beginning) and all I could think was “wow, that kid vaguely resembles me as a child (and if we are being honest, me as an adult also resembles me as a child). Then you have to watch as he get’s his throat sliced open by some variation of a Klingon blade and it made me feel as if my inner child was being murdered. It was awful, which I guess is a testament to the quality of the movie in that it really does make you feel pretty awful when these children die. But also I feel like it probably isn’t that hard to make a person feel bad about a child dying (as CSI has proved time, and time again).
Another moment that really struck home was watching another competitor take a javeline to the chest. That’s when I realized 100% I was not meant to watch little kids get impaled. It’s just not my thing.
Then we get to see this brief riot scene which was interesting because not only was it short lived and never really brought up again, but it also featured more shaky cam than any of the competition. So while the movie decided it should be hard for me to watch some people get sprayed with hoses, they were also thinking it was perfectly cool for me to watch the javelin thing sans shaky cam. Thanks movie.
But again, all of the stuff in the competition is very effective for communicating the horrors of what is going on. What really made the movie hard for me to get into was how everyone was just completely on board with this awful competition. The brief explanation of the events that took place to lead up to the creation of the competition didn’t really get me to believe that a rational civilization would have resorted to these measures. That, and much of the logic used to explain it (some stuff about giving a little bit of hope) really felt unbelievable, at least to me. Again, this isn’t to say I think it’s bad, it just wasn’t enough to really hook me into the story of the film.
I also found some of the over stylized imagery of the fancy city (sorry I keep referring to it as ‘the fancy city’, I’m sure it has an actual name) was kind of far fetched, and when the district 12 team road in on chariots of fire (well, regular chariots and fire backs) I felt it was a little cheesy. All of the things the people wore were ridiculous and I couldn’t figure out why most people wanted weird colored hair and powdered faces, but then there were still some people (like the president?) who just looked regular. How do you end up with fancy colorful citizens but a president (chancellor maybe? I don’t know what his official title was) that looks like he is from 1776 and getting ready to hang out with John Hancock. Although I must say, Stanley Tucci’s character grew on me and all of the screens of him smiling are really comical and effective in communicating that reality show vibe. He has this jarring weird look that grew on me and I ended up thoroughly enjoying his character.
The movie does end in the way a movie would end when it’s expecting some sequels which kind of bugged me. I get it, there are more to come, but you could wrap it up a little tighter and maybe not have such a quick transition from Hunger Games to hanging out. A little closure goes a long way.
Overall, the movie is pretty solid. I enjoyed it and was never really bored, but I wasn’t exactly sold on the story which kept me from really loving anything about the movie. Probably the best part of the whole thing is the character development, and you do get attached to this group of 12 – 18 year olds. It’s extremely sad to watch them get murdered, especially the younger ones, but I just wish they had made a more convincing case as to why people were so accepting of this practice. This is probably a great movie for fans of the books, but as someone who has not read the books nor enjoys watching children death matches, I couldn’t exactly get into it.
Verdict: 3/5 Stars
By: Justin Sadegh