Friday, October 5, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012) - Starved of Intensity

On the Menu: THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

Ingredients: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Gary Ross. Run time: 142 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I live in Western North Carolina, so I was bombarded with media buildup of THE HUNGER GAMES. Locals were predicting it would be the biggest box office smash of 2012. The news would feature stories on filming locations. I was sick of the movie before it had even finished filming, and I vowed not to watch it in the theater (much like my semi-boycott of AVATAR). And, since I had some surprise leftover gift card money from my wedding last year, I only spent $13 on the 3-disc Deluxe Edition DVD set.

A dystopian future has transformed North America into a new nation called Panem, which is split into twelve districts and the Capitol. In the past, there had been rebellion against the wealthy Capitol, so a lottery was put in place as retribution. Two children (one boy, one girl) from each district are randomly selected to participate in The Hunger Games.

The contest is pretty brutal. The Capitol has control over the arena, so if the game gets boring they might throw in some crazy beasts.

Oh yeah, it's all televised... and only ends with one survivor. And, the victor gets to live the high life afterward.

Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) are the contestants from District 12, the poorest of the districts.

Do they have a chance?

Tough to Swallow: The 180-rule is broken in the scene where Prim gives the Mockingjay pendant back to Katniss.

There's a moment when Katniss is speaking to her mom and the camera appears to have been bumped. Why not reshoot that or edit it out?

There are a lot of continuity issues with Katniss's hair.

The Capitol citizens throw flowers to the tributes during the stadium entrance. In the overhead shot, the flowers are gone.

While in the tree, Katniss's sleeping bag disappears.

The cannon doesn't fire for Rue or her attacker.

I think the control room scenes are one too many.

The movie is over 2 hours long and the character development is pretty non-existent.

The whole idea of the "Games" is pretty R-rated, but the violence is very tame.

The wolf mutts (my favorite part of the book) are simply made out to be big dogs. Lame-o.

Something to Chew On: The film's $152.5 million opening weekend box office set a non-sequel record in North America.

Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts and Chloe Grace Moretz were among those considered for the role of Katniss.

Effie Trinket's name is never mentioned.

Suzanne Collins wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay. Her inspirations for the movie include a reality show, footage of the invasion of Iraq, Theseus, the Roman gladiatorial games, and the loss of her father when she was 11.

Cinematographer Tom Stern has been the director of photography on Clint Eastwood's last 10 films (starting with BLOODWORK in 2002). He's worked on 11 other Eastwood films as a gaffer, lighting consultant or chief lighting technician.

Aftertaste: When I heard the plot of this movie, I immediately thought of BATTLE ROYALE, SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS and THE RUNNING MAN. Seriously, it's not really that original of an idea. It's like when I saw the trailer for AVATAR and said, "Hey, that's FERNGULLY in space."

So, with that and the constant local news stories about the filming of the movie, I felt predetermined to dislike the film. However, I had the same feeling before watching AVATAR, and gave it 4 stars.

Honestly, THE HUNGER GAMES isn't all that bad.

However, at 142 minutes in length, there's no reason for the movie to be lacking character development. They could have cut down on the control room scenes to focus more on the characters, especially some of the other tributes.

A lot of the context from the novel is also missing. What's the deal with the 3-finger salute? What was the meaning of Katniss's hallucination? If you read the book, you know the story of Haymitch (Harrelson), but the movie doesn't really touch on what his deal is. I don't think the movie is all that clear on why Katniss does some of the things she does, but, in the book, we know her thoughts and feelings since it's her point of view. Her relationship with Rue isn't quite as compelling as in the book, which kills what should have been one of the film's most emotional moments.

I like the look of the film: the grays of District 12 versus the crazy colors of the Capitol. The makeup was a bit much, especially for Effie (Banks). I know the citizens of the Capitol are eccentric, but there's no reason to pile on the layers and make Elizabeth Banks surprisingly unattractive.

The camerawork is okay for the most part. I'm not a fan of the shaky cam, but it doesn't bother me. Katniss's hallucination scene has to be my favorite of the entire movie.

Although the movie might not have made as much movie had it hit theaters with an R-rating, it would have been much more entertaining. The Hunger Games is a bloody event, but the movie is relatively blood-free considering it's a story of kids killing kids. This absence of violence is the biggest disappointment for me.

If you read the book, I can't say you'll be entirely pleased with the film, but...

May the odds be ever in your favor.


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