movies: the hunger games

Saturday, March 31, 2012

may the odds be ever in your favorBeyond reading the first chapter they were giving away free in the lead up to the movie, I haven't read any of The Hunger Games, so while I knew the general premise, I wasn't aware of many of the specific details.

But knowing and watching are two different things, and I just had trouble with the central premise... pitting 24 teenagers against each other in a fight to the death.

And because you know going in that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is going to make it out alive (especially since there are two other novels after the first one), you're pretty sure that every other young character you meet is going to die.

It kinda left a bad taste in my mouth.

I can see why a number of people have been comparing it to, or at least mentioning it in the same sentence as, Battle Royale. It's kind of the M rated version of that... albeit with a bunch of science fantasy elements laid over the top.

I also found that I didn't particularly care about the characters I was supposed to be invested in. And maybe this is me... because it's happened a number of times recently... most strongly with The Walking Dead, but also with a couple of other things I can't remember right now.

Like I said, whether that was because you "know" Katniss is going to walk out alive at the end... or whether it's because she was actually kind of bland as a character. We're not in Twilight territory... it's better than that, thankfully... and while the movie tries to lay out her motivation, it's pretty generic.

And while I'm a fan of Josh Hutcherson (definitely one from the "he grew up purdy" file), his character seems to be a little bit of a one trick pony too... he only has one defining characteristic that really means anything to the movie.

I'm not suggesting that the movie is dull... I just wasn't really compelled to care about the characters.

There are obvious parallels both to reality TV, the general public's desire to see everything that happens to manufactured celebrities, as well as that desire and amusement at watching people hurt themselves (think Funniest Home Videos, Jackass, etc) as well as a universal truth that's a combination of The Lord of the Flies and just about any school yard on the planet... teenagers, left to their own devices, will turn on each other and the strong will pray on the week.

The world of the movie (and probably to a greater extent, the books) is something you could dissect to the nth degree... how the people in power control the masses, how they stop rebellion by segmenting the population into areas of expertise so limit their ability to be independent or rebel. And the contrast between those who have almost nothing and are essentially starving, and those who appear to have everything.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if somebody somewhere devotes a whole university thesis to it at some point.

But as far as the movie is concerned, a lot of it is just glimpsed or seen as it relates to those particular characters... but it's still a fascinating concept.

Getting back to the movie...

I kinda wanted to slap whoever came up with the costumes... I know the things the wealthy wear are probably supposed to be really way out there and over the top compared to the simple stuff the outlying areas wear... but they just went with some "ugly" version of high couture that was all kinds of awful. It all just seemed to be trying too hard.

Also on my shitlist are the director and the cinematographer for once again using that annoying shaky camera thing. And although the director has said he did it because it "had a lot to do with the urgency of what's going on and to reflect Katniss's point of view", I still don't think it was necessary 95% of the time.

I'm not sure there are any particular stand-out performances from any of the younger actors... although, like Hutcherson, Alexander Ludwig gets a "grew up purdy" mention... it's just a shame the character is basically the lead bully of the piece.

And while I'm not sure how good an actor Liam Hemsworth really is since he doesn't have a whole lot to do during this movie... but he is definitely the "most pretty"... and I will give him some acting snaps for conveying a whole lot about where exactly his character is emotionally without saying anything.

Where the acting does shine is a number of the smaller adult roles...

Foremost would be Lenny Kravitz... who is a musician, not an actor... but who makes a very, very, very small role his own and gives a really strong sense of exactly who the character is in his limited screen time/lines.

And while I'm not really a fan of Woody Harrelson, I very much warmed to his character as the movie went on.

Overall it was entertaining but I just kind of felt like I've seen/read better versions of the same story before. Not bad, but not great either.

yani's rating: 7 mockingjays out of 10

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