Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

Based on a book I've not read (as usual) The Hunger Games reads like nothing so much as the bastard crossbreeding of Battle Royale and Running Man. While it lacks the brains or balls of Battle Royale, it's far from bad. On the contrary, despite some very odd directorial choices, the restrictions of a PG-13 rating and a clearly middling budget, I actually quite enjoyed it. Call it a 7.5 out of 10 (if I assigned numbers. Which I don't.)

The plot is fairly familiar, for those of you who know movies: In the future there was some rebellion and so all the former rebel sections of the city have to offer one girl and one boy to fight to the death in a televised deathmatch (with an apparently rather low age restriction). The main character, Katniss Everdeen (really)'s sister is chosen and Katniss volunteers in her stead. Insert lengthy takedown of reality TV, pundit newscasters, tabloid journalism, blah blah blah.

Okay so the setup is, as I said, lifted wholesale from Battle Royale and Running Man (I read Royale as the bigger influence) but that doesn't make it bad. In fact, for much of the movie, it's rather good. It starts out with an above average script and some solid actors. Okay so some of the adult actors phone it in a bit (mostly Donald Sutherland who must be pushing 70 by now, and looks constantly bored) but most of them are doing solid work. Woody Harrerlson does a good job, as does Lenny Kravitz with limited screentime. And Jennifer Lawrence is as always, so, so good in this, that I'm just glad she's working. In fact, while I'm at it, I know there are a few of you that haven't seen Winter's Bone yet. Go fix that, now. This review aint going anywhere.

Back? Wasn't that a great movie? Anywho, I'd best back off a bit, I don't want to oversell this one. The issues mostly start to come into play during the actual games themselves. The guerilla warfare stuff is all well done, and some of the more important characters get enough screentime and characterization that their life or death actually means something. But when we get down to actual combat, it's mostly shot in shaky-cam bullshit that's jerky enough to actually give you a headache. This is pretty obviously an attempt to have their cake and eat it too, IE to have brutal combat but not show you any of it. And while we're on the subject, an aspect I've seen played up a bit is the prospect of seeing teenagers forced to murder each other. This invites the inevitable comparison I've made several times already (IE, to Battle Royale) against which it can't really compete. Okay, it's bloodier and more brutal than you might expect (two kills in particular are rather nasty) but compared to a movie where a relatively tame death involved having the victim's head thrown through a window with a grenade in their mouth...yeah.

Where was I? Oh yeah, complaints. Aside from the shaky-cam shit, there's some other minor stuff. The look of the Capitol Citizens is INCREDIBLY garish. This is likely intentional, but it doesn't look distinct enough from any other movie to really excuse that. There's a couple annoying breaks of the show don't tell rule and some minor character hiccups in the villain department. Namely, falling into the 'make some of them evil so it's okay to root for them to get killed' trap.

But taken on it's own merits, The Hunger Games is above whatever passes for average in my madness addled mind, and worth seeing if you're in the mood. I guess the best term I've got is 'better than I expected.' See you next time.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he kept hoping the Tribute from District 9 would be a pair of Prawns.

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