Since the second film in The Hunger Games series is out in China, I thought I’d check out the first film and possibly go to the theater for the second. The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, a strong, brave young woman living in a bleak dystopia. In her country every year two young people are chosen to compete in a brutal competition for survival. Years ago there was an uprising and after it’s put down, the government starts these intimidating games to keep citizens in fear.
When Katniss’ 8 year old sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. It’s a rare occurrence that generates a lot of notice. The boy from the district is Peeta, a baker’s son who’s watched Katniss from afar for some time. Their relationship is icy and complex. Katiss and Peeta are taken to the capital city, which reminded me of a high octane Oz. Very sleek and modern in a colorful, yet cold way.
After some training, a make over and opening ceremonies the games begin. Mentors help Katniss and the others but it’s unclear whom to trust. Katniss is a strong woman and expert archer, but her opponents are tough and mostly brutal.
While Lawrence did a fine job with the role, the story itself left me cold. Many scenes are brutal as characters, who weren’t well drawn to begin with get slaughtered. While I understand the concept of dystopian sci fi and realize that these stories are allegories, I felt there wasn’t a strong message here. Also, the characters lacked development. I never knew as much as I wanted to know about Katniss. I felt I was teased so I would watch the next film. If I’m going to be exposed to people brutally killing each other, I insist on getting more of a reason. My guess is the pay off comes in the final book and that the answer would only satisfy younger viewers and readers, who haven’t seen as much history or as many Orwellian tales. Another problem I have is all the city folk seem similarly vapid and fashion conscious, while all the poor folk resemble each other. In all societies there is personal differentiation. Even if you can only afford cheap clothes or you’re on welfare – people’s styles differ. With the rich there would be even more divergence. That’s not seen here.
The film uses a lot of computer graphics to depict the city and ceremonies. As much as these graphics have improved, I still immediately detect when their used and that takes me out of the story and into an assessment of the graphics. I wonder when that will stop. When will the graphics seem seamless?
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was a much better film in this genre. Watch that (again). The book might be better as Katniss is often on her own in the film. Perhaps the book has a lot of her thoughts.
- Reviews on Amazon that echo my opinion
- From New Yorker’s David Denby’s review: “The Hunger Games” is a prime example of commercial hypocrisy. The filmmakers bait kids with a cruel idea, but they can’t risk being too intense or too graphic (the books are more explicit). After a while, we get the point: because children are the principal audience, the picture needs a PG-13 rating. The result is an evasive, baffling, unexciting production—anything but a classic.
- From Roger Ebert’s review: “found the movie too long and deliberate as it negotiated the outskirts of its moral issues.”
- My thoughts on Catching Fire (ellenvgregory.com)
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Film Review (teacupsandthings.wordpress.com)
- Brutal sequel a vibrant victory (thegirlinrowk.com)