The Hunger Games is an odd title for a movie in which the main character is never hungry. The name doesn’t refer to someone’s appetite, but if you’re a fan of the book, you remember that characters from the poorer districts tended to be hungry fairly frequently. If you’re not familiar with the book or the story, it takes place in a futuristic North America that has been divided into twelve districts. Each year the districts send two volunteers, one boy and one girl between age 12 and 18, to the capitol to compete in “The Hunger Games.”
If you saw In Time, you are familiar with the idea of a divided class structure and the unfairness involved with being poor. Whereas In Time conveys the message in a less violent way (with way better cleavage), Hunger Games has teenagers fighting each other to the death. The poor districts can’t afford to train. They aren’t as well-nourished, and they’re usually smaller, so they are typically killed off pretty quickly. Not this year! The movie follows Katniss Everdeen as she takes the place of her sister, Prim, as a tribute. The ace Katniss has up her sleeve is being deadly with a bow and arrow due to her experience hunting illegally outside the district’s perimeter.
I wasn’t that fired up about the book, so I wasn’t anticipating liking the movie very much, and I was right. I liked that the film showed certain aspects of the games that the book could not. You get to see behind the scenes as the gamemakers create the field and orchestrate the weather, obstacles, and environment. The CGI is used fairly sparingly, so nothing really jumps out as incredibly awful. The film looks good visually. The capitol has a cool futuristic look. The costuming fits the theme of the book well (silly hair colors and stylized beards galore), and for the most part it was cast very well. Peeta is how you picture Peeta, and Katniss is played very well by Jennifer Lawrence, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Although Katniss’ father had died in a mining accident, and she was left to take care of her mother and sister by herself, you never see much emotion from her. In the book, you get to see her relationship with Haymitch (a previous Games winner from her district) as he discovers how tough and smart she is. You see how much she cares for her little sister Prim, and you see how good of a hunter she is. In the movie, you don’t see much of that (unless you consider her shooting one bird the mark of an amazing hunter). Although it’s a movie about teenagers hunting and killing each other, there’s never really a sense of suspense in this movie. It just moves along, mostly with smiles on everyone’s faces. No one is ever desperately hungry or thirsty, or even really just desperate. It would seem that in a story where you are placed into an arena where everyone is trying to kill you that there would be tension and suspense at every turn. But there isn’t.
You don’t see any true emotion from any of the characters. I also thought it was odd that the only district the rioted was the predominantly black district. That seemed oddly racist. They may as well have dubbed in someone shouting, “Can’t we all just get along?!” The competitors from the wealthier districts are bigger and stronger in the book, which makes them intimidating. However, the movie elected to also give them 80’s bad guy type dialogue (“Guess he’s alright”) and high pitched giggles after everything they say. Seemed unnecessary. So, all in all, I’d say if you liked the book you’ll probably like the movie. If you’re just thinking of seeing it to see a movie, I’d say wait for DVD.
My rating: 2.5 ex-presidents (out of 4)
If you’re unfamiliar with the rating system, it is in reference to Point Break, the pinnacle of movie watching/popcorn eating achievement.