Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hunger Games

When I consider how I should review The Hunger Games my first instinct is to compare every individual scene side by side, the book via my imagination vs. the movie. Then any excluded parts of the book would be thoroughly analyzed as I’d determine whether in my opinion, the scene really was expendable, or heaven forbid, necessary.

Obviously that is a very, very bad idea, so I will try my best to ignore my instincts.

Our hero(ine) Katniss is a straightforward absolute arrow-slinging cynic – a person we wouldn’t really want to be friends with if she were real, but she still makes a great hero for us. She volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in a TV game show, where losing literally means death, and we’re swept away on an epic, thought-provoking ride. Through her eyes, we see the similarities between our culture’s entertainment, and the horrible “entertainment” of her world, and other serious and dark views and ideas. This is the franchise, complete with a dramatic love-triangle, that the target audience, young teen girls are putting aside Twilight to obsess over. There is a hilarious paradox somewhere in that…

Don’t get me wrong, I like this franchise… really, I do. I mean, who would’ve thought we could watch a movie about kids killing other kids for entertainment and be simultaneously appalled and entertained? But we are, and it even works. It’s a good, original story that is well acted, very compelling, and presented in the right way to not glorify the content as mindless entertainment, and I will continue to elaborate on these more simple reasons why I enjoy it… if I can manage not to get distracted again. Bear with me if you will.

So, twenty-four teenaged contestants and only one will win— and survive. And the movie convinces us that it’s true. Half the movie is spent building up to the arena, and none of it is wasted. This is where all the good stuff happens. The tension is incredible in these parts, building up to the initial bloodbath in the arena, which was bitingly real; an impression that the dreaded shaky-cam actually helped with in this case. Imagine that. But still, in less intense moments, I would really like to be able to see, and not get dizzy. I think that directors should be tested and approved in order to use the shaky-cam effect in their films. J. J. Abrams can be the judge.

Moving on to the cast… it was inspired. Jennifer Lawrence is probably the only person who could've pulled off such a potentially dislikeable character with actual likability. She made this movie. But rest of the cast more than fulfilled their parts as well. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta appears to have leapt straight out of the book. Elizabeth Banks as Effie was duly hilarious, as was Woody Harrelson playing Haymich. Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane surprised me, together with his beard and his… end, he quickly became a character worth remembering. And then there’s Stanley Tucci. Seriously, who else could play Caesar Flickerman? He owns his few scenes, and they’re my favorite bits of the movie. I won’t mention everyone, but this was a well cast movie all around, especially in the young, fresh actors. They did an outstanding job.

My favorite part of the book was left out. Not shocking since the book is full of great intricate details. But most of them were cut out to allow focus on the actually important things, like the plot, the theme and the spirit of the book, so it's okay. The only thing I feel is missing is in the characters. I know, that sounds contradictory to what I just said about the cast, but as good as they are, they’re still lacking in depth compared to their book counterparts. It is a small complaint though, and with three more films coming, I trust the characters can and will be more developed.

But I’m falling back on my instincts, and bringing the book in too much. This movie, just as a movie, is a good, well made, and well acted movie. It’s convincingly real. It’s powerful and thought-provoking. It’s visually beautiful, and the futuristic world very creative. It showcases Lawrence’s performance of this one-of-a-kind character, and a talented supporting cast. Blunt, deep, astounding… and memorable – hey, it’s just like Katniss. Oh, yeah, and it’s even entertaining.

- 4/5 stars

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