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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

By November 11, 2012 March 16th, 2014 Reviews

Some of you may remember that I wanted to expand into TV and movie reviews, with video as a delivery format. The idea was to have a review show named “All Too Convenient,” but despite some effort, I never seemed to find the right approach. It wasn’t a total loss, however, as it resulted in one YouTube video that detailed the experience. Today, I’d like to reveal another product of “All Too Convenient” experiments: a written review of The Hunger Games. I originally published it on April 20th, 2012, but it didn’t take long for me to pull the plug. It’s a good review, in my opinion, but I felt it took me too long to write, and I already had one blog that I needed to think about. To put it simply, the approach simply didn’t feel right, and I didn’t think it would be sustainable. Rather than let it disappear into nothingness, I thought I’d post it on this blog so it can at least be read by those that are interested. Enjoy!

Spoiler Warning: The review below should only be read after having seen The Hunger Games, as it contains massive spoilers. It was written for people who like to read an in-depth analysis after seeing a movie.

I approached The Hunger Games with no prior knowledge of the book, having never even seen a trailer. Instead, my introduction was from the movie poster, and a brief description. The premise reminded me of Battle Royale, a Japanese film that had students killing other students, controversial, as you can imagine. My only hope was that it would not follow the same formula, and instead provide a richer back story. In this regard, I was not disappointed. The Hunger Games story did manage to set itself apart from anything I’ve seen before. However, at a certain point, the movie took a turn for the worse, in my opinion.

It all started when the rules were changed to allow two people from the same district to win. This, in turn, triggered a romance, and in my opinion, it didn’t make much sense. Allow me to illustrate what I mean.

First off, consider the overall brutality of these Hunger Games, and how they have remained the way they are for a while. Early on, Katniss and Gale discuss the possibility of not going to the games, to help stop them from being successful. But the conclusion is that this would never work, at least from Gale’s perspective. The Hunger Games seem to be backed by many years of rituals and has an established procedure by which it functions. I found that the rules themselves were a big part of establishing a genuine sense of fear, allowing me to relate to the characters. So isn’t it a bit odd that the rules would change so easily, just because Katniss somehow triggered a riot in district 11? Seemed strange, at least to me. If I knew more about the previous Hunger Games, it might make more sense – perhaps they’ve done stuff like that in the past.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale.

Either way, it made the Hunger Games producers (in the story) look like they weren’t really confident in what they were doing, almost like they were making emotional decisions rather than sticking with the proven procedures. Raw brutality is more interesting to me, because you can’t negotiate with it – survival instincts have to kick in. Peeta’s crush complicated things, for sure, and I wanted to see what Katniss would do about that. I was hoping for a creative ending that would suggest to the world that the games should be terminated. For example, Katniss is the only one left, and kills herself before she is released from the arena. That would make people think, especially if she said a few words prior to doing so, to clarify her motivations.

But, what can I say, the romance thing happened. What confused me the most was that she seemed particularly resistant to Peeta in the train, and yet, he had done something to help her, by tossing her the bread. Yes, it was similar to tossing bread to a pig, so it kind of degraded her, but still, he was helping in a desperate time. Katniss seemed pretty interested in Gale, and yet, as soon as the producers announce that the two people can win, from the same district, she immediately runs off to Peeta. She didn’t seem particularly interested in Peeta up until that point, at least not in a romantic way – but he was a friend from her own district. I can understand having an attachment to someone you know, but soon enough, she’s kissing him and all that. I guess you can say that the pressure of the game may have lowered her own resistance to Peeta’s affections. After all, when there’s a chance at love when all you have is death, why not opt for it? Well, for one, opting for it means you’re playing into what the audience wants, and as such, you’re kind of selling out. And what about Gale? It was pretty obvious that there was something there. It all seemed a bit too rushed, to me. If she had more time with Peeta, and was less resistant to him from the start, then yeah, I would have an easier time buying it. But no, it seems a desperate situation allows one to quickly eliminate such hesitation.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.

I also noticed two moments where characters made speeches before they actually took an action. I recognize that a lot of movies do this, but I’m not a fan. The best example is when Katniss was pinned by an enemy girl, and she brags about how they finally caught her, killed Rue, and now she’s next. Oooooooooo, scary. Then, of course, another tribute makes use of the conveniently long speech to pull her off of Katniss, and kills her in the name of Rue. While I liked that he did it in her honor, how did he know that Katniss was friends with her? Was he stalking them at one point? That question, in itself, is not a problem, but it did make me wonder. As for the dramatic speeches, they always make me roll my eyes. In this case, specifically, we’re talking life and death, with a very thin line in between. Why risk any time making a stupid speech? Once you have a chance to eliminate a threat that is looking to kill you, you don’t mess around, especially not after a big frantic fight where any person could have won. Survival instinct takes over, and the ego takes a back seat.

Having survived that close encounter, Katniss lives on to heal Peeta, and then they eventually had to deal with the finale. You know, those large beasts that looked like dogs. The cruel producers spawned a few copies of those just to spice up the action, while Katniss and Peeta rush to the structure at the center of the arena. When they get there, they climb onto the roof, and realize that another boy is up there. He and Peeta get in a fight, and there’s this big dramatic moment where the boy asks Katniss to kill him, so that Peeta can die too. I wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but Katniss shot the boy without Peeta falling with him. The dogs were happy to feast on his body for a few seconds, and then Katniss put him out of his misery. As soon as he died, the dogs lost interest, and wandered off. I found this particularly odd, as they still had two live targets on the roof. Just moments earlier, they were pretty interested in eating them, too. What changed? Surely, it couldn’t be the smell of blood, as the boy’s body had plenty. It made me think that perhaps the producers had called off their beasts, as the winners had been selected. Katniss and Peeta then have no problem jumping off the structure, despite the events that just occurred. I would have taken some time to catch my breath, and would have stayed in the vantage point, just in case.

I must also mention that I disliked some of the action scenes, as the camera work seemed particularly disorienting. With all the camera movement, the action was barely discernible – I would have liked a little more clarity into what was happening. Not a deal breaker in itself, but something I felt I should mention. As a whole, I liked the desperate brutality of The Hunger Games, and I felt that the initial rush for the weapons was particularly well done. It was a psychological exercise, and I enjoyed that. They did create an interesting universe, one that I hope to learn more about in future films, if they are made. There was a clear contrast between the rich, who were colourful, and the poor, who were not. There’s something to be said about that, and I feel that the film could have explored the political reasoning behind the existence of the Hunger Games.

In the end, I have to wonder if Katniss recognized the romantic potential as a tool for getting out alive. Perhaps she acted her part knowing that it would increase their chance at survival. It was all about sponsors, and gathering public approval, after all. I’d like to think that she was that intelligent, but without having read the books, I can’t conclude this. I recall a moment where she was speaking with her mentor, at the end, and he explained to her that she made the producers angry. This is probably the best proof against my theory, as I would have expected her to know that. Clearly, in that last scene where she and Peeta considered killing themselves, she must have realized that it was going to cause problems. Interestingly, this scene flew very close to being exactly what I had hoped, a suicide that would mark the games for what they are – an exercise in needless brutality, where there can be no true winner.

As you probably noticed, I’ve been mainly commenting on the story, without addressing the technical aspects of the film. This is because I was largely satisfied with the visuals, the audio, and the performances. I was specifically impressed with Jennifer Lawrence‘s portrayal of Katniss, as well as Elizabeth Banks‘ portrayal of the bizarre Effie Trinket. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz also did well in bringing their characters to life, so I’ll give them that. As I mentioned earlier, I have some problems with certain decisions made by the director, and clearly, I’m conflicted about the story. But aside from that, The Hunger Games is still a movie I can recommend to most people, flaws and all.

Rating: 7/10