Monday, April 9, 2012

The Hunger Games review; the beginning of an epic trilogy

This movie is everywhere!  I may be late; but better late than never right?  The movie is The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit).  It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz.  The movie is about a future government that forces 24 boys and girls to fight to the death, as millions watch on live television.  One boy, and one girl are selected as "tributes" from 12 districts, to make up the field of fighters.  The movie is the first in a trilogy of books, written by Suzanne Collins.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Actors/Characters
Jennifer Lawrence is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses.  She's young, attractive and good at what she does.  She really carries this movie in more ways than one.  She pretty much portrays every human emotion imaginable in the film.  This movie is her story.

The rest of the cast is great as well.  Josh Hutcherson plays the love interest and a contender in the tournament.  Stanley Tucci plays a TV personality and is so animated in doing so.  Elizabeth Banks is barely recognizable in her role.  She, Woody Harelson and Lenny Kravitz play mentors to Lawrence and Hutcherson. 

Granted this is an adaptation from a novel, but the movie did a good job of character arcs.  Each of the main actors had enough material to work with and progress their characters.  I like the way the mentors were treated in the movie.  They had heart and cared about the young contenders.

The Costumes
This is such an underrated aspect of film.  I loved the costumes in this movie.  Banks' character is a self-absorbed woman who loves the finer things in life.  Her costume totally played to that fact.  Her hair and makeup as well.  The fighters from each district have similar costumes which are very cool; especially when they enter an event that introduces them to the world.  Very cool.

The Future / Special Effects
The future is a scary place, and Gary Ross and co. want us to know it!  There is no specific date set for the film, but it is a ways from 2012.  Although most of the movie takes place in a forrest, what we do see of the future is spectacular.  There is a great scene when the fighters are coming in on a bullet train; they look out a window, and the town is revealed to the characters and the audience.  It looked incredible. 

When I say I liked the way the future was portrayed in the movie, I don't just mean special effects.  The implications of the future are something to really think about.  The government is using propaganda to justify kids killing each other.  What had to have happen for people to be ok with that notion?  And what becomes of hope in times like that?  The movie touches on the power of hope and how it can spark something that brings down an entire government.  How relevant is that, in a decade that has already seen the demise of 3 dictators in the Middle East?  Hope.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Cinemotography / Fight Scenes
I understand a cinematographer will use various tricks to help the director tell the story.  But whatever Tom Stern was doing, didn't work for me!  The shaky cam is something a lot of movies use, but few use it well.  And this movie was another example of poor use of this technique.  It's used so much that I had to look down a few times to stop myself from getting dizzy.

Another negative that came from Tom Stern are the terribly shot fight scenes.  He gets so up close to the actors you can't tell them apart, much less what is going on.   It was really hard to watch this movie.

The Chemistry (SPOILER ALERT)
There is absolutely, positively, undoubtedly, no chemistry between our two main actors.  I love Jennifer Lawrence, but I didn't buy, for one second, she was interested in Hutcherson.  To be fair, I've never read the books, and this COULD serve a greater purpose.  There are a few moments in the film where I felt Lawrence was playing to the crowds and didn't really have feelings for Hutcherson's character.  And why the hell would she have feelings for him, if earlier he was leading a pack of tributes to kill her?  What the hell?  So stupid.

The Direction
The directors job is to tell a story.  Gary Ross did a decent job of doing so, but it could have been so much more.  The movie could have been on the level of Harry Potter's debut into film, but it wasn't.  The camera work, editing and pacing are all things Ross must take the blame fore.  The movie is so slow, it just drags on and on.  He did do a few things well... very well.  But I can't help but wonder what the movie would have been like with the a director like David Yates (Harry Potter 5 - 8).

The Verdict
Good when it could have been great
I didn't totally hate the movie.  Quite the contrary.  I enjoyed the movie at times, but could not ignore its faults.  I don't know the books, so maybe this first movie is the groundwork for something so much more.  And a part of me couldn't stop thinking to myself, "this could be so much more".  How fitting.  Either way, I'll be in line for the sequel and look forward to the future of the trilogy.

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