The Hunger Games is a yearly competition held in an undisclosed time and place that calls upon two teenage participants from each of the 12 Districts in the world, one male/one female, to compete in a battle to the death where only one will survive.
That is all I knew about The Hunger Games before going into it. Never saw a trailer, knew a few of the cast members, and was told by a number of people/the internet that the books are really good. Based off a young adult novel, the film certainly feels that way, but that is nowhere near my biggest complaint of the film. The film fails to connect us with its characters, the world they live in, or build any sense of stakes or tension along the way.
The film lost me fairly quickly as we are thrust into this “futuristic” world that for some reason has some of its districts living in an impoverished state that feels like it is straight out of the 19th century. Getting into the logistics of society somehow getting to this point with the technology that is available is beside the point, but I never felt like I knew why this world became the way it did or why these Hunger Games have to happen. Something about keeping the Districts in line after an uprising and allowing the wealthy and affluent Capitol to maintain control of everyone so they can maintain their way of life. (Honestly though, I don’t know if the movie told me that or my girlfriend, a book reader, did after the movie.) Everyone in the Capitol love the games, everyone in the Districts lives in fear of them, but when we get to the training of all the young “tributes” everyone is too nonchalant and doesn’t seem to care about who lives or dies; even the participants. The film never gives me a reason why I should care about anyone who inhabits this world.
The characters in this world are just as underdeveloped as the world they live in, even the lead Katniss doesn’t have a whole lot to latch onto. Sure she is doing this to save her sister, isn’t terribly excited about having to fight for her life, and wishes she didn’t have to play up to the sponsors/fans of the games, but there isn’t a lot of character depth beyond that. Katniss is supposed to be this badass hunter, but the film never really shows off that side of her more than a time or two. We meet all of these characters in both the Capitol and the Hunger Games, but we don’t get a chance to know them in the slightest and then the film asks us to be afraid of them or feel sorry when they die; these emotions are never remotely earned. I can wade through rough movies when you give me a character or two to care about, but the character I connected with the most, Cinna, was in the film for about five scenes and was a stylist.
The film’s biggest flaw of all is that it is boring. I mean, this movie moves like molayses and has nothing interesting going on. Up until the Hunger Games start I was engaged in the opening raffle and when Katniss shoots an apple and that was it. I was ready to give the film another chance once the game started, but my hopes were quickly dashed as we were treated to a lot of scenes in trees and caves with little action in between. I mean how do you take a story about 24 teens fighting to the death and not make it interesting, engaging, or entertaining.
The action is also shot rather poorly and you couldn’t tell what was really happening a lot of the time. The filmmaking as a whole was lackluster with the film shot on a handheld camera for no reason I can really think of. The score didn’t really seem to fit what was happening on screen, the attempts at creating a romantic triangle through forced editing drew laughs from my crowd, and the script gives a whole lot of talented actors absolutely nothing interesting to say. The dialogue is terrible at times and the film has its talented cast to thank for not letting that completely destroy the film.
The film is also full of clichéd and played out storylines and ideas that I always could find a better example of in pop culture. Not only are the clichés unbearable to see topped on top of one another, but the film is full of deus ex machina’s and even goes as far to have a bad guy monologue just long enough to get killed in the process. The film’s young adult roots glared the brightest though when the games quickly devolved into the “cool kids” picking on the “losers”; seriously. Sigh.
I could keep nitpicking, but what’s the point? It seems fans of the book are enjoying the film a lot, but I don’t think the film works on its own merits. It doesn’t make the necessary connections for us to care about the characters nor understand the world they live in which leads to this being an extremely boring affair. It’s a shame too, the cast and premise had me expecting this to be an easy recommendation, truth is I can’t send you to check it out. Oh well, maybe next time?
The Hunger Games is an F