Film Review: The Hunger Games

The_Hunger_Games HeaderThe Hunger Games is among the year’s most anticipated films, but I have to say I thought it was mostly awful from start to finish.

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

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9 thoughts on “Film Review: The Hunger Games

  1. The movie was dead inside, that was the problem.

    I hate giving F’s, but I can truly not find a reason to recommend the movie. It was a painful experince for me.

  2. this is the first hunger games review that i actually agree with.

    it was overly hyped and ended up being disappointing. i guess because i didn’t read the books i didn’t have a connection with it? but if a film is supposed to be made for a wide audience, then some basic things should be addressed… i read this: http://gawker.com/5894646/seriously-what-are-the-hunger-games-and-why-should-i-care-if-im-not-14 before going to the movie and i was trying to remember what the movie actually told me versus what i read there. anyway i’m rambling now… i agree, it could have been better and doesn’t deserve all the hype it’s getting.

  3. I mean, I can understand indifference, but I still can’t put my mind around hatred… I mean, you liked Red Riding Hood more than this… Go read the book, k all better!

    And I don’t understand your confusion about the world. The Capitol won the war and the rest of the districts (minus the first couple I think) live really horrible lives because they are kept in need of the Capitol. So district 12 wouldn’t have high tech stuff, this is a post apocalyptic world after all. Plus I just liked the look cuz it was very concentration camp to me… (I think you were supposed to get this from the video they showed at the reaping, though I can admit that it was slightly vague considering it was propaganda, so they wouldn’t go into detail about how horrible life is now).

    I’m not quite sure how you wanted to show off this bad A hunter side of her too. She makes a statement that she hunts animals in the beginning, and Gale says the games is the same thing. But still, being a hunter still doesn’t mean she is ok with killing people. I mean, she kills the one girl indirectly with the jackets, and the first person she kills point blank was the kid who speared Rue, which was instinct/survival reaction more than anything.

    And the action was shot as it was because it’s a PG-13 film. In which kids are killed. That’s not exactly something your put up on the full screen. Which is definitely another problem when adapting from a book, because written word and imagination is a completely different thing that actually having to show it.

    I can agree with a lot of what you say, and I am not trying to change your mind with the above explanations… but still, boo Zac, boo!

  4. The film in no way conveys this world is post-apocalyptic, or that the capitol “won” and set up the districts. If that is the way it is in the book you just did a better job than the film does.

    I get that she was against killing the others unless she had to, but she seemed rather amateurish once she got into the Games. Sure you can blame that on nerves or what not, but I never felt like she was as capable as she was supposed to be after receiving an 11.

    The camera as a whole was a mess as the use of handheld/steadycam was completely disorienting and unnecessary. The camera was distracting. And when it comes to the action you can have coherent action that still gets you the rating you desire.

    The film also has one of the worst finales I have ever seen for a supposed action movie. The only reason I knew it was the big finale was because Katniss had to tell me; not a good sign. Plus, Male 1 delivered some truly terrible acting on top of that Cornicopia, also why did he just not let them up there, he could have won easy? he waited till they got up there and not just push Katniss when she had her back turned.

    As for the author helping on the screenplay, might have been better if she wasn’t as I seem to have a lot of issues with the source material based on conversations.

  5. I am referring to the action finale of the film, not the ending of the movie, the open ending is fine.

    But if we are going to bring FOTR into this, that final battle is one of the best ever put on film, and the ending while open left me ready to watch another 3 hrs of movie.

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