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Review: The Hunger Games


Captpan6

Do you like mockingjays? I like mockingjays. So let's watch The Hunger Games!

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With Harry Potter long gone and Twilight approaching its climax, studios are looking for the next big blockbuster novel to give the film treatment. Enter The Hunger Games, a fresh and different take that results in a concoction of ideas, both good and bad, that don’t quite add up to a fully enriching film. The potential for a tense, romantic, thought-provoking experience is there, but the filmmakers fail to push it far enough. What results is an adaption that feels merely satisfactory despite some strong elements.

The Hunger Games opens in the Panem region, a futuristic metropolis surrounded by 12 districts that live in poverty. Each year, a male and female representative is randomly selected from each district to take part in a brutal survival show called The Hunger Games, a punishment for rebelling against the government 74 years ago. After her sister is selected as the District 12 “tribute”, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers in her place to protect her sister and family. While preparing for the games, Katniss is exposed to a new society completely opposite of hers. She is also given time with the District 12 male selection, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and introduced to former champion Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).

Then comes the Hunger Games, but I’ll get into that later.

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Lawrence is effective as the lead. As Katniss, she leaves a lasting impression and gives her character a stiff personality. She is an older sister taking care of her family in place of her mother, of whom she does not respect because she failed to provide for the family in a time of need. The opening scenes with her and Primrose showcase how strong of a bond they share and it pains us to see that bond cut off. Her screentime partner, Hutcherson, makes for a convincing Peeta and they both act well together on screen. We are involved in their relationship, which takes its time to develop in the film and is only hampered by occasional inane dialogue. Both actors also look very fine and are sure to appeal to the target demographic who will no doubt want posters of them all over their rooms.

The film has a PG-13 rating and it’s earned from its scenes of violence and terror. There is a lot of blood in this film, probably as much as a PG-13 rating will allow, and anyone who feels queasy at the sight of it coming from adolescents should stray away from it. That being said, there is little actual carnage. Dead bodies are prevalent but considering the violent acts being performed the film holds back quite a bit. The film emphasizes its romance story more than anything else and while that helps keep its rating intact, it hampers the message it tries to send. And that becomes a problem, especially since the ones in the field of battle are adolescents. Do I believe that film should restrain itself from putting kids in peril? No. But when they are finished at the rate in which they are in the film it’s unsettling to think about how most of it goes in vain in the end. The fact that what is being done is wrong is touched upon in the film, but the message never quite gets across in the end. Instead, it leaves it up to future installments to address.

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A fascinating aspect of The Hunger Games is the quote-on-quote “civilized” world. It’s obviously a play on modern society and its reliance on technology and appearance, but it’s interesting nonetheless because of the lens we’re seeing it through. The poverty-stricken atmosphere of the districts feels more familiar to us, and once the modernized peoples are introduced they look as alien to us as they look to the people living in those wooden homes. In some ways, though, the film shows too much. There is a subplot involving the founder of the games and the current host that goes nowhere and has little involvement on the plot. It also paints the potential antagonist as a one-dimensional villain. These parts could’ve easily been removed to increase the emphasis on the main story.

There is a nice buildup to the Hunger Games, although some of the events that occur beforehand are more ludicrous than worthwhile. The tributes are made into stars and glamorized on television and talk shows, and during those scenes I couldn’t help but wonder whether these people realized they were heading to their deaths. The thought is pushed into the back of their heads, but not ours. There are training sessions during which each person must prove him or herself and gain sponsors, of whom will help them during the games. These scenes give us a small glimpse into each characters traits and skills and it made the adversaries more apparent.

Now we get to the actual Hunger Games. I’m going to be vague about what transpires so as to prevent spoilers, but I will say this: this is where the movie starts to come apart at the seams.

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Even with a lack of gore and carnage watching how the characters is unpleasant. In one scene a girl is stung to death by a hive of lethal hornets, and it is not pretty to watch or comprehend. She was just an innocent citizen unluckily chosen at random, and all she was trying to do is survive. Naturally we should feel sorry for these people but the film thinks of its characters more as fodder than human beings. Only once is a death taken seriously and effectively but it comes after too many people have been killed already.

The antagonists of the games are also very stupid. Quiz time: if you’ve allied three people with you and you have the strongest player unarmed and trapped in a tree what do you do? Go after her of course. Not so, say these young fools. Rather, it’s better to camp around the tree and wait for her to come down or starve, rather than throw knives and shoot arrows at her (these people are trained warriors who have mastered their weapons). Perhaps there’s an explanation for this. Arrogance? Pride? Bigheadedness? I think I’ll settle for poor screenwriting for now. Either way, moments like this exist throughout the film and it takes away from the sense of peril the movie wants to offer.

Action-wise the film also suffers. Fight scenes are film with quick-cuts that are so quick you can barely discern what is happening. Considering that part of the allure of the film is the action this is a disappointment. Alas, it is but one of many films that choose to shoot this way. When it becomes hard to make out what is happening during an action scene it's hard to get involved in it. Granted most of the weapon use is of the bow so the camerawork there is simple, but there are sword and knife fights that surmount in which this problem persists, and these scenes come with a lot of tension beforehand. The poor choice of editing evaporates this tension and leaves us feeling blank and confused.

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As I mentioned before The Hunger Games places its love story before any sense of morality and live-or-die aspects, and it overtakes the story during the latter half of the film resulting in a very confusing product. It wants to promote peace but it throws away that message to glorify these two “starcrossed lovers”, as the viewers call them. It’s unclear as to what the film was trying to do. In one hand you have a young romance, the other a sinister survival game, and they both act as oil and water, refusing to blend into each other properly. As two separate wholes they don’t work.

The Hunger Games doesn’t have the right ingredients to make you leave the theater fully engorged. If you go in wanting a love story you’ll leave feeling debilitated by the unanswered bloodshed. If you go in wanting Bear Grylls you’ll only like parts of it. If there is a second entry into the series (and I’m certain there will be) it needs to learn from the mistakes from this film. What great series like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings managed to do is make each entry an individual piece and part of a greater whole at the same time. That’s not the case here; this film relies too much on its successors to fill in the gaps. Needless to say I’m curious as to how the sequels will pan out and what sort of changes will be made. The actors for this movie are certainly strong enough for their roles and I’d like to see these characters return. As for now it’s best to appreciate The Hunger Games for what it is but hope that future installments do better.

The Hunger Games - 5/10


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Personally, I thought the movie followed the book pretty closely, aside from a few nitpicky things of course. I think the biggest thing that sets the movie aside from the book is that the whole story is narrated by Katniss, which in turn, allows her to describe the events around her in great detail and lets readers dive into the psychological aspect of the character. When you remove all of that, you just get the bare bones story, and that's essentially what the movie did. The movie does show flashbacks of Katniss and Peeta as described in the book, but that's abbout it. It didn't hinder the experience for me, it's just something I noticed off the bat.

Like I stated before, the movie does follow the book closely to an extent, so I guess you should also factor in whether you liked the book or not. Me, I liked both. If you liked the book but didn't share the same feelings for the movie, that's understandable. I'm still looking foward to the rest of the film trilogy, but until then, I really need to start reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

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My biggest gripe on the movie is how much they shot without a steady cam through the film. I understand they were trying to express their nervousness/fear, but it got excessive, and kept us from really appreciating all the sets.

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yeah I hate handycam. Especially after all those lame ass found footage movies.

This hunger games movie doesn't look like it's worth watching.

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I don't think you can really call out the film for "treating the humans like fodder" or whatever. That's sort of the point- it's violence as entertainment for the Capital citizens. Rue's death was a big deal and got a whole big scene because she's the only one who came to Katniss' aid simply because she thought it was the right thing to do. It's not like they can do that for all twenty-something tributes who die.

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My biggest problem was the camerawork. It always seemed to be shaking during fights, or doing a close-up of someones face. Got really old really fast

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I want to see this, but yeah, I expected as much, especially the action scale. I just wish people would realize there is a difference between bad and overrated.

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My feelings toward The Hunger Games are extremely ambivalent. I've been a fan of Battle Royale since I first saw it a few years ago, and I find it bothersome to a certain extent that another work with a nearly identical plot and very similar execution comes along and gets all the thunder. On the other hand, Battle Royale likely wouldn't have gotten an official release in the United States at all if it weren't for the popularity of The Hunger Games, so in that sense The Hunger Games's existence is justified... BUUUUT only if Battle Royale gets decent exposure as an entity unto itself and not just as "that Japanese thing people won't stop saying my favorite book ripped off".

I won't say I'm certain Suzanne Collins was lying when she said she'd never heard of Battle Royale until after she wrote The Hunger Games. I think it's quite possible she was telling the truth, as the concept of teenagers forced into an annual death match by a dystopian government is entirely possible for two individuals to come up with independently, and once you've done that, much of the similar execution can be a result of both stories going about these things in the ways that best suit the story. But it's one of the more fascinating coincidences I've ever seen.

Aside from its similarities to Battle Royale, I find The Hunger Games interesting for what it does wrong. (I'm speaking purely in terms of the movie; I haven't read the book.) I love seeing heroes overcoming obstacles through nonconventional means, "taking the third option" as it's often called (though numbering them doesn't always work here). I always find it more fun to see the protagonist win a game through unorthodox methods (which, in retrospect, is why I found the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! so enthralling and got bored with it as soon as they started playing by the rules of the actual card game), and The Hunger Games offers several scenarios that allow that to occur. The problem is that the movie goes about those situations the wrong way.

For example, when Katniss misses the target during the tribute, they make a big deal about the pig arriving with the apple in its mouth, introducing a new situation and doing so as obviously as possible. The "good" way to do it would be to have the pig in there from the beginning but keep it from being obvious that Katniss would shoot the apple. Similarly, the "tracker jacker" nest doesn't seem to exist until it's time for Katniss to use it.

This stuff is great when it's foreshadowed in some way (or when it just makes no freaking sense, which is the route Yu-Gi-Oh! took). The Hunger Games, in this sense, wasted its best opportunities.

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Speaking as someone who has seen the movie and read the book, the movie lacks something if you've not read the book. A lot of the things I've seen people complain about are things that the book would fill in.

I think they tried to get a little of every scene in there, and unfortunately forgot to include some important things.

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I can believe that Collins has never heard of Battle Royale. According to her the trilogy's based on the Theseus myth.

As for the film: I'd still like to see it. With all the mixed reactions it's getting here, I can't help but feel that I should judge for myself.

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Ehh, I thought it was alright, and I agree about the cinematography being really annoying.

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I liked it a lot actually. Then again, I'm a dumbass young teen so what do I know.

It didn't seem to me that the narrative problems were the movie's fault, but that they we're the books fault. The movie actually corrected a few narrative mistakes (namely how Katniss gets the Mockingjay pin). The shaky camera was really the only problem I had with the movie.

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I just got back from watching it. My God, its like the Tim Burton version of The Running Man. That fucking ADHD cameraman really pissed me off.

This was one of those movies that "Would have been good IF". I did like the storyline though the ending was meh and disappointing but i guess

they're trying to leave it open for a sequel but I doubt they will deliver (I'm STILL waiting on that Super Mario Bros movie sequel....no I'm not)

The special effects and the scenes themselves before the actual event were pretty amazing and reminded me of Fallout's interpretation of the future (that Neo-Cyber-50s future) and when i first saw that scene of the two men fighting in a torn down city I was thinking this might end up a cool shoot em up action film only with kids. But I was unaware of the PG-13 rating so I didn't know my expectations would never come to be

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I read the first book, but just couldn't get into the 2nd, so I really don't think I'll see it. The fact that yesterday at the mall there were very obnoxious teen girls freaking out about it in the bookstore, and 2 equally obnoxious ones with the shirts on and toy bows walking around doesn't iron in the thoughthat I'd get along with most of the fanbase if I did get really into it.

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Personally, it was a lot better than I expected. While it did have flaws (like the shaky cam that distracted from its tense moments, or the romantic subplot the film was setting up to criticize), it overall achieved a sense of uneasiness and believability, and left me curious to read the book and excited to see the sequel.

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I saw this last night. You're all right, it's one of those movies that would be good, and I did like it, but there are a lot of things off about it that can be pointed out. The one-dimensional "me so bad" villain, objects appearing as soon as they are needed but not before, the illogical actions of the tributes... Spoilers I guess:

Would you really want to be part of an ally of 5 who will turn around and kill you as soon as they don't need you? I can understand an alliance between like, the two people from the same district, but anything more than that seems unrealistic.

Also, why wouldn't they have had stronger glass in the viewing room? Imagine if the arrow just bounces off the glass.

That said, I enjoyed it on a technical level other than the overuse of shaky cam. The visuals are stunning, other than the weird dog things that look totally out of place, and the film is good at stirring up tension when it wants to.

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