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Rated PG-13 for violence and intense dramatic scenes
posted Mar 31, 2012 - 9:55:25am
While it’s never wise to compare a film to its source material (more often than not, diehard fans are left fuming about what wasn’t included), one can’t help but feel as though The Hunger Games doesn’t live up to the hype. Director Gary Ross presents a film filled with uneven pacing that stumbles along, focusing on the things that don’t matter while letting things like character development fall by the wayside. What The Hunger Games lacks in presentation, though, it more than makes up for with its incredible cast.
Jennifer Lawrence seems like the clear choice to play Katniss Everdeen after her performance in Winter’s Bone. Both protagonists are strong female characters that come from poverty-stricken areas, and both have to hunt to provide for their siblings. Here she plays a "tribute," participating in a battle to the death for mass entertainment. Deep down there is something relatable to her character, especially as she grows closer to her fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
Popcorn represents how fun a film is to watch—how funny it is, how exciting the special effects are, and how enjoyable the story is on repeated viewings. The perfect popcorn movie would be one that never got stale regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
Tributes come from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol as forced offerings of one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18 as penance for an uprising 74 years ago. Each year, these 24 contestants enter a fight to the death. Only one may survive.
If any of this sounds at all familiar, it’s because there was a Japanese film about 12 years back with a similar premise called Battle Royale. Both are dark films filled with intense brutality, but The Hunger Games is a little smoother around the edges.
The film is a little front-heavy, focusing mainly on the journey the characters take to prepare for the tournament. It’s a spectacle, obtuse commentary on society’s obsession with competition and entertainment. The tributes are forced to go on talk shows (hosted by Stanly Tucci in a creepy performance), and they are paraded about for the elite to examine. It’s a sickening display, but after more than an hour of this, it’s hard not to get excited for the kids to start slaughtering each other.
The movie does an excellent job at casting Katniss and Peeta in a sympathetic light, but it never takes the time to look at the other contestants. So, when the arrows start flying, it’s hard to care much about any of the others; the characters are mainly just nameless other kids from other districts. The movie resorts to the dreaded shaky cam during action sequences, which is more distracting than effective and results in utter confusion over what’s happening until the dust settles.
The Hunger Games doesn't have the scope or demand the emotional investment needed to live up to the expectations it created for itself, but as pure entertainment it serves its purpose. Woody Harrelson is probably the best part of the film as the comic relief, offering almost depressing pearls of wisdom to the two protagonists. (Elizabeth Banks is good too, if completely unrecognizable. Just try to spot her.)
The film has its downfalls – the subpar visual effects and costuming are distracting at times – but thanks to strong performances from everyone involved, it’s easy to get lost in it. But it's the type of movie that always feels like it could be so much more. Maybe the sequels will find their legs and really take off.
Stars & Popcorn grade: 3 stars, 3 1/2 popcorn
— Born and raised in the sunshine state, Patrick grew up loving movies. He’s currently attending the University of Central Florida and is a Cinema Studies major. Along with being the president of Stars and Popcorn, he’s a player in the independent comics scene.
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