Thursday, September 20, 2012


If an old-toughened male film fan such as me can enjoy The Hunger Games, than I suspect most people of any age or gender could be lured into admiring this film. 

Science-Fiction, Action and Drama

Starring - Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow, Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane and Amandla Stenberg as Rue

Director - Gary Ross

Writer(s) - Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray

Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens.

Runtime - 142 min.

Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock, you are no doubt familiar with media hoopla surrounding the Hunger Games book series and the film adaptation of the first novel The Hunger Games. For the few that have not seen the film, because you haven’t read the books and could care less about the film; or you aren’t interested in the film at all because it appears on the surface to be another cinematic Twilight/genre-teen-romance exploitive expletive. Speaking as a person who is definitely not the target audience (male-50+) and as someone who did not read/watch any of the Twilight books/films, I still decided to watch The Hunger Games in the hope that beyond the teen-romance-drama there would be some interesting science fictional speculation to be had. I was at least somewhat rewarded for my efforts.

Rather than bore you with the plot for The Hunger Games, I’ll reprint Suzanne Collins’, the author of the books and co-writer of the screenplay, plot synopsis:
In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives.

What makes The Hunger Games good science fiction? The premise of a future world where some type of world crisis has caused the social structure to revert to district states; with a Capital district ruling over them. Obviously Suzanne Collins has based her future world on the city states of early Rome and other historic political systems. This is a common practice of Fantasy writers, but science fiction writers have used history as a basis for their political structures as well. The way that the Capital Distict enforces this tribute of the 12 Districts makes for a fascinating premise to base a story on, but the execution of the story – at least the one presented in the film – could have been made clearer.

The film’s entire story is seen from the viewpoint of Katniss Everdeen, so there is little chance for the story’s larger premise to be elaborated on. While the character of Katniss is relatable to the film’s target audience, it made it frustrating for me, as I was often wondering about the origin of certain aspects of her life; specifically why her particular District seemed to be so short of food as to be almost starving. This is important to the character of Katniss, because of the food shortage, she discreetly hunts for deer and other meat in a forbidden zone. Her skill with a bow and also her ability to generate loyalty to herself plays a prominent role in her survival in The Hunger Games.

The visuals of The Hunger Games help to tell the story of this distinct economic separation between the poorer districts and the wealthy Capital. The wealth of The Capital is shown with the high-rise buildings, the advanced technology and the extravagant clothing worn by all its denizens. The later was so disparate and exaggerated, that I found it distracting. This could be why one of the few characters that I could actually relate to was Haymitch Abernathy. Despite his initial appearance to be an indifferent alcoholic, he was at least dressed more-or-less in a masculine fashion, sans the make-up and frills that most of the rest of the men in the film wore. Once again, I’m assuming the look of The Capital was based on the ostentatious clothing worn by such historical societies as the 16th Century French aristocracy. Still, I would have preferred something a little less visually distracting.

The only other caveat I have with the look of The Hunger Games was the camera work. Especially early on, there are many close-up and medium close-up shots, where the camera moves around aimlessly in several directions. I’m not sure what the director was attempting to do with these shots, but fortunately there were fewer of them as the film progressed.

Your level of enjoyment of The Hunger Games rests largely on your feelings for Katniss and the manner in which she ultimately survives the deadly tournament. I personally found Katniss to be slightly cold as a character. When the situations called for her to react emotionally, it didn’t really resonate with me. I do hope that with the next film, we will be given more of the back-story of how this world came to be. If an old-toughened male film fan such as me can enjoy The Hunger Games, than I suspect most people of any age or gender could be lured into admiring this film. Hopefully, with the second film – Catching Fire – due in theaters November in 2013 – I won’t be left hungering for more.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 9 Script – 8 Special Effects – 9

VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 8 Involvement – 9

TOTAL - 86

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