The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

The movie isn’t bad…it’s just not as good as I thought it could be.

Pros: I liked Jennifer Lawrence in this role. I thought she did a very good job conveying stoic resolve while still giving glimpses of her emotional landscape. This is especially remarkable given the tight camera shots of her face throughout the movie.

I liked how they utilized Caesar Flickerman as a means of explaining some of the environmental information necessary in order to establish the society and plot devices. (ie: what are tracker jackers?) I thought that was a clever way of getting viewers who hadn’t read the books up to speed.

The costume and set design were on key. I especially loved the extravagance of the Capitol fashions contrasted with the faded Grapes of Wrath dustbowl aesthetic of the outlying districts.

Cons: My biggest complaint with this movie is two-fold. First off, I felt the pacing was off. Granted, there was a lot of content to cover, but they sped through so much of it at such a frenetic pace, that most of the emotional foundation was lost.

Secondly, I feel they gutted the harder truths and social commentary out of the movie. It’s as if they didn’t have faith in the masses (especially teenagers/youth) to be able to handle the content. I think it was a disservice to them to assume they wouldn’t be able to tackle harder issues, and I’m not referring to the kid on kid violence.

I’m talking about the idea of staying true to your convictions, despite the odds. The idea of not succumbing to being a puppet in society’s games and having the courage to hold onto your humanity in a world that is littered with “reality tv.” They really lost that, and in the few moments where they briefly touch on it, it is quickly glossed over and moving on to the next event.

Lastly, I really hated the shaky cam. John, my brother-in-law, mentioned it was probably away to imply violence without truly showing it. However, they even used it during the first scenes through the Seam…and it was totally unnecessary and hurt my eyes. Why not linger on the poverty, starvation and despair? It would have created a much better contrast with the Capitol’s mania and excess.

Even though I liked the casting of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the portrayal of Haymitch was the biggest disservice that will probably come back to haunt them, given his role in the rest of the series. I was even disappointed in their depiction of the prep team. In the books, Katniss views them as “colorful pets.” It provides a great tool for showing how lavish, frivolous and self-centered their Capitol existence is, while illustrating Katniss’ ability to recognize their lack of intentional maliciousness. There’s nuance in that. Despite their pampered perspective, she is not cruel to them. She recognizes that they are still puppets.

In the end, while the overall movie was okay…it could have been SO much better. I found myself disappointed and saddened by the squandered potential. All I can say is “Go read the books!”

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