Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens
The 20s and 30s had Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, the 60s gave us Harper Lee and the 80’s Alice Walker… and so it goes that at the end of the 2000s we get J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer and the writer of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, Suzanne Collins. Directed and co-written by the critically acclaimed Gary Ross (seemingly at times getting his money’s worth out of the handheld camera format), “The Hunger Games” is, if you don’t know already (and how could you not?) the new big teen book series turned major motion picture currently sweeping the nation. Starring, Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Elizabeth Banks (The 40 Year Old Virgin) as Effie, Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers) as Haymitch Abernathy and the great Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia) as Caesar Flickerman (or what Ryan Seacrest will be in twenty years) “The Hunger Games” is a film where maybe the most important piece of information to know going in, is that even if you are someone who got dragged kicking and screaming to see this film, you will not want to sling an arrow into your own head upon viewing “The Hunger Games ” (unlike “The Twilight Series” or one of the 50 “Harry Potter” films). And if you are one of those Hunger Games fans that will only venture to the theater with silver hair and drag queen makeup, then from what I hear, the film does stay pretty faithful to the novel. And now, here is my review of “The Hunger Games”; the anti-reviewable movie:
Synopsis: Seemingly beginning where “Winter’s Bone” left off, “The Hunger Games” sees Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, living in a futuristic Appalachia, starving (or hungry, if you will). Katniss, because of her impoverished lifestyle, is randomly picked to participate in a brutal Government run “fight to the death” called The Hunger Games. Making poor people fight to the death to solve futuristic American uprisings? Yeah, that sounds like a pretty plausible next step for the good ol’ U S of A. But before the games can start Katniss meets Peeta, who she obviously thinks is super cute (in a non threatening way). Her only problem is that she already has a boyfriend named Gale back home…oh, and the fact that she has to eventually kill people on live T.V. in a barbaric game of death.
Why was this movie so long?!: “The Hunger Games” movie contains tons of exposition, which if you haven’t read the book, can come off as a bit slow. But no worries, once Lawrence begins kicking butt (at around minute 80) “The Hunger Games” gets substantially better. And even if you are not a fan of overly drawn out first-book-in-the-series exposition, then the rather outlandish characters played by and Tucci, Banks and Harrelson will be entertaining enough to get you through the first hour (or so) with the fewest amount of exasperated eye rolls as possible. What is, in fact, more of an issue than any of the elongated exposition is how this film is directed; in headache inducing fashion.
Side Note: If you are expecting a lot of blood and gore from a movie where the premise surrounds kids fighting to the death (well duh), then you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, a large reason why I hated much of this direction was a direct result of Ross trying to stay within the confines of a PG-13 MPAA rating system. What is becoming a glaringly obvious fact of film making, as these teen…(oh I’m sorry) young adult book series are becoming more and more popular, is how hard it is to adapt dark and violent subject matter (like teens fighting to the death, or vampires kissing werewolves) into the PG-13 arena. What I am talking about, is when a rather good director such as Ross is reduced to amateurish shaky camera techniques during every single fight scene in order to hide stabbings and arrows penetrating. And aside from that, the awful side effect of shaky camera is that during the most exciting parts of this film, when Katniss is chopping suckas up to win her freedom in a girl-ed down version of “Running Man”, the camera moves so much that it is almost impossible to try or want to see what is going on. So, what we few, who haven’t read the books, are left with is 80 minutes of exposition and 45 minutes of squinting in an attempt at blindly interpreting which child is being stabbed and which has survived. But, in saying that, action sequences aside, “The Hunger Games” is very watchable; when the director gets a chance to actually direct that is.
Final Thought: “The Hunger Games” is actually the first of the big budget adapted Teen book series that overall delivered up to its entertainment (big screen) expectations. It does still hold the very familiar love triangle that teen angst thrives upon; with Katniss as Bella or Hermione, Gale as Edward or Harry and Peeta as Jacob or that red headed British kid. But the new and more violent plot does allow “The Hunger Games” to propel itself into a much more entertaining, edge of your seat experience (relatively speaking). And this is coming from a person who hated similarly premised feature films, such as “Battle Royale” or “Series 7.”