Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games [2012]


Background:
Release Date: 22 March 2012 (Malaysia), 23 March 2012 (USA)
Directed By: Gary Ross
Written By: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchersson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth
Duration: 142 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in somewhat of a bleak future, where Capitol (formerly North America) holds an annual tournament supposedly to remember its history. This tournament billed as "The Hunger Games" forces each of the twelve districts under Capitol to submit one boy and one girl of their own to compete against each other until there is only one living survivor. Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take the place of her 12 year old sister and finds herself paired with and ex-classmate, Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson).

At Capitol, Katniss and Peeta is coached by former Hunger Games winner, Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson). It is soon revealed that Peeta has a long standing crush on Katniss. Once the tournament starts, a few contestants begin to form an alliance and sets Katniss as their main target.


Thumbs Up:
+ As the story revolves heavily around her character, Jennifer Lawrence succeeds in delivering a strong, complex, and dimensional performance
+ The political oppression amongst the districts serves as an intrigueing story
+ Maintains good pacing throughout the movie, it never stays too long on one point
Thumbs Down:
- The shaky camera technique, especially in the beginning of the film is taken too overboard for my liking
- It almost seems that the film makers are assuming everybody has read the novels this movie is based on since there are often a lack of background detail
The Verdict Is In:
First of all, I must acknowledge that the environment that I was in watching this movie was far from ideal. I was seated in the same row with a few dudes who were of the "DVD commentary" type of audience. Both of them were huge too, so telling them to keep quite was pretty daunting. Secondly, despite me having the Bourne Trilogy as one of my favourite movies, I have a VERY bad case of motion sickness. Forget sea sick, I can even get sick in a car on a curvy road. Yes, that bad. Which is why the excessive shaky handheld camera been used, especially in the beginning of the movie made me extremely uncomfortable (if I had knew they would be using this technique I would have made preparations). Of course this is mostly my own personal weakness, but I do feel that sometimes the shaky-cam is overdone and unnecessary. I perfectly understand the unstable pictures when following characters moving around, but there were some scenes where people were just standing still while talking yet it was if the cameraman was having a seizure. Perhaps this technique was used to keep the film in PG-13 rating as the erratic moving distorts the violence taking place.


Enough shaky-cam rant. The dystopian future the movie takes place in really does provide for a compelling story. You could just feel the repressed desire among the district's people to revolt for freedom. Or the horror they feel when a children representing them dies while another district celebrate. How the tournament is shown in reality TV style also shows how hype and entertainment are used to distract people from engaging in more important issues. This of course results in them being subservient through ignorance. This social commentary is important as most of us movie fans are guilty of using films as a medium of escapism too.


Then there is Jennifer Lawrence. She had to beat several other good actresses to play the role of Katniss, and it absolutely paid-off. The role requires her to convey resolve, strength, social awkwardness, and assertiveness, and Lawrence shines in doing so mostly by physicality and just through the look in her eyes. There is no doubt she will one day add to her one Oscar nomination in her career. Maybe not in this film, but it will definitely come.

However, other than the shaky-cam mentioned earlier, the film does have other issues. It really does seem like the producers think that everyone has read the books this is based on. There are too many background details unexplained. I guess this is the bright side of sitting close to those "commentary dudes" I mentioned earlier. For example they talk about how the novel tells why Haymitch is in such a mess. Someone like me who has never read the novels would have appreciated information like this as the movie never bothers to tell us.

Overall, this is an enjoyable film but doesn't really whack the ball out of the park. This is probably because it is only the first instalment of the franchise, which sets it up nicely for the future films. It can only get better from here.
Final Verdict:
7 Out Of 10

8 comments:

  1. Interesting, this handheld shaky camera stuff is getting on a few people's nerves. Glad you like it even if you do have a few issues with it! I've not read the second and third books yet but I''m hoping they are as good as the first!

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  2. Just felt most of the time the shaky-cam was unnecessary. Still a good movie though.

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  3. Good review. Maybe The Hunger Games is going to be the one young adult franchise that really lives up to the hype. Thankfully, it’s no Twilight- meaning that future installments will actually be something to look forward to and there won’t be any mopey romance angles. Fancy that! Check out my review when you can.

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  4. Definitely not Twilight, that's for sure. Thanks Dan. I've already read your review, in fact I left a comment a couple of hours ago :)

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  5. Nice review! I'm not very excited for the movie and I read about shaky camera thing being annoying a lot of times now. I'm surprised by all the praise for the film.

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  6. To be fair, I get annoyed at shaky-cam more than the average person does.
    There are a few background details missing in the movie, but the story is interesting enough to make me want to check out the books.

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  7. I like this more than you but I think this is a fair review and I can see where you're coming from. With any book adaptation, the book will always offer more depth than the film, but I think w/ Hunger Games, there's enough in it for audience to get the gist of the story and then some.

    It's odd but I actually didn't notice the shaky handheld camera thing that much. I mean it's there but it didn't really bother me.

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  8. I actually am interested in reading the book now. Thanks for the visit Ruth.

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