First of all, let me state that I Did Not read the books. Nothing against them, they just were under my radar. But obviously a lot of young people did… because the theater was full of them. And at 12pm on a Friday afternoon, when young geeks should be in school, lets just say a lot of kids played cut school yesterday.
For any of you that don’t know the story (like I didn’t a week ago) THE HUNGER GAMES is about a young girl named Katniss, that is part of a deadly competition in a dystopian future where 24 young people, two from each of 12 districts, are pitted against each other until only one remains alive. It is based on Suzanne Collins bestseller book series.
Not knowing much about the story, I tried to go in with an unbiased eye, neither for or against the film. But I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, because the trailers and marketing had not piqued my interest. But I did want to see it so I could at least review it here. And of course any dystopian future with kids fighting and killing each other has got to be worth at least a look, right?
The film starts out with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) talking and comforting her younger sister Primrose over the chance that she will be picked for some mysterious event. Katniss tells Primrose the odds are in her favor, because this was the first time Prim’s name will be put into the lottery. Well, luck be the lady tonight, because Primrose (Willow Shields) unfortunately gets picked right out the gate. Luckily, she has an older sister that can shoot the eye out of a running squirrel with an arrow. Katniss volunteers herself and takes her twelve-year-old sister’s place. The goodbyes are quick between Katniss and her mom and sis, and her best friend and obvious future romantic interest – Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
It’s a stark contrast between the outer districts, where all the work and toil gets done, and the capital city where all the tacky, tasteless and badly dressed rich people live. Katniss, and her team-mate Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), start the process where they are trained and mentored by Woody Harrelson‘s character – x-Hunger Game winner Haymitch Abernathy, who is now a bit of a drunk, and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the publicist, make-up and fashion expert who seems a little disgusted by it all. Elizabeth Banks plays Effie Trinket, a sort of PR person who you wanted to choke-the-heck-out from the very start, but I credit that to Elizabeth’s good acting.
The movie was almost comical in the ostentatiousness of the people in charge. But it worked. The fact that the brutal ritual had become a reality show perfectly portrayed the attitude of this futuristic ‘Let-them-eat-cake’ society.
Well, after some interesting events that led to Katness being the most loved by the masses, and most worried about by the more dangerous teens, the story moves onto the actual game itself. Katniss and Peeta enter with the rest of the pre-adult gladiator game with some trepidation, but survive the initial opening. From there Katniss learns throughout the game, that her formidable hunting skills come in handy for staying alive. And though it seems she can’t even trust her team-mate, she finds help in one of the other contestants, a little girl named Rue, that reminds Katniss of her sister back home (Rue was played excellently by young actress Amandla Stenberg).
From here on in, it’s Katniss against the odds as she uses her strengths, wits and skill to try to survive The Hunger Games.
So the film was decent being that it was a ‘kill or be killed’ gladiator type of story. Considering the material and targeted age group, the filmmakers took the story very seriously. The deadly combat between the teenage contestants weren’t used as some gimmick. The acting was good, though the veteran cast didn’t outshine their younger counterparts at all. Woody Harrison shined more in Zombieland than this. Even Sutherland playing The President didn’t make much of an impact to me. But Lawrence did convey some heartfelt feeling as the main character. I didn’t think once that she might suddenly turn blue and start fighting mutants. Josh Hutcherson was a little wishy-washy, but that may have been how the character was in the book. My son and I talked about his character being remarkably strong, but they failed to show that strength in the battle. Too bad, I would have loved it if Peeta had tossed somebody.
Oh, but let me not forget about Stanley Tucci playing the role of Caesar Flickerman, he was splendid as the host of the games. Even though I knew he was part of this fictional atrocity, I couldn’t help but like the guy. But Tucci is great at his craft, so no surprise there.
Gary Ross directed and co-wrote the film. There was nothing exceptional about the directing, but there wasn’t anything major to criticize about it either. The writing produced the emotional turmoil that you would expect from a story like this, and anything that teetered on corny could be overlooked by the drama. The pace of the film kept the action going, except for a couple romantic scenes. A necessary evil for teen dramas like this.
I was satisfied when I left the theater. I got to see a plot that I had seen several times before, but told in an interesting way. I don’t think many will be dissatisfied seeing it, but the youth will especially enjoy it. And judging by the exuberance of the three boys sitting next to me in the theater, holding up the 12th District hand symbol when Katniss raised her salute, if you read the books then you will like the film.
One thing though. And it’s just me being the nit-picking geek that I am; How do you have a scientifically advanced society, that can create fire, and trees, and living killer animals, but things run on coal that is mined by the 12th district? At least that’s the impression I got. Somebody that knows the story, please enlighten a brother.
Judging by what this movie took in at the box office opening weekend ($155 million) I think Lionsgate doesn’t have to worry about their future any more.
Geek Soul Brother gives THE HUNGER GAMES 3.5 out of 5 Cosmic Afros. Higher if you are a fan.