Friday, 4 May 2012

The Hunger Games [Review]


Opinion: B

If you are able to excuse the exaggerated handheld shaky visuals during certain scenes, Gary Ross' The Hunger Games serves a good opening as the first of a trilogy. With well-composed action sequences and a good performance by lead actress Jennifer Lawrence, Ross' screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' young adult fiction has substance in both the script and entertainment department. Albeit a tad bit draggy with an extended 142 minutes running time.


Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.


There is a reason for the epic running time though, and it's truly justified if one's physically accommodating. There's quite an amount of film material fitted within the script by Gary Ross, Billy Ray, and Suzanne Collins (herself!), which includes the action in the surivival-of-the-fittest games, the romance set within the games' dire conditions, the political repression references, and others.

The scripted material is what made this film feel epic with substance (when it's typically just style).

Great effort by Ross to gradually define the lead character and allow Katniss to appear vivid throughout the entire film. Observe how Lawrence depicts serene moments and frantic ones and I gradually realised her ability to create a range of emotions and traits. Make no doubt that Lawrence is a capable actress in exploring her scripted character beyond her good looks.

Lawrence as the strong-willed Katniss Everdeen isn't the only limelight in the cast. There is much to look towards in a number of memorable supporting cast with the likes of Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci as eccentric personalities. You feel it the moment Banks rapidly blinks her powdered eyelids and says "May the odds be ever in your favour" and when Tucci turns from the stage shadows and generates a million dollar TV host smile towards his audience.

While photography by Tom Stern (Mystic River, Changeling) is generally commendable, the overly excessive handheld motion adopted in the rural district scenes was overbearing in my opinion. Not sure if it was intentional and if it was, I couldn't vision its purpose. Together with a good sound design and costume/make-up, production values are relatively high in its own capacity.

While the "survival of the fittest" syndrome will likely come across firmly in most's eyes, the reference to the "social reality entertainment" where superficial values are derived at the expense of others' suffering through ordeals is better noted. We see teens selected (known as tributes) to pit against one another in a free for all melee game season after season, where only one walks out of it alive.

Some are trained for this, while others are selected by random fate. In the games, tributes are able to gain parachuting supplies if they are able to please sponsors. Sometimes, people gain success through coincidence and situational luck and there's no sure prediction. "Hope, is the only thing stronger than fear". This might be referencing to how our society works its way in sustainance. "If nobody watches, the games end", says one to Katniss who replies:

"It's not that simple". 


4 comments:

  1. I liked it, but didn't love it. A bit overhyped.

    Glad to see you back, J, and awesome review as usual. :)

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  2. First of all, terrific review and I agree about the length. My biggest problem, though, is Collins obviously does not know how to follow her own rule that there can be only one. You have to stick to the parameters of the myth you create. Peeta's survival at the end nullified the entire mythology and premise of the Hunger Games. It was a plot contrivance for a "happy" ending. And besides Hutcherson and Lawrence had no chemistry whatsoever. Their reactions, aside from the anger, were totally forced and brought on too quickly. It felt completely false.

    It was good, but not great... A solid B for all the rest of the performances, especially Rue. The sistamance with Katniss was great. Elizabeth Banks was awesomely unrecognizable and I loved Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.

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  3. @Nebular George, terribly sorry for my absence. Been away for a long time, I know. Thanks for your comments, guess we have the same sentiments.

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  4. @Melissa You have more depth in context than I do since you've read the book. Interesting points highlighted, thought they were good food for thought.

    It's good to be back and hope all's well with you!

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