Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross. Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

This is a film review, not a book review. I’ve not read any of The Hunger Games novels and, moreover, I have absolutely no interest in reading them now that I’ve seen the film. If they are as average as this film, I’ll stay far away.

It’s been three days since I saw The Hunger Games and it has fallen drastically in my opinion of it. Upon reflection there is nothing new here; the main story is a cross between The Running Man and Battle Royale, the love story is as unbelievable as anything you’ll see all year, and the costume and set design is straight out of The Fifth Element. For a brand new film it looks like it was made 15 years ago and the shockingly bad visual effects only prove to evidence this.

At nearly two and a half hours, the film is needlessly long and its attempts to be an ‘epic’ are all part of its downfall. With the exception of the lead character, Katniss, not one of the cast is in the least bit believable and in a film where we are supposed to care about children killing children for live television broadcast, this is a major flaw. There are supposed to be 24 children who take part in the ‘games’ but none of them are given any background or detail, nor do we see any of them die unless Katniss is involved. Furthermore, the reason why the ‘games’ even exists is either A) never explained or B) so poorly written it passed me by. At least with The Running Man we know it’s supposed to be criminals playing the game and that makes perfect sense (in the world of the film) but here we never find out; why isn’t it the adults or the elderly, or the under 10s? In a dystopian world, the viewer deserves and should demand to know why the world they’re watching is like it is and why the rules are now in place. Imagine if Minority Report didn’t take the time to explain who the Pre-cogs are, or if in Logan’s Run the age limit rule was just passed over. It would be unacceptable.

The film does not work as a satire on government or reality TV and once the children enter the ‘games’ the fact that it is televised is barely mentioned and the need for sponsors, so emphasised in the first act, is rendered pointless in favour for straight-to-video standard CGI and underwhelming set pieces. And what is with the three finger salutes that is obviously supposed to be so significant? Unless you’ve read the book I can’t imagine how anyone would work it out.

The one saving grace and the sole reason you keep watching is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She has a real screen presence about her and conveys both the fear and strength you’d need if this situation were real. It’s just a shame nothing else about the film gives the same levels of commitment as Lawrence. The film isn’t a disaster in the way in which the Transformers or Pirates series are and is in no way offensive, but just because it’s more intelligent than Twilight does not mean it’s beyond criticism.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: With the third biggest opening of all time at the US box-office, the other two parts of the trilogy will undoubtedly be filmed as soon as possible. They may well be an improvement on this underwhelming first instalment, but I won’t be there to see if that’s true.

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