The Hunger Games. As far as the premise goes, it’s already been done centuries before. Ancient Greeks and the Minotaur? My expectations were low and to hear a film espoused as being the next Twilight or Harry Potter doesn’t make me think anymore highly of it. After all twilight is most definitely for girls. One almost-girlfriend made me watch it. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t leave the ground. And Harry Potter is Harry Potter. Who can compete with a power franchise like that?
Does it live up to the hype? In short, no. But I will endeavour to explain why that is a good thing.
However, I should – as with any good story – start at the beginning. The general tone feels much more like an art film leaning than a Hollywood film leaning although there is no doubt that it is from the hallowed hills. The special effects will tell you that. From the detail of The Capital ( with realistic tiny people wandering around) to the flying vehicles and the mag- train. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We spend a long time looking at Katniss’ hometown. When I say long, it felt like at least half an hour although this was probably made worse by the fact that I had the basic plot explained to me by a friend and all I was waiting for was ‘the bit where they start killing each other’. It doesn’t feel like this part of the story is necessary, at least not in the amount that we’re given. A few shots to show us that she’s poor and desperate for food, that the older people seem weathered and broken would have been enough. There was a voice-over to explain the uprising and some text to give the backstory It seemed like the director wanted this time to explain the hunger games and its intricacies, I haven’t read the book but I’m still not entirely sure. Offhand lines are mentioned that seem important but are never explained ( there’s one where Gale Hawthorne talks of having his name in forty one times and another with Primrose – Katniss’ sister – whose name was only put in once and I’m sitting there going why!) but eventually the picking out of the huge fishbowl starts. There is a Tim Burton-esque feel to the practically bottled pink lady, Effie Trinket, who stands onstage picking the names – some stellar acting by Elizabeth Banks. I’ve included a picture so you can judge for yourself. The Capital is filled with the same clownish style and reminded me of ‘the Fifth Element’s twisting of gender stereotypes with a palette of colours from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Credit must be given to Linda Flower’s wigs and hair which were incredible. I’d give five stars to Wes Bentley’s beard which was possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my short life and as soon as I can grow a full beard, I am doing that. Sadly, Seneca Crane is underwhelming and a little anaemic but I have the feeling this is due to the script or lack of anything that the character seems to have, rather than his acting. He is set up as the bad guy. He’s not but that’s how he’s set up. He is just a puppet and he feels like it. Maybe that was intentional but the character just felt underdone ; No teeth.
Haymitch Abernathy, who starts off as a drunk who’s useless and doesn’t want to help Katniss and Peter, randomly starts helping them. Some great acting by Woody Harrelson, who reminded me of Robbie Savage, but I felt there was a scene missing depicting his transition. It happens too quickly for my liking and as a result, he seems a schizophrenic – in a character sense rather than actually depicting the mental health problem. Peter, acted brilliantly byis a strong ‘lover’ archetype and realistically portrayed, and I suspect we will have a Jacob-Edward scenario between him and Liam Hemsworth. Think crowds of screaming fourteen year old girls! Katniss by Jennifer Lawrence was a tiny bit less likable although was, for the most part, incredibly strong. Again, I don’t know how the books are written but it feels like she needed some oomph. However Jennifer managed to capture hopelessness and sheer exhaustion expertly.
Much credit must be given to Amandla Stenberg who played Rue and I predict, if she continues in this profession, she will be a great actress. For me she stole the show and I wanted more of her onscreen. Whether she is a bigger player in the book, I know not. Liam Hemsworth did well in a limited number of scenes and I get the impression he will be more prominent in the next two movies. Either that or he had all his scenes cut in post-production.
Cinematography was, for the majority, excellent except for the hideously shaky bits which were obviously to disguise the children mercilessly slaughtering each other, presumably to keep the rating down. Coincidentally it was a 12A but there were some physically cringe inducing bits. I’m not a squeamish guy but I’m glad we didn’t have to see one guy get torn to bits by wild animals and seeing a girl get stung to death was difficult to watch. Watching children die is not my choice of film. Oddly, the three or four people who got their necks broken didn’t bother me. Thankfully the majority of the really young children die offscreen. I have a heart of stone when it comes to crying at films but I did shed a tear when one of them died onscreen. I have a soft spot for young children!
The plot twists were fairly cliched I’m sad to say, except for the final one, but that probably wasn’t helped by the irritating man sat next to me who insisted on murmuring each thing a few moments before it happened. He’d obviously read the book.
The music was good. A lot of ambient style sounds but it worked; my favourite being the throbbing, pulse bass sound. The instrumental was for the most part unobtrusive but there were some beautiful strings at a point where a character died. I won’t say who but you wont guess cos there were a lot…
Overall, it’s a very good movie. There were some bits that I felt let it down but it is difficult to say if this was due to it being the first in a trilogy or an odd direction. The slightly artistic feel is its strongest asset helping to distinguish it from a dirge of other blockbusters which, although I love the genre, can get tired.