Sunday, March 25, 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games

To preface this review, I must first admit to having never read the best selling books from whence this burgeoning franchise has arisen, and I really have no inclination to remedy this any time soon, so any thoughts on how well said books, or in this case, book (the first of a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins) has been adapted and put up on the big screen by director Gary Ross will not be forthcoming any time soon either.  Now considering Collins is one of the three credited screenwriters here, one could make a rather safe assumption that the movie is at least fairly faithful to the book - or at least as faithful as a film adaptation can be.  But that is neither here nor there, for I am here to talk about the movie and how enjoyable or unenjoyable it just so happens to be.  I suppose that enjoyablity factor, at least in my not-so-humble opinion, is somewhere above middling but somewhat below fair - or is that the other way around.  Anyway, I digress.

Granted, this kind of movie, Twilight for a slightly tougher crowd, is not really my thing (when I do go box office boffo, I tend to gravitate toward the superhero crowd), but still, it seems to be a relatively well-done motion picture for, as they say, what it is.  Unfortunately though, well-adapted or not (and folks who have read the books tells me it is, though perhaps lacking the more sadistic side of children killing children), the film lacks the action-oriented necessity of such a genre.  Sure, there are a few moments of wasp-stinging excitement, but overall the film falls a lot flatter than it should have, or could have under the auspices of a better and/or more action-oriented director.  Gary Ross, who has such action flicks as Pleasantville and Seabiscuit under his directorial belt, was probably not the best choice for such material as this, but then most of the bigger name action directors in Tinsel Town (Singer, Whedon, Raimi, Snyder, et al) were otherwise occupied with their own pet projects.  The film may excite fans of the books, but really does nothing for this critic.  Then again, the fans of the books are the target audience here, not me, so I suppose in that aspect they did a bully bully job indeed - even if they did not go as deep down into the bowels of the narrative as they shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Now there are aspects of the film I did quite enjoy.  The look and fashion sense of the film, caught somewhere between the denizens of Emerald City and the post-millennial club kids of the NYC dance scene (seriously, why doesn't Lady Gag have a cameo here), are rather alluring, but even that only went so far and stopped.  The main problem with the film though, is the film's idea of satire.  Attempting, one assumes, at creating a time and place where one can criticize the ideas of reality TV and modern society's desensitized outlook on violence, Ross's film ends up playing to this targeted demographic instead of taking aim at them.  But then, perhaps this is just me reading too much into the probabilities and possibilities of such a story that has ingrained essences of Lord of the Flies and A Brave New World (and let's not forget the 2000 film Battle Royale which already did this near-exact scenario more than a decade ago - and did it better) hidden behind lines and scenes that never play out as the demented social commentary they should.  In other words we are meant to revel in kids killing kids and go rah rah rah all the way home, without ever getting anything else out of it.

Now do not get me wrong, I am as sadist-loving as the next person when it comes to watching death and destruction on the big screen. A noted Tarantino lover I am indeed.  My Grindhouse sensibilities taking no qualms with the warped leanings of many the deranged film.   But still, I was hoping for a consciousness behind the sadism here.  Perhaps something akin to the aforementioned Golding book.   Then perhaps I am the only one that was hoping for a deeper bent on the whole shebang and therefore perhaps I should just enjoy the rah rah rah and go home myself.  After all, popcorn movies can be entertaining without any silly social worth - I am not that much of a film snob dammit - and one can certainly become enthralled in a massive effect of fast-paced action that is not necessarily going anywhere but straight forward.  Of course even these straight-forward rah rah rah's are tainted by Ross's middle-of-the-road direction and his inability to make us feel any fear or sympathy for the characters, so who knows what could have come to life from a proper, dare I say more daring, adaptation of these books.  Perhaps something that would have kept us on the edge of our seats, instead of lying back in them, relaxed and complacent.  Perhaps indeed.  Then again, this is the kind of movie one calls critic-proof (I say that as if we critical crowd have any say at all anymore, with any type of cinema - not the way we did back in the Pauline Kael hey day of long ago and not so far away) so why the hell am I getting all bent out of shape in the first place.  Go see it or don't - what do I care!?


Dan O. said...

Take away the hullabaloo surrounding the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult book and what you have is an absorbing film with a dire premise that stands pretty much on its own. Lawrence is also the stand-out here as Katniss and makes her seem like a real person rather than just another book character brought to life on film. Good review Kevyn.

Kevyn Knox said...

I had no problem with Lawrence's performance (or any of the cast really) but Ross's direction was so bland and fell so flat so many times, that all the supposedly inherent excitement (and there should have been quite a lot) never came through. There was not a single moment that I felt either fear for the characters or intensity of the chase. I was never absorbed.

I suppose for the target audience, many of whom are used to the blandness of Hollywood today, the film works as a two and a half hour diversion from life. It is certainly not a poorly done movie, but something much much worse - a mediocre movie.

Candice Frederick said...

hmmm i thought this movie was very conscious and purposeful about its motives, which made me love it more.

Kevyn Knox said...

I believe that the filmmakers wanted to be satiric and such in their output, but the direction is so dreadfully bland that it never comes through as anything deep or resonant. The film definitely needed a director that can do action better than Ross.

Aussie guy said...

The creation and showing of this film is for predictive programming of mass society.
Dystopian programming (this film) along with disaster programming (independence day) has been a standard tavistock institute (or it's child groups) method of en-mass psycological manipulation to get people to see the hunger games 'world' as a possible real world future scenario thus removing future shock and replacing it with acceptance.
The Rockefeller Foundation "Scenarios for the future of technology and international development May 2010" have Lock Step as one of four scenarios which is Hunger Games.
The fact the film also makes millions of dollars is why they also laugh all the way to the bank.