The Hunger Games

Here at the Avenue we sometimes think about the way we’re going to review a movie. Not very often, but it happens. And this is how we thought this review would start:

You might have read about the many comparisons between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. The lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, explained it best: there may be similarities between the theme of the movies (a yearly ‘battle’ for youngsters), but both movies handled this theme in a very different way.

But then we watched the movie and while we’re watching the first hour of the film, we thought it would be appropriate to write a deeply sarcastic review about the film, something along the lines of

Hi, my name is Gary Ross and I’m looking for a job. I ‘m currently employed as a “director”, but this doesn’t seem like the right job for me. Sure, Pleasantville was an entertaining movie and it was well made. Even Seabiscuit was decent, but while directing The Hunger Games I realized it must have been beginner’s luck. This latest ‘film’ taught me I couldn’t direct my way out of a box. Any interesting job offers are welcomed, manual labour is accepted.

But to be fair, once Katniss (Lawrence) has been interviewed on tv (another cringe-worthy scene), The Hunger Games becomes better directed (the first hour is so wibbly-wobbly for no other reason than to mask nothing is going on) and it’s suddenly the plot that starts failing the film. If once the teens are in the forest, you can’t predict what’ll happen next, you haven’t used a brain cell. Even then, Ross sometimes slips up. I can’t say I’m revealing a spoiler because the movie just screams the young girl from District 11 will be killed, but after her death, the movie suddenly cuts to her family and the spectators who are watching the big screens in their zone and suddenly, it’s right there at the bottom of the screen: “District 11”. Do you think we’re retarded, mister Ross? Hardly ever does The Hunger Games feel the need to establish where a scene is set and even here it’s pretty clear that the death of a contestant from District 11 will get a reaction from… oh wait, let’s play a quiz.

A contestant from District 11 dies. The spectators who seem most affected by this are…

a) the people from District 11, the contestant’s home;
b) the people from District 4, whom you’ve never heard of but are apparently quite empathic;
c) the people from District 7, who are reacting to a football match being shown on another screen

Send your answers to: Gary Ross, c/o New Job Wanted, Hollywood

So The Hunger Games is predictable (not necessarily bad – James Bond always wins at the end too – but it is worse if the director is constantly pretending you’ll never guess what happens next) and condescending. It rates poorly as criticism on society, but is acceptable for its raised fist against television: during the game the rules are changed more than once. Had the author dwelled on this rather than pretending a change is awful and must be followed by something grave (like someone behind the change having to commit suicide for society’s sake), the result might have been better. This sort of elimation show – even if it’s rarely “to the death” as in The Hunger Games thrives on the participation of the audience. The local version of The Voice threw away the rule that all the contestants had to be solo or duo singers when out of the blue three sisters appeared. The show’s rulebook told the producers to work their way up to the emotional moment one or two sisters would be told to leave the show, but the tweets and other reactions told them the public would lose a lot of sympathy for the show, so out with the “No Family” rule. However, in real life, no producer was executed the next day, or at least, not as far as we know…
In The Hunger Games we do watch how someone is lead into a room, leaving him to conclude death is the only option because the film takes place in a dystopian society, don’t you know? The scene itself is nicely directed but it can’t hide it’s all a big cliché. And that is sadly the keyword for this movie: “cliché”. Just look at the extravaganza of the rich town’s outfits and hairdos. If you’d ask a five-year-old girl to draw exuberant people, this is what you’d get. The Hunger Games is far too ambitious for its own good and the only point where it delivers is in the lead: nothing wrong with Jennifer Lawrence. But for every Lawrence there’s a need to have a Lenny Kravitz ‘act’. On that and every other point the movie annoys and contradicts so often it’s hard to write something decent about it. The well-written scenes are badly directed, the well-directed scenes are unengaging plotwise etc. etc. Furthermore, the ‘surprises’ don’t deliver and the film is quite gimmicky in its symbols (the use of the mockingbird) and lines (a constantly repeated phrase like “May the force be with you”). For every thing that works in the film’s favour there’s a ball and chain it willingly drags with it. It’s not good, it’s not bad and because its occasional ambition it’s not even mediocre. Reviewing this film isn’t easy, it may even be pointless. Hence this score:

Toodleflip / 10

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4 thoughts on “The Hunger Games

  1. kurtodrome August 8, 2012 / 02:36

    In the original version I used “Zone” instead of “District”. This has been corrected.

  2. deeopey August 8, 2012 / 16:28

    That sums up the majority of my thoughts on this, but I would be less harsh on the overall verdict. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was exceptional and I was taking it in context of being a blockbuster aimed at kids.

    All those various cynical TV swipes only work because JL is so much better than the average blockbuster actress, she manages to put so much more subtext in the story through her character’s nuances. The fact that it does this in the blockbuster context was enough for me to recommend it.

  3. kurtodrome August 13, 2012 / 11:55

    Jennifer Lawrence was very good. I hoped I’d made that clear in my review. However, I don’t care if it’s a blockbuster or not: I just want it to be “good”. It’s a best-selling book, so the target audience will go and watch it anyway, so why not make it a decent movie? It’s not because it’s a blockbuster that it has to be bad.

  4. deeopey August 15, 2012 / 10:46

    Fair point. It just appeared better than I imagined it would be.. to often I guess better is a very modest aim and we audience members should not just accept the minimum amount of real film to accompany our entertainment.

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