The Hunger Games benefits heavily from movie-by-marketing filmmaking, at least in terms of exposure. Sourced from a series of popular young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, the opening weekend is expected to make bank if not rewrite records.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has volunteered to take her sister’s place in the upcoming Hunger Games, a state sanctioned gladiatorial event for kids ages 12-18. Presented as a TV show that keeps the 12 districts involved from uprising, Katniss is trained in both survival skills as well as presentation. Her mentors consist of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), and most importantly Haymitch (Woody Harleson).
Sadly there’s at least a solid hour of buildup for a rather lackluster blood sport. Blame the PG-13 rating if nothing else. The entire film is shot with a disproportionate shot selection. If you’re into seeing the wrinkles on Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games is your movie. I haven’t seen this many close-ups since Speed 2: Cruise Control. If the audience is seeing nothing but a blur of faces, they sure aren’t seeing violence. Another thing they’re not seeing is set decoration.
As the story develops it becomes painfully obvious how this tale panders to the female psyche, resulting in a concoction that drives them to theatres. There’s Katnis, the working class yet stylish heroine. She’s talented with a bow and arrow, though I wonder how this futuristic society has overlooked the developments we have in compound bow technology. The men are cowardice. especially Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is teemed with Katnis as her counterpart to represent District 12.
In just the realm of cinema it’s obvious there are two sources of inspiration. The gorific reality TV comes from The Running Man (1987). The kid vs. kid aspect is found in Battle Royale (2000). It’s the latter that compares best. Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale is a tighter, more action packed, more dramatic, even funnier film. A classroom of children think they’re going on a trip, but land on a deserted island with orders to kill each other. They watch a comical training video instead of sit through days of flashy interviews, chariot rides, and jungle gym exercise. The wildcards thrown in to keep the game progressing are truly fearsome and endless more probable than a computer program’s summed canines. With each death in Battle Royale emotions pour out. We learn that everyone is connected, that some feelings need to come out, the value of friendship, and the price sustaining one’s life. With The Hunger Games there are some bounds forged, buy the adventure puts them through few tests.
The casting of Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence does so much for the film that I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if she didn’t receive and Oscar nomination. You’ll note how Kristen Stewart leads the fangirl series that is being unseeded, and that no one has ever considered her Bella Swan for anything other than a Razzie. If not for the eyes that speak without words of Lawrence, The Hunger Games would be a complete disaster. I can’t stop you from seeing it but I’d like to encourage you to check in on the true source material, the aforementioned films. **½