Movie Review: The Hunger Games

 In movie review

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci
Plot: In a dystopian future, the world is divided into 12 districts. Because they tried to rebel against the capital (and lost) many years ago, every year they have to select one boy and one girl to participate in an event called The Hunger Games. Similar to the Thunderdome from Mad Max, 24 enter but only 1 leaves alive. These kids are called “tributes,” and while each of the districts think being selected is a horror, the people of the Capital think it’s highly entertaining. In fact, they’ve turned The Hunger Games into a huge television event. Like Series 7, The Contenders – everyone is forced to watch a reality TV show where people hunt and kill each other.

When Katniss Everdeen’s (Lawrence) sister is selected in the lottery to represent District 12, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The other tribute for District 12 is Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has a history with Katniss. The two are whisked away to the Capital where they are treated like celebrities – but the entire time they know they’re going to have to kill or be killed. And, eventually, they may even have to face each other.

I saw a pre-screening of the movie last night, and overall I did enjoy it. If I had to summarize: The Hunger Games is Battle Royal, but significantly less bloody and graphic. Also, the narrative really focuses on Katniss journey through this event – which works well for the story – while Battle Royal was more of a social commentary on societal breakdowns and anarchy.

The movie does a decent job of summarizing why the Hunger Games take place, but doesn’t really go into depth on each of the districts or why anything is really happening. It focuses more on the character of Katniss, which is fine – but some more rationale would have been nice. I was really left wanting more detail on the world, but perhaps that’s what the book is for.

Many people have asked me about the violence. They did a surprisingly good job of turning something morally reprehensible into a PG-13 movie. There’s not a lot of blood in the movie, nor many what I would call “disturbing” scenes – compared to Battle Royal, anyway – but the violence is blunt. Lots of quick slashes during shakey-cam sequences, and then bodies falling to the ground with their eyes open. The disturbing part is that it’s all kids and teens killing each other, which will probably turn off the more conservative audiences.

But again, perhaps my exposure to significantly more violent material has numbed my reactions to this movie. In Battle Royal, for example, kids are running around raping and killing each other in bloody fashion. There’s even a girl in it who has sex with kids, then kills them in their sleep. It’s base animal survival instincts at its worst, and Hunger Games doesn’t go into that much depth on it.

In fact, I felt very removed from the character deaths – mostly because you only get to know a handful of the 24 tributes participating.

Hunger Games lacked the intensity and need that came from similar material, like Battle Royal. In Hunger Games, there’s no time limit on how long this could continue – while in Battle Royal the kids are all strapped with explosives in a collar around their necks, and in 3 days it will explode if there is more than a single survivor. In Hunger Games, Katniss spends the first 3 days hanging out in a tree. Just saying, not really feeling the tension there.

Continuing the comparison to Battle Royal, the ending of Hunger Games was a bit disappointing as well. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but it didn’t have the brutality of Battle Royal – the uncut version of which is actually banned in the USA, currently.

What really struck me as strange with this movie is, with how similar it is to Battle Royal, how can that movie be banned but this movie be a commercial property – and probably a #1 box office flick – when they’re about the same thing: kids killing each other for sport and entertainment, masked as a punishment.

Hunger Games combines the premise of Battle Royal, the commentary of a sporting event, and the implications of a reality TV show (or Series 7, The Contenders). It’s very entertaining for someone who hasn’t seen any of these other flicks before, but if you have then it’s going to feel like more of the same – but a little watered down.

This isn’t to say it’s not a fun flick, and totally worth watching. I just didn’t find it as original an idea as many of the people I’ve spoken to who haven’t seen movies that came before, like Battle Royal.

Now, if you want to REALLY see what this movie was based on, you need to see Battle Royal. Hell, the movie really kind of makes me want to see Battle Royal again. 🙂

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