23 March, 2012

MediaSavant Reviews - 'The Hunger Games'


Let’s get a couple of things out of the way about me. First, I haven’t read the Hunger Games books. I never even heard of them until the movie started casting and the media made a big deal about it. Second, I am not a teenage girl. Third, I did see the first Twilight movie out of curiosity and haven’t watched any since. It was clearly not for me.

Hunger Games is not Twilight

I did not get the feeling throughout this movie that it was targeted specifically to a teenage girl mentality. Because it’s set in a fictional dystopian future, it lacks the usual “teenage angst” crap where high school is supposed to be the center of the universe. The angst the characters here feel is real. It’s about having food to eat and just surviving to the next day.

It’s directed like an adult movie. I do think the director relied heavily on close-ups maybe a tad too much. He also is clearly not an “action film” director. But, there’s plenty of suspense.

I liked Jennifer Lawrence in her Academy-Award nominated Winter’s Bone performance. I like her here. She’s convincing as someone who grew up in an impoverished place, just as she was in that other movie. She also defies most stereotype of a “kick-ass” heroine. Readers of the book may have different visions of who they thought the role should go to. It’s a really good character and I understand why she's gained such a following. Her skills and wits don’t come off as outlandish in the way so many “bad ass” movie chicks do. She's very identifiable.

Josh Hutcherson was okay as her partner in the Games and love interest. The other guy in her life--played by Liam Hemsworth--wasn’t in that much of the movie. I found him to be dull and not convincing at all. He looked like he stepped out of a Hollywood gym or Ambercrombie & Fitch ad and threw on some grungy clothes.

I saw the movie at an advanced screening and not the midnight showing. The crowd was probably not demographically the same as at a paid showing. I heard one of the chicks on the way out saying they expected more romance. I say “hooray”. To me, the romance was underplayed compared to my expectations of material that is popular with teen girls. It’s key to the plot, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other elements that make the film interesting. It also doesn't pander to the young teen girl demo.

As a person who loves the media, I really had fun with the Games themselves being portrayed as kind of a futuristic “Survivor”.

I’ll give this a 90 out of 100.

To finish off, I should say who may NOT like it. Well, if you like Michael Bay movies, you won’t like this. It’s not noisy or dizzying. If you like your violence super-graphic or even fetishistic, you’ll find the violence here too underplayed for your taste. There is violence, but it isn’t as extreme as it could be for the material.

The fight scenes are also not super-articulated. They basically happen in a blur and you can't see much of what's going on. If you like fight movies, you might not find the fights here satisfying.

For me, I’ll probably see the next one.



13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Crap sorry I just deleted my comment because I forgot to put a spoiler alert. Let me try again:

    Nice, I saw it last night and as a superfan of the books, ever since I saw it I've been trying really hard to figure out what I would have thought of it if I had never read the books. It's really good to see that you gave it a score of 90 and you didn't read the books.

    "I saw the movie at an advanced screening and not the midnight showing. The crowd was probably not demographically the same as at a paid showing. I heard one of the chicks on the way out saying they expected more romance. I say 'hooray'."

    If anyone saw this movie and expected more romance, then they clearly did NOT pay attention to the books. The romance really is not played up in the books either; your impression of it from the movie is pretty much exactly how it is in the books. The one thing I can understand is that everything in the movie felt rushed to me because that's just the way it always goes with a book translated to a movie. You can't fit everything in and so you always get that rushed feeling. So that may have been why this chick made that comment - a lot of the details of the relationships between Katniss, Peeta and Gale were cut out, but a lot of details of EVERYTHING were cut out.

    Since I am a superfan of the books, my score of the movie is a little lower than 90 - more like 85 or so - which is only natural because I had a few specific gripes with how they handled some of the source material. That is inevitable with any book-to-movie translation. My biggest two gripes with it were:
    *WARNING, MAJOR BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD*

    1) From the point of the final battle with Cato in the arena to the point of the ending scene of the movie - This entire section was way too rushed. They cut out some things that I thought were INCREDIBLY important, and for me it really lessened the power of the ending and the message of the story. And I honestly think that by simply adding an extra 5 or 10 minutes to the movie, they could have easily fixed this. The key things here were the following for me:

    * I didn't mind that they gave Cato a little speech at the end, BUT then they completely glossed over how horrific his death was. I mean I totally get that this is a PG-13 movie, but I didn’t need to see more gore there to make it impactful. I just wanted to get a little bit MORE of that scene in general to see how much the poor kid was suffering ... and I felt like they didn’t properly convey the fact that Katniss eventually just shot him to put him out of his misery. In the movie it just all happens so quickly that it felt anticlimactic to me.
    * Then there was the berry scene ... I felt like they didn’t spend enough time on that either. They rushed through it and then boom, it was over. But maybe if I had watched the movie without reading the book it wouldn't have felt that way to me.
    * What about Peeta’s leg!? In the book, Peeta LOSES his leg (or half of it anyway). The entire sequence with the hospital (or the medical hovercraft thingy?) was gone, and then they showed nothing of all the clean-up that had to be done on Katniss and Peeta to make them physically “whole” again before shipping them home (including the fact that Katniss goes deaf in one ear from the explosion in the book, but in the movie she just has some temporary ringing in her ears). To me this was what really drove home one of the KEY points of the books: They put these kids through this horrific experience, and then they clean them up physically to make it seem like it never happened. But the mental scars are all still there. I didn't get nearly much of that impact from the movie, BUT ... again maybe if I hadn't read the books I would have gotten more of an impact from the movie.

    O.k. sorry this comment is getting too long, so I'll put #2 gripe in the next comment. :-P

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    1. O.k. here's my #2 gripe and then onto the good stuff. :)

      2) The CGI in the chariot scene was seriously as bad as one of the WORST and LOWEST-budget-looking episodes of Chuck in one of the later seasons (after their budget was slashed). I was shocked at how bad it looked and it totally took me out of the movie for like a few minutes. The CGI in the rest of the movie was mostly fine for me though, it was just that one scene.

      OK NOW for the GOOD stuff:

      * I had read conflicting reviews on Josh Hutcherson’s performance, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it turned out that I thought he was really good, and I thought he pulled off the role quite well; I was impressed.
      * Jennifer Lawrence: Girlfriend was flat out AMAZING ... she was BORN to be Katniss. I think she must have proved the doubters wrong at this point. I honestly think this would have been a completely different film with someone else in the role (one that would NOT be nearly as good). I am dead serious when I say that she may not have gotten that Oscar for Winter’s Bone but she should SERIOUSLY get it for Hunger Games hhahaha. Hands down.
      * I loved pretty much everything in District 12. The Reaping, the goodbye scenes with Prim and Katniss’s mom and Gale, all of that was awesome.
      * MOST of the Capitol stuff was fun and gawdy and entertaining (other than the issue I had with the chariot scene) ... and Stanly Tucci as Caesar Flickerman was AWESOME.
      * I loved Woody and Elizabeth and Lenny, but I just wish we could have gotten MORE of them, especially Cinna.
      * The scene with Katniss and Cinna right before she goes up into that tube thingy to get sucked up into the Arena ... oh my GOD. Mindblowing. My heart was pounding and I felt like I was about to be injected into the arena myself. :-P
      * MOST of the arena stuff was very good other than what I mentioned with the final arena battle and berry scenes. I also wish they would have played out the cave scenes further because they felt a bit rushed. But what we got was still mostly adequate. The Rue stuff was really good (though as usual I wish it was longer), and the tracker jacker scene was good.

      So yeah overall, I am going to give it like 85 when I'm in a good mood and 80 if I'm in a bad mood. I will most definitely be seeing it again this weekend so that I can see how it plays out for me the second time.

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  3. "The one thing I can understand is that everything in the movie felt rushed to me because that's just the way it always goes with a book translated to a movie. You can't fit everything in and so you always get that rushed feeling."

    That's interesting because as a moviegoer who hadn't read the books, I thought the pacing was leisurely. If felt that if they had spent any more time on what they did, it would have felt slow. It felt about right to me, in general. But, all I know about the story is what I saw. The movie is already clocking in at 2:22.

    I should have mentioned that I really like Woody H. and Stanley Tucci. They were fun characters.

    Maybe the climax could have played a little longer and not slowed things down, though.

    I think the lack of a horrificness to Cato's death, I feel, is part of the film's generally light approach to the violence. Spartacus, this is not.

    I'm probably going to get around to reading the book. I'll probably do so after I finish Clash of Kings. The Game of Thrones translation from book to multi-episode TV series probably doesn't suffer the same problems from the persective of a book reader as translating a book to a 2-hour movie.

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    1. "That's interesting because as a moviegoer who hadn't read the books, I thought the pacing was leisurely."

      I know, it is incredibly strange how different it feels when you've read the book vs. not reading the book. I have not read any of the HP books but I have seen all the films, so I am kind of used to having that easier experience of not having read the books. It is also so odd that a movie could be 2 hrs and 22 minutes long and STILL feel rushed to me (and to most others I talked to who read the books). But you're right, it's all about what you know going into it (which is nothing if you haven't read the books). Overall I think you are right that they could not have lengthened most of the sections of the movie without it seeming slow. For me it's just maybe 5 extra minutes at the end that I wished we could have had.

      "The Game of Thrones translation from book to multi-episode TV series probably doesn't suffer the same problems from the persective of a book reader as translating a book to a 2-hour movie."

      That's a really good point ... translating a book to a TV show seems much more logical and a MUCH better fit. You can just explore it in SO much more depth that way. I haven't read or watched GoT yet but at some point I might check it out.

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  4. Great review. This is a colorful and entertaining film, and I was constantly wrapped up in it as a drama. It isn't the kind of bombastic event we usually get as a franchise blockbuster and for that I’m thankful. It also helps that the ensemble cast is nothing short of amazing either, and that Jennifer Lawrence's career will hopefully totally hit super-start status after this because she's great as well. Check out my review when you can.

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    1. " It isn't the kind of bombastic event we usually get as a franchise blockbuster "

      That's a great way to put it. As I was about a third of the way through, I realized I was watching a "film" as opposed to a "blockbuster", if that makes any sense. Nevertheless, it will earn enough money to get the "blockbuster" label.

      It's something that relies more on a good story and good characters than trying to overwhelm you with effects and action every few minutes for fear the audience has ADD.

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  5. Just an update on my original reaction and "score" of this movie, now that I have re-watched it a second time:

    Re-watching it did all the wonders in the world for me. I was able to sit back and relax and not be thrown off by all the difference from the book and everything that was left out, because I knew exactly what all those things were. I dragged my husband this time, who has never read the books, and that helped me watch it from the perspective of a total newbie. I took the movie for what it was, on its own. I was able to notice things that I didn't catch the first time, when I was so busy comparing it to what I had in my head already from the book. Amazingly, the movie also did NOT feel at all rushed to me this time around either. The cuts they made started to make sense to me based on the fact that they might cause the movie to start "dragging" if they left all that stuff in.

    As a result, my score has definitely gone up from the 80/85 I gave it before, to more like a 90. I really loved it this time around. Yes, I still think they didn't get the ending quite right and that they glossed over too many important plot points there, BUT, upon watching it again I realized that they actually pulled it off better than I thought they did the first time I saw it.

    So yeah there you go. For any superfan of the books, if you feel kinda weirded out, conflicted, cheated, or downright pissed after watching it the first time, my advice is to watch it again and look at it for what it is rather than how it compares to exactly what was in your head from the books.

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  6. I saw it today and to tell you the truth I like it but the ending was can of disappointing when they took back the whole of both people from the same district where alive at the end then they would win thing I thought that was dumb. The ending didn't give me any hints or give that idea that there will be another movie even though we know that there is going to be 2 more. I hope the next movie gives you more of that type of ending. But over all great movie.

    80/100

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    1. If it makes you feel any better, the book ends the same way (without giving a ton of hint for what's to come next, other than the fact that we know President Snow is pissed at what Katniss did). There's also one other element in the book's ending between Katniss and Peeta, but I won't give that away in case people don't want to know book spoilers.

      Catching Fire ends with a major cliffhanger. That book's ending is my favorite of the three.

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    2. I just got the trilogy and so far the book is pretty close to the move minus some background stuff that I guess they couldn't fit into the movie. So far so good

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