Friday, March 23, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

In a short sentence: had I not read The Hunger Games, I might have enjoyed the movie. Then again, maybe not (if you have been living under a rock or in a pineapple under the sea, here is a brief summary of the plot to reference).

To begin with, the casting was excellent. Jennifer Lawrence was very good as Katniss, not playing it sexy or pretty (a refreshing change from a movie aimed at 13-30-year-olds), and her silences were as potent as her words; she is not a damsel in distress, also very refreshing. Lennie Kravitz as Cinna is inspired, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch could have been incredible (I said "could"; as with all characters, he remains undeveloped, with no explanation for A) his drunkenness or B) his sudden sobriety), and the guy who plays Peeta (I have no idea what his name is) was perfectly cast as the too-good-to-be-true foil to Katniss. Gale? Who knows? All we got was a couple smoldering silences, and although Effie Trinket looked good, they did not even call her by her name. Nevermind the simpering stylists who epitomize the nature of the Capitol itself and provide ironic contrast to the bloodbath they are prepping Katniss for - this is not even mentioned in the movie.

The movie itself is superficial, though; all of the themes and relationships that make the novel so brilliant and riveting are completely absent. We are supposed to understand the deep ideological differences between the residents of the Capitol and those in the Districts. We are supposed to understand the progression of events that gave rise to a totalitarian regime. We are supposed to believe that Gale and Katniss are somehow bonded through a brief and meaningless interchange in the woods. We are intended to infer some connection between Katniss and Peeta and a kinship between Haymitch and Katniss through very little development of either their relationship with each other or with themselves. All of these things the audience is supposed to magically understand; there is not enough explication or exposition, and the small flashbacks offered are no substitute for the lack of storytelling.

Even the depiction of violence is glossed over with fast-moving camera work that blurs the rawness and offensive nature of the very premise of the Games; I am not advocating a cinematic bloodbath, but choosing to cover up the element that is central to the brutality of the novel is something of a cop-out.

Importantly, there is ZERO indication of the relationship between Katniss and President Snow which is the pin upon which the rest of the book series turns. The people of the Capitol are caricatures, life-sized Bratz dolls or Tim Burton characters; the excess and opulence, the difference between the poverty of the 12 districts and their master, is barely touched in the movie. The rebellion in District 11 seems like a mere riot after the death of a tribute, not a full blown insurrection.

Even the symbolism of the Mockingjay is glossed over entirely, an ommission that is unconscionable (yes, I said unconscionable). The rest of the series is based on the sybolism of the Mockingjay; indeed,. the final book centers on this and is, in fact, called Mockingjay. How will that be remedied?

Perhaps it is significant that, in the elimination of depth  and thought and real exploration of the conflicts in the Hunger Games, we are still supposed to be entertained. Is this the intention of the movies? With a 100 million dollar opening weekend predicted, are we proving the point that we will sit and watch violence just to be entertained without thinking?

The next movie needs to be done in two parts; the author needs to slow down and develop her characters for the screen. Replace the director and introduce the characters so we have a sense of them as people, not archetypes. Readers of the books will be disappointed at what is missing; although it is typical to eliminate some parts of books in their movie adaptations, I feel that The Hunger Games demonstrates a thoughtlessness in the edited parts. They will need to remedy these glaring inadequacies to insure the integrity of the story and the loyalty if the audience. If not, the odds of success will not be ever in their favor.

1 comment:

  1. 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.