Monday, March 26, 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games

.:Film Review: The Hunger Games:.

I liked it better when it was called “Battle Royale.” Okay, okay. I’ll drop it.

The Hunger Games
Hungry for the sequels.

Last Friday, Nuffnang, Banana Boat, and Schick hosted a special screening of the most anticipated film of 2012, the Hunger Games. Based on the infamous book series by Suzanne Collins, this was going to be the first of four (?) films based on the three (!) books. Yes, yes. Curse Harry Potter for that one.

Allow me to preface this review by saying I am giving my opinion on the film on its own merits, with no comparison to the book (Which I have only started reading.), or to Battle Royale, which is a comparative review I am setting aside for a later day. That being said, let’s get on with it.

It was an alternate future where Panem, a state that arose from what once was North America, has become a society that is dystopic and totalitarian. As a means of controlling their mutinous populace, the ruling class from the city of Capitol, required two tributes from 12 of the 13 districts that rose up against the Capitol and resulted in the great Treason. The 13th district was destroyed as the outcome of this travesty.

Each tribute, a boy and a female between 12 to 18 years of age, would then represent their district in the annual Hunger Games: a fight to the death, where only one survivor would arise from the ashes, achieving riches and honor beyond their wildest dreams.

Following the point of view of one Katniss Everdeen from Sector 12, she finds herself forced to volunteer in lieu of her sister, Prim, who was inadvertently drawn during the Reaping ceremony. From the boys, Peeta Mallard was picked: the son of a baker who showed Katniss a random act of kindness she never quite forgot. While preparations are being made, the two see themselves quite unlikely to ever win, being outskilled, outmatched, and even outsized by most of their other competitors.

Throughout the film, character development has been a strong suit of the production, because while Gale may seem like the stereotypical love interest for Katniss, the “will they or won’t they” element of their story made it a bit heartwrenching to see the unexpected tension between Peeta and Katniss (In the tradition of Brangelina and Kimerald, that makes them... not age-appropriate for this blog.) finally comes to a head over the course of the games.

Katniss and Peeta are trained and styled by their team, and it couldn’t be more obvious that the people backing them slowly believe more and more that Katniss could win this, to the point that even Peeta hopelessly resigns himself to this realization. It was very straightforward, to say the least: the Hunger Games was going to be very interesting, but in the end, there can be only one. Sorta like the Highlander, with a lot less beheading.

Seeing how changing this convention could be used to their advantage, the Gamemaker decides to change the rules in the middle of the game to make it become a team of two from the same District could end up winning it all, rather than just one sole survivor. This led to Katniss and Peeta teaming together, completely forgetting about all the unspoken tension they had as they put up a united front with the implicit knowledge that at best, only one of them could be left alive.

Bitingly satirical in nature, the Hunger Games ends with the two of them surviving, and then being forced to kill each other. At no point is this harsh reality treated as anything but a matter of course by the contestants themselves. In a genius move, Katniss tells Peeta that having no winner would be a disaster to the organizers, so she figured that this realization would force the Gamemaker’s hand to declare the both of them as winners, anyways. She was right. But this outwitting of the organizers was not going to be taken lightly.

The film was eye candy with a flair for that stupid shaky cam thing “The Blair Witch Project” made popular. A weird amalgam of both sensibilities, but hey, it still worked out. You had strong scripting, a good pacing for the story, and overall, very good picks in terms of high points of emphasis for the storyline. I didn’t exactly like how little character development most of the other kids got, but I guess since it’s pretty obvious this was Katniss’s show from the get-go, it was going to be a given.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film was that the Hunger Games felt so... banal. Oh, indeed, I get that it’s satire and the banality of the Games really lent to setting the tone for the whole film, but I guess I just expected there to be more outrage against it than a sense of wonder, y’know? I mean, even the players were more awed than appalled by the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I think this film rocked. I liked it a lot, and wouldn’t hesitate seeing it again. But yeah, expect me to compare it to Battle Royale sometime this week and do it with a lot more depth, because, needless to say, I liked *that* film better. Much better.

Fun Evaluation: A (Thrills and spills, but ended on an obvious "there will be a sequel" note that made me wish for the next movies already.)
Critical Evaluation: A-
(Character development was spotty, although you have to account for the fact that the film had Katniss as its POV.)

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