Today I went to see one of the most anticipated and successful films of the year, as well as one of the most critically acclaimed. Is it bad that, for me, the highlight of the cinema experience for this film was seeing the trailers for Avengers Assemble and Dark Shadows on the big screen. As you can tell, I didn't like The Hunger Games all that much.
Now before I talk about the plot and characters, I need to mention the connections to Battle Royale first. No, the film is not exactly like Battle Royale but the general plot of the film is the same. However, Battle Royale handled the plot much better than this film did by making you care whenever one of the characters died which is something The Hunger Games neglects. I didn't care whenever any one of the characters died, mainly due to the fact that more than half of the tributes didn't even have names. When I looked at the cast list, I had to look at the photos of the characters playing the tributes just so I knew who they played, and even then it didn't help much. These were some of the most forgettable characters put to film recently. Plus, the tributes who were given names, aside from the two leads Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), were not developed well at all and became simple one-note characters. I didn't feel any sadness during the big emotional scene in the Games (which I won't be spoiling here) because I just didn't care about the character who died, she had so little personality and the character was written so poorly that I just didn't care about the death.
Speaking of the plot, there are also a fair few parts in the plot which just made me think, "what the hell". Firstly, how exactly are the Games ran. Now this wouldn't be so bad if we knew nothing about the games at all but because we see little glimpses of the people controlling the games, it just makes us wonder how they did all that stuff. For example, the people controlling the games start a forest fire and launch fireballs at Katniss. How do they do that? Plus, the contestants are fitted with trackers but they don't explode after a certain amount of time if there is no victor. So why don't the contestants just decide not to kill each other, just stand still in the arena and wait? In this regard, Battle Royale is infinitely superior, I mean in BR you know that the students have to kill each other otherwise they will all be killed through the collars, increasing the tension and unease. In Hunger Games, the tributes are injected with sensors but they just detect where the people are, they don't explode after a certain amount of time if there is no winner and I feel that that is what Hunger Games is lacking, true tension. There is also the fact that they don't just kill them to prevent an uprising when in fact just killing the tributes is the perfect way to prevent an uprising. In an dictatorial state, fear is the most effective weapon and preventing hope is key to preventing rebellion. Just look at the rebellion near the end of the film from one of the Districts, I guarantee that the rebellion would not have happened if the Games didn't exist. In fact, rebellion caused by the Games will be the plot for the next two films and I will bet good money on this (keep in mind, I'm not familiar with the book series at all)
Now onto the young performances and, credit where credit's due, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty good as Katniss but at times she makes the character really arrogant and selfish, but that's more due to the writing than the acting. Whenever Lawrence is alone and has to act with her expressions though, the performance is elevated to a great standard, which declines whenever she has to talk to anyone. Josh Hutcherson on the other hand, is amazing in all areas as Peeta. He comes across as really likeable and you feel the fear in the character over his situation. It also helps that the writing for Peeta is much stronger than it is for Katniss. You just know Peeta really gets the propaganda based nature of the games a lot better than Katniss. In fact, during the scene in which Katniss attacks Peeta for playing to the propaganda, I came close to yelling at the screen "you bloody idiot, don't you see what he's trying to do" to Katniss. It also helps that Hutcherson is really funny during the comedy scenes, especially whenever he is on screen with Stanley Tucci (more on him later). Then there's Liam Hemsworth as Gale and, he comes across as one note and bland. Plus, if Gale and Katniss are meant to be a couple, I will never buy it due to Hemsworth and Lawrence having a really poor on screen chemistry with each other. I feel though that, if Gale was in the movie for a bit more time, he could end up being a likeable character. The rest of the cast, boring and one-note. Like I said earlier I didn't care whenever any of the characters died and part of the reason is due to the poor acting and the fact that most of the tributes only get one or two lines of dialogue before they are bumped off.
There are also the performances by the older actors and in this regard, I am even more annoyed. Firstly, the film has one of my favourite actors, Toby Jones, in a role, and completely wastes him. Jones has only one or two lines of dialogue and I don't think he's given a name. I mean, this is Toby Jones, Dobby the house elf himself, I consider it a crime of cinema to waste a talent as good as Toby Jones. There is also Stanley Tucci who, apart from getting a funny line in here and there, is also a bit wasted in the role. Wes Bentley is just boring and I didn't care about his character at all. Donald Sutherland does bring an aura of respect to the role of President Snow but he just looks bored in the role, clearly waiting for the sequel where he can get much more to do with the character. Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravits don't have much to do but they at least have a bit of fun in the role, especially Banks who is really fun to watch. Then there's Woody Harrelson who's a bit of a mixed bag. While Harrelson does have fun with the alcoholic side of the character, he only has one scene as an alcoholic and then sobers up right away. It just doesn't make sense, along with his character arc of resigned to the inevitable deaths of Katniss and Peeta to acceptance that they may do well, it all happens so fast and we get very little time on this arc.
Finally, there's the production. The colour design of grey/brown for the poor and bright colours for the rich is one of the most clichéd I have seen in any film. You see it everywhere, from Star Wars to Demolition Man. The idea as well that the rich are living in luxury whilst the poor toil away in hard work is also blatant symbolism for America under the Bush administration. Then there's the action of good God. This has some of the worst shaky cam I have ever seen. I mean I actually got a headache whilst watching the film the shaky cam was so bad and, if you're making an action film, the worst crime you can commit is making sure the audience doesn't see what the bloody hell is going on in the action scenes and Hunger Games uses this all the damn time. It also doesn't help that, half the time, the action is obscured by the trees so you have even less chance of seeing the action. Finally there's the CGI which is, hit and miss. The CG used in the Capitol is brilliantly subtle but during the games however, the CG gets really terrible, really fast. Especially whenever any weird creatures come into play, it just becomes a mess.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend that you watch The Hunger Games. Outside from a few decent performances, especially Josh Hutcherson, and the characters using the propaganda of the Games to their own advantage, there's very little that I found enjoyable about The Hunger Games and I for one am not looking forward to the sequel. The odds weren't in this movies favour.
My Rating: 1.5/5