Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games | Gary Ross | 2012 | ★★★

When I watched it last Tuesday, I had every intention of writing a long review anylizing the politics and the filmmaking of The Hunger Games, one of the most popular and talked-about mainstream movies of the year. However, once the movie was over, despite my enjoyment of it, I found that I had nothing of substance to say. And as week rolled by, details about it just kept leaving my mind.

Now, I did find the subject of a government punishing its population for a failed revolution long ago to be rather interesting, and I see it as something that could happen in a most extreme situation given this country’s love for violence. However, it didn’t have much impact because once the games start, after the initial shock of the violence it becomes so pedestrian. For this I blame director Gary Ross. He is a very capable director with his Pleasantville being one of my favorite movies, but the was way too out of his league with this one. He tried to make the film gritty by using the shaky cam effect, but instead of adding tension he just made me dizzy. Because of his persistence with this he fails to add some striking visual compositions which were sorely needed. I wish Steven Soderbergh, who did some second-unit work, had directed the whole thing and had served as DP as well. Can you imagine the “games” with the camera work of Haywire? It would have been breathtaking.

With that said, there was plenty to admire about the film, mainly Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is pretty much a much more able version of her Oscar-nominated role in Winter’s Bone, and she is just as impressive here. Although Bone didn’t completely win me over, her post-Oscar role choices are proving that she is one of the best young actresses working today.

Also, some of the happenings in the story, such as the killer bees, or how Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have to play up the romance angle to get support outside the games, are pretty cool, but like I said, Ross didn’t make them compelling enough. And finally, I did love the set design of the Capitol and the costumes. There has been talk of this getting some Oscar recognition to cap off its successful run, and I wouldn’t mind it if it got it in any of these fields or for Lawrence.

In the end, although I had a lot of fun with it, The Hunger Games was mostly forgettable. However, I am looking forward to what Francis Lawrence, as more visually capable director, will do with the sequel, despite the fact that the story sounds more bloated.

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