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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look41.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 10%

5 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Hunger Games, The
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by Rollie Schott

"The Hunger Games" is more than just a bad movie. It is a bad concept."
2 stars

I have not read Suzanne Collins’ young adult book series, “The Hunger Games”. Occasionally a film adaptation comes along that demands this information up front from its critics. But the multiple failings of director Gary Ross’s effort are not uniformly cinematic. They begin at the basest levels of the narrative, and indeed the central premise of the film was a pill I simply could not swallow.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in a rather ambiguous future. A capital populated by a class of media elite with neon hair stands amongst twelve outlying districts of varying degrees of poverty. We are told early that long ago these twelve districts rebelled against the capital, were defeated, and in remembrance of this failed dissent, are now subject to an annual lottery in which one boy and one girl from each district are selected to compete in the “Hunger Games”, a gladiator-style reality television extravaganza whereupon these 24 “tributes”, ages 12-18, fight to the death in an expansive outdoor arena.

In the twelfth (and most impoverished) district, the twelve year old Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is drawn to represent the girls. Her stoic older sister Katniss volunteers in her stead, an unprecedented moment for the beleaguered district. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is selected for the boys, while Katniss’ hunky crush Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) survives the lottery, in spite his name having been intered in the pot nearly fifty times as a result of various petty crimes.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the capital where, alongside the other 22 tributes, they are pranced about in a narcissistic display of vanity for an aristocracy that doesn’t seem to do anything besides swoon over their beloved human sacrifices, dolling them up in outrageous outfits, parading them around on what is apparently the only late night talk show in town, and bringing civilized society to a screeching halt for days while they all gather around projection screens with giddy delight to watch them slaughter each other.

Where to begin? It is a brutal display, and one that is criminally flippant about human history, but more on that later. Is this intended perhaps as a commentary on the vicarious masochism of reality television? If it is, it is not only shallow but late to the party. The film doesn’t do itself any favors by suggesting that these people have nothing else to watch. There appears to be only a single state television channel, and that channel devotes the whole of its programming to the Hunger Games. This is bigger than reality television. If it is intended to illuminate violence in the media, Ross has shot himself in the foot by presenting such depraved combat with PG-13 violence.

And where is the moral center here? Where is the pressure from the international community to put a stop to such behavior? And are we simply supposed to believe that such a ritual could continue unabated for 74 years without any sort of organized movement against it? This seems like the surest possible way to invite a second rebellion. I’ve heard comparisons of this tale to "Lord of the Flies", which I presume alludes to the factions that emerge amongst the tributes once the games have started, but in premise and political theory, I think it owes more to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” or Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Orwell’s novel was first released in 1949, four years after the death of Adolf Hitler, whose Shoah was similar to the central setup of “The Hunger Games”, in that a resented minority is subjected to the most inhuman atrocities while an entire nation falls in line behind those responsible, or are otherwise unwilling to mobilize against it. In 1949 the world was still trying to understand how such an atrocity could have been committed. We know better now.

If there is one thing the Holocaust ensured, it is that such a thing as the Holocaust will never happen again, that the human species will never allow such an egregious repetition. Either “The Hunger Games” expects us to believe that the developed world would tolerate this kind of totalitarian genocide twice, or it exists in an alternate world where such things had never happened. If that’s the case then what’s the point? Are was as an audience intended to forget that these things happened? Fascism is alive and well in the Middle East, but only in fanatic theocracies that have stifled their own progress and will never produce the kind of technology or economic value that make such income inequality as this possible. How, in other words, are we supposed to accept this concept? More importantly, is it decent to do so?

I don’t mean to over-evaluate such a menial pop entertainment, but the film’s relentless self-seriousness kept floundering its political shortcomings around in plain sight, and certainly the ending suggests that subsequent installments of the series intend to get very political indeed. But if the allegorical failings of “The Hunger Games” are illegitimate, its multiple cinematic failings certainly aren’t.

Director Gary Ross has an inexplicable aversion to establishing shots. His spastic camera is not only never still enough to appreciate an image, but only occasionally in focus, racing through space with a rack focus that doesn’t so much guide the eye as short-circuit it. The aesthetic of the film is to ensure that the viewer never has access to more than a single detail at any given time. It is oppressive filmmaking. Look at this! Now look at this! The eye cannot wander, which in this futuristic vision is a shame. One gets the sense, when watching the film, that the chintzy romance between the wholly incompatible Katniss and Peeta was not as prominent in the books, which is one of several moments in this film that suggest Hollywood’s condescending doubt of the public’s capacity to understand a story’s literary or political ambitions.

I’m hard pressed to provide a single redeeming quality for “The Hunger Games”, and yet I can’t bring myself to call it a total failure. For all its moral ineptitude, the film has an energy to it, a sincerity, and at its core is Jennifer Lawrence, who is always mesmerizing, even if she seldom has much to do. The target audience of the books will probably leave satisfied, but I couldn’t stop doubting the possibility of this scenario, and the film did little, if anything, to answer those questions.

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originally posted: 03/25/12 09:38:11
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell dull boring overrated IMHO 1 stars
5/08/16 Andra Birzu Sill the best part of all, in my opinion 4 stars
11/24/15 Charles Tatum Not compelling enough to need to sit through the sequels. 3 stars
11/09/14 dr.lao Beats out Logan's Run for the all time silliest dystopian vision ever 1 stars
11/23/13 Lord Stupid childish cheesy shit 1 stars
8/29/13 Tammy Woodall This movie was excellent and stayed true to the book. 5 stars
7/17/13 Janine M Movie gets 5 stars, Rollie's review gets 1/2 a star. Try paying attention next time. 5 stars
1/27/13 the truth if you want logical characters, good acting, believable scenarios, and originality, LEAVE. 1 stars
1/21/13 dmasz91 excellent movie!!! we must see a sequel. the beginning was a little drawn out though. 4 stars
9/14/12 Dina Good movie, great visuals, great performances by Jennifer Lawrence & Woody Harrelson 4 stars
9/11/12 marta gilson loved it 5 stars
8/29/12 Pedro Rafael Cruz Awesome Sauce all over Katniss!!! Loved it! 5 stars
8/24/12 The Taitor Too much set up, a # of questions, and not enough action/typical pg-13 rating=Rental 3 stars
8/22/12 Martha Rios Good book to movie standard. 4 stars
8/20/12 Croweater888 Requires about 40 minutes of tight editing as it is slow and dull. 2 stars
8/19/12 John Smith The book was written for young teen girls to give them a role model.The movie reflects this 5 stars
8/19/12 lee this movie dumbed down the book and the book wasd already dumb. but the costumes are great. 1 stars
7/30/12 bob far more standard than it seems to think it is 2 stars
6/21/12 Monday Morning I'm a bitter old cynic, but I still thought this was a great, uplifting story well told. 5 stars
5/24/12 Diana Great story great film 5 stars
5/17/12 Geraldine Very decent adaptation. I look forward to the sequel. 5 stars
5/09/12 Jimmy Web feminist garbage 1 stars
5/05/12 Philip I find the complaints tiresome and pointless. It was a wonderful adaptation of a book. 5 stars
5/01/12 jordynn I loved this book so much and i cant wait to see the movie! 5 stars
3/31/12 Toni Much better than I expected, fairly true to the book 4 stars
3/27/12 KingNeutron Stanley Tucci just about stole the show, but that hair--!! 3 stars
3/26/12 Koitus Not as good as "Battle Royale." Not enough development of other combatants. 3 stars
3/25/12 M Hungry for more 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Aug-2012


  DVD: 18-Aug-2012

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