Kenneth's Review of The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games(2012)
Hunger Games satisfies without making viewers feel over-fed with nonessential visual and thematic junk. Watching this lean, quick-paced story unfold makes me extremely grateful that director Gary Ross did not go the egotistical route by defying source material for the simple sake of showing that he can do it. (And yes, I am referring to every director responsible for handling a Harry Potter adaption.) There are just enough bells and whistles to tell the story efficiently. It is lightning fast when it needs to be fast. It is brutally emotional when it needs to be emotional. And most refreshingly, unlike many blockbusters I have seen in recent summers, it actually shuts up when it needs to shut up in the end. No new characters teased me in the final scene; no unresolved cliff-hangers were dangled before my eyes for the ake of reminding me that there will be another film, (even though there will be three sequels following this one's success.) The end credits are exactly how end credits should be: a list of talented individuals who crafted the film over black backdrop, without useless CG magic tricks dazzling audiences, ensuring they stay in their seats till the reel completely unspools. There is balance in Hunger Games, and director Ross successfully demonstrates how less is more. Computer generated effects are used only when most needed, such as the grand welcoming ceremony where the "Girl on Fire" is paraded through the Capitol like a futuristic gladiator. Even more notable is the bold decision to NOT show the biggest symbolic motif of the series, the mockingjays, who remain mysteriously absent, save their haunting melodies. We as audiences are thrown into the shocking world of District 12 without an annoying extravaganza to explain, (and ruin,) how Panem is the way it is, or a flashback showing Katniss learning the art of archery from her now-deceased father. Instead, we see just enough of this world from the simple, opening credits, (by the way, opening credits start immediately, not 5 minutes later after an extended killer action sequence, thank goodness.) While the later part of the film, however, does contain some flashbacks which I could have lived without, these scenes are few, and do not detract as badly as they could have. As with the story, the technical style is refreshing because of what I DIDN'T see. There were none of the expected sweeping shots, no rotating cameras zooming in and out at every possible angle at characters' glassy pupils. Gary Ross went the opposite route by quickening the pace with short, choppy cuts, (some parts seem almost like a fast-paced slide projector.) This method complements the decrepit feeling of wear-and-tear within District 12. Katniss Everdeen is a memorable, courageous character who is as much a symbol of hope to feminism as she is to the fictitious world of Panem. For the first time in recent memory, a mainstream blockbuster film has delivered a female protagonist who audiences perceive as a realistic hero first, and a female second; most action films present the opposite: women are women before they become narrative entities, (if even that, sadly.) Katniss goes through rough treatment through the course of the two-hour film. She gets hurt. She strives to succeed. She learns through experience. And it is refreshing to see the male character lean on her, (both figuratively and literally,) for support. Women are much more adaptable, stronger-willed, and more intelligent than one would expect in the army of Spidermans, Iron Mans, and super-hams that bombard us each summer. The violence is surprisingly limited for a film whose premise is about a competition where kids kill other kids. When slaughter does occur, however, it is how all violence should be depicted: grotty, painful, awful, irreversible, and nothing to be celebrated. The incessant laughter and carefree attitudes of the watchful high-fashion world of the rich, ruling class at the Capital accentuate the horrid nature of violence. A purple-haired Stanley Tucci nails his bizarre scenes. In some ways, the film eclipses the novel in quality. One example is Katniss' internal, first-person musings, which are theatrically replaced with more-tangible monologues of President Snow stubbornly expressing his ideology of societal control. The few complaints I had with this film were also complains I had with the original, source material; the most notable of these including laughably convenient escapes for our heroine involving well-placed beehives and excellently-timed falling parachutes. In addition, the soundtrack should have soared more than it did, and the ending song was downright unmemorable when it should have been the resounding drumbeat solidifying the film's powerful message.