Saturday, April 21, 2012
Movie Review: The Hunger Games
I don't typically watch movies based on novels without reading the novel first, but upon hearing The Hunger Games described as a shameless ripoff of Battle Royale, I decided to go ahead and check it out, assuming the book wouldn't be worth my time. I came out with mixed feelings, as even though the obvious derivations were aggravating, the movie was able to hold my attention throughout.
The setting of The Hunger Games is that of a dystopian society in which many less civilized "districts" surround one powerful city. For a past rebellion against the rule of central city, each of the smaller surrounding districts must send two children (one male, one female) to battle to the death in a televised event. While author Suzanne Collins claims to have never even heard of Battle Royale, it's hard to ignore the clear similarities. Children living under an absolutist government are forced to fight to the death in both works. But, regardless, Battle Royale wasn't the first story that regularly popped into my mind.
Actually, it was Shirley Jackson's The Lottery that was at the forefront of my mind while watching this movie. The setting at the beginning of a small, backwoods town is very similar, as are the background stories of both (the people in The Lottery tell of other towns in their world that are trying to abandon their death-event). And of course, the lottery that is used to determine which children will be chosen for The Hunger Games is basically the same thing. There are definitely references to other works as well, one line in particular will scream of The Most Dangerous Game, but The Lottery is the one that wouldn't leave my mind.
But once we get past these annoyances, it's a pretty good movie. The shaky camera is an unnecessary problem for a third of the movie, but fits well once the action actually begins. But if you're prone to motion sickness, you might want to watch out. Technically, there's a lot of good here though. The lighting effects are excellent, and the producers did an excellent with the setting. The town of heroine Katniss Everdeen is horribly squalid, and the people of the villages are similarly dirty and depraved. In general, there's a lot of good to be said about the film's mise en scène, with the acting matching up superbly. While I don't typically like emotionless characters, it's hard not to empathize with the plight of Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence portrays her beautifully. That's not to take anything away from the rest of the cast; the movie is wonderfully acted throughout.
It's hard to call The Hunger Games anything but addicting, just like Battle Royale and The Lottery before it. The movie starts off a bit slow and takes a while to get to the action, but the character development in between is worth the wait, and there are certainly plenty of moments of interest before the violence begins. The battle itself has a few issues. When reading The Most Dangerous Game, it's hard not to be impressed with the many intelligent ways in which the two characters kill each other, but much of that is cut out in The Hunger Games as many fighters die because of variables thrown in by the people who run the games, which range from forest fires to deliveries of aid. While I disliked this greatly, it's still one hell of a fun movie. Even if the ending is rather predictable and feels like the author was too scared to pull of a The Lottery-type gut-wrencher, my eyes were glued to the screen from the beginning. That alone makes me recommend this movie (and, I suppose, the book) to anyone with a sense of adventure.
Conclusion: 3/5 - The Hunger Games is fun and addicting, though it's very derivative of other famous works.