Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel, the film follows a young woman who volunteers in place of her sister when she is selected to participate in an annual match where boys and girls are pitted against each other in a fight to the death.
First off, I read the first book and enjoyed it. It was a nice little entertaining book, although it offered nothing new that hasn’t necessarily been explored before. The one aspect of the series that is intriguing is the character of Katniss (portrayed perfectly by Jennifer Lawrence).
I was semi-excited to see this book come to life, although I had my reservations seeing as how it was going to be severely toned down to get a PG-13 rating; not to mention the book is written from such a personal view. These two problems never went away for me, a few others actually came to the surface as well. The script is so overstuffed with elements and characters from the book, that it shoots itself in the foot by attempting to cover too much ground. Characters are not given enough time to develop, and when their death comes, it is not effective. I cannot give away any spoilers, but one scene in particular shows how flawed the script and film itself truly is. It’s hard to truly enjoy this movie when only one character in the film is given any time to fully develop and make the audience care for. Luckily this time is spent on Katniss; unfortunately, time is taken away from characters like Peeta.
The Japanese film/book, Battle Royale (of which the Hunger Games series is “influenced” by), features many more characters and is able to give the audience more insight into who they are and how those characters react to the situation. That film also did this in under two hours. There are many other aspects where that film triumphs over Hunger Games, but I will refrain from comparing the two because it seems to infuriate people.
Now the film isn’t all terrible. To tell the truth, I enjoyed the film very much up until the moment the games actually started. The build up to the games is more riveting and far more interesting than the final third of the film. Getting to know Katniss, the world she’s been thrust into, and our introduction to Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Caesar (Stanley Tucci) is the film’s best aspect. Coincidentally these are the best performances in the film. While you only get insight into Katniss, the other two are interesting and entertaining enough to care about. The first two-thirds of this film are well done, but everything falls apart once the games start. The action sequences are terribly shot and edited, with the “shaky-cam” in full effect here. The games meander along at a very slow pace, with characters being introduced, then disappearing, and then the romance is thrown in our face without much setup or insight. You really feel the PG-13 rating in this film.
The story of the book is well maintained here and they stay true to it for the most part, however, the tone and overall emotional impact is ultimately lost. It is unfortunate being that there are a number of interesting characters in the book because they are completely wasted here. Overall, the film falls apart despite a good setup and some great performances, due to terrible editing, some bad CGI, and character moments it simply doesn’t earn. I would love to talk about this more, but unfortunately I cannot spoil anything in the film. If you have any questions for me, shoot me an email.
Rating: PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens
Runtime: 143 minutes