The Hunger Games is a dystopian vision of a possible future where an elite upper class lives a life of luxury while the majority of people live difficult lives supporting them. To make matters worse, each of the twelve outlying districts must send two teens to fight to the death against all the others in the annual games.
The unlikely star is the underdog from District 12, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. After volunteering for the games to prevent her younger sister from being sent, she catches the attention of the elite by garnering a rating of 11 in the pre-game review. She is a likeable character, but tends to be a bit over-serious and perhaps a little wooden in some scenes. I know the whole premise is rather serious, but the acting (from all the actors) gave the whole film a rather surreal feel rather than making it believable.
The settings did a good job evoking the difference between the elite and everyone else. The costuming and makeup worn by the elite was extremely creative and turned them into shallow, foppish peacocks who hadn’t a care in the world outside of satisfying their own desires. The background story was woven into the first few minutes of the film, which was very helpful to those of us who haven’t read the book.
This is where I got frustrated with the film, however. The pacing in the film was as if a first edit of the film had made it through to Netflix. It had starts and stops and jerking around as if it was a stick shift car being driven by an amateur. I kept thinking, “Wait…what? Why are we suddenly moving over here?” The disjointed transitions from one scene to the next didn’t make sense much of the time.
In addition to the pacing issues, the graphic brutality of the film was overwhelming at times, so much so that I didn’t even feel sad when one of the very likeable secondary characters died. The film almost seemed to be reveling in the brutality. Perhaps they were trying to be edgy and exciting, but it just didn’t sit well with me (and I really enjoyed all of The Lord of the Rings films, which all had battles and death and brutality in them). Perhaps it was the age of those committing the violence that got to me.
It was very frustrating, because I wanted to really like the film, but it kept giving me reasons to dislike it. I really liked some of the effects used in the film, such as the flaming dresses and the control room for the arena. It was obvious that at least some of the people working on the film paid close attention to their work. It’s too bad the editors messed up the pacing so much.
The Hunger Games is not a kids film, and I’d be leery showing it to anyone but an older teen (and I’d be cautious even then). I’m not even sure I want to read the book or see the sequel at this point. While there were enough redeeming values in the film to make it an okay film, it is firmly in mediocre territory for me.
Release Date: March 23, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (minor social drinking)
Language: 1 (some deity, other minor expletives)
Violence: 4 (extreme brutal and bloody violence, fisticuffs)