Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Note to self: Don’t go see a movie with a kid who has read the book of said movie. Now if my son didn’t exist I wouldn’t have gone to see Suzanne Collins mega book transferred into the mega movie ‘The Hunger Games’ in the first place, but this boy made a movie that was barely tolerable for me in the first place, damn near completely intolerable with all of his groaning and whining about how they messed up the book. Suzanne Collins did write the screenplay so I don’t know what to tell him. Regardless, while I wasn’t all that crazy about this two and half hour cross between ‘Battle Royale’ and ‘The Running Man’, Lionsgate Studios is too busy rolling around in ‘Hunger Games’ spawned hundred dollar bills to hear anything worthwhile I have to say.

It’s the future. I guess. Back in the day in this future the people got tired of the tyranny, and as people who are tired of tyranny tend to do… they rebelled. If you rebel and win, then life is good. But if you rebel and lose… well… you get what we got in this movie. So apparently every year the twelve rebelling districts are forced to offer up their young, between the ages of 12 and 18, to compete in a highly popular murder battle with only one winner. There are repercussions to not being down with this plan… hunger for one… but whatever, it’s time for the 74th annual Hunger Games! Yay!

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in the coal mining District 12 and all she wants to do is hunt in peace and take care of her baby sister Prim (Willow Shields), that is until Prim draws the short straw and is randomly selected by the completely hideous District 12 rep Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) to represent her people. Until Katniss volunteers in her place. The male selected is Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) who gave Katniss a piece of bread a few years back. This is relevant information.

So these kids are off to the big city of horribly dressed ugly people to get trained by the drunken Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and adorned with fine clothes by the smooth Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), meet the other 22 child contestants, most of whom are really angry, and prepare to die.

Even though Katniss looks like she is more designed for comfort, this is a girl that’s built for speed and survival my friends with her hunting skills, and tracking skills, and bow skills. Not a lot of killer instinct though. A really good person in a situation that is about as bad as it gets. And only one will survive… but these rules are nothing if not adjustable on the fly.

I will say this for director Gary Jones and his movie ‘Hunger Games’, and this is that I don’t think anyone can accuse this film of side skirting ‘character development’. By the time this movie is over you’ll know Katness Everdeen and to a slightly lesser extent Peeter Mallark so well that they will feel like your own children. Or good friends if you happen to be around their age. While character development is a good thing… not that I wouldn’t have complained if they had developed Katness less and some of the other kids a little more… what I had trouble with as far as this movie goes was resolving certain things in the narrative, things which are embedded in the story and which nothing can probably be done with, without drastically changing the story. Though to hear my son tell it, they’ve already done this.

Like… Why kids? I get that the ruling party are jerks and all, and I know this doesn’t exist if it isn’t kids, but who would want to see twelve year olds kill each other? An entire nation of ‘the haves’ cheering for this nonsense? Seriously? The president (Donald Sutherland) of this society mentions to his Program Director (Wes Bently) and his AWESOME beard, that the Hunger Games gives these poor districts a little hope. Hope for what? Where’s the hope in watching kids get slaughtered, even if your district wins? And this has been going on for 74 years? 74 years of child slaughter. Hmmm… Tyranny of this magnitude does have a half life, and I’m thinking it’s less than seventy four years.

This leads me to my next little issue, to be as long as this movie was, one would think there’d be more of an in depth examination of the situation these people are in. Everybody just seems to accept it, which might explain why tyranny continues to rule in this crap existence. If the president had explained that the purpose of the games is to keep the districts hating one another, while still loving the tyrant, I’d buy into that, but that wasn’t the message. Just that the ruling class are a bunch of jerks who like to see poor, hungry teenagers die horribly.

Clearly I’m over thinking this adaptation of a young adult novel, but it was made in a way which invites critical thinking, considering that the action is relatively light and sparse, and the obvious parallels to various real world situations, but this movie didn’t use its lengthy runtime to take advantage of any of that potential. Instead we spent most of our time looking into Jennifer Lawrence’s sad eyes and rosy cheeks, hoping she can retain her humanity.

Since I don’t watch a lot of these ‘young adult’ movies, maybe this is par for the course. And it’s not that I hated ‘Hunger Games’, in fact it had a lot going for it as far as performances and style are concerned, but it didn’t seem to have much of a spirit. And I liked it way more than the sixteen year old sitting next to me did. The kid that read the book.

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