Rating: 3 of 5
The Hunger Games wasn’t a bad movie. But it wasn’t great either and certainly not as good as all they hype would imply.
The effects weren’t especially shiny or cool.
The action wasn’t really exciting.
There was nothing profound about the story.
The characters weren’t great. And there was barely a spark of romance.
There really was nothing remarkable about this film. It was a serviceable adaptation of the book, which wasn’t altogether brilliant itself. Gary Ross used light and sound to create a sensory movie, something that was raw and did a good job recreating the world of the book.
The problem is I had no emotional connection to any of it.
I watched it happen but I didn’t feel anything.
Which is not to say the performances are bad. Jennifer Lawrence goes a long way in humanizing an unlikable character and gives a subtle performance. But as talented as she is, she isn’t magnetic. There’s nothing compelling about her or Josh Hutcherson. Gale was more interesting. And I actually liked Woody Harrleson (which never happens). Cato had the most profound moment in the whole movie and he’s a tertiary character. I was drawn more even to Cinna than to the two characters I was supposed to care if they lived or died.
Partly, this is Ross’ fault for not giving us what we need to care about them. The first ten-fifteen minutes the camera was so shaky it was really hard to be drawn into the world and the story. My eye had no where to rest which, I think, was meant to be intense but it was too early. Get me into the story and let me connect to the characters and then make it intense and relentless. Even five minutes of steadiness and time getting to know Katniss would have helped us connect to her.
Its partly Suzanne Collins’ fault for not writing engaging characters. She has no flare for romance and the moment in the cave all I could think is that Peeta is sweet and he really loves her and she doesn’t deserve him. It made me like Katniss less and abolished any breath of romance they could have. It was a moment of tragedy rather than comfort or solace.
But mostly it’s Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcheerson’s fault because, however talented they are as actors, they have no magnetism individually and no chemistry together. And unfortunately, unlike talent, that’s not something they have any control over. It hurt, but briefly, to see Gale’s reaction to them because however much you try to ugly him up, Liam Hemsworth is a more dynamic actor.
Beyond the weakness of the two main characters, it isn’t a visceral film. There was never a moment so sweet it made my heart stop. Nothing so terrifying or inhuman I was afraid to see it unfold (though the blood bath was disturbing). Mostly, if Katniss is supposed to be this powerful character that I root for, then every time she draws her bow it should make me gasp, waiting for the awesome that is to come.
And with all the hype, this is a movie that should either say something or make you feel something and it does neither.
There are no grand themes here, nothing of significance or depth that warrants a story about kids being forced to kill one another. If you want to see a movie about the excess of humanity and a civilization blind to its corruption watch Apocolypto.
If they had cut to the screens of people watching it that would have been more of a commentary on our society – highlighting the craven fascination of reality tv. Barring that, this really isn’t a story with anything of significance to say.
It’s an emotionless story about an unlikable heroine that moves quickly through all the necessary plot points of the book.
At least the music is good.