Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and a lot of other people
Lionsgate (2012)

So I’ve returned to gainful employment with a commute that seems even longer than it was before though it’s exactly the same. Because of this Random Tuesday is bringing a short review of The Hunger Games film instead of me doing my usual collection of neat things. By now you’ve probably already seen The Hunger Games and I’m really curious to see if I’m the only one sitting firmly in the “meh” camp on this one. Spoilers for the book and movie.

There’s no need to tell you the plot. You all know, but for the few people who live under rocks, the gist is that a bunch of kids get thrown into an arena to fight to the death as a way to reinforce the government’s control over outlying regions. This should be exciting and leave me on the edge of my seat. I mean, I could barely put the book down soon after starting so if the movie captured even half that excitement, it should be a really great action movie.

Except it wasn’t. When there was action Gary Ross, the director, shot everything so zoomed in it was difficult to tell what was happening. While I can understand that, at the cornucopia, it was a way to show brutal violence without having facing an R rating, it was still disappointing and made me a little car sick, all the super unfocused quick cuts between people. Throughout the entire film the director keeps returning to these extreme close ups of Katniss’ face, which I found more annoying than I probably could. It felt like that was his way of compensating for us not being inside her head like in the books. It just left me feeling very claustrophobic.

Jennifer Lawrence was a fine Katniss, just a little bland. I felt the character lost a lot in translation and not having those inner thoughts really hurt the flow of the film. Without her internal dialogue, her time with Peeta seems like genuine affection instead of the calculated move she feels Haymitch is asking her to make. She just seemed flat most of the time, except for the scenes at the reaping and her time with Rue. Lawrence mostly wore this neutral expression that didn’t express much, whether it be horror at the Capitol’s opulence or fear at being chased up a tree. The zoomed in close-ups didn’t help her any.

This is my face. It only makes this expression.I was surprised by Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. He was far more charismatic than I remember him being in other films and he had a good balance between vulnerability and determination. There wasn’t enough of Liam Hemsworth’s Gale to really make an impression other than thinking, “Hey, that’s Thor’s brother.” Elizabeth Banks was awesome as Effie and Cinna was horribly miscast. There was no chemistry between Lawrence and Lenny Kravitz. Add in the reduced screen time and Cinna’s affection towards Katniss by the time the games start seemed a little creepy.

Though I have to admit that I loved the way they showed off how the games operated. The scenes between Snow and Seneca, and the scenes from the gaming center were fascinating. The added material with Snow really helped develop his menacing personality without giving Donald Sutherland a lot of time to chew scenery. But mostly I kept wanting more of the giant computer epi-center of the games and seeing how they explained how everything worked – the fire, the cameras, the mutts. It gave something new to a story I was so familiar with already.

It’s not a bad film. Fernando enjoyed it more than me, but also found Cinna horribly miscast. I was just kind of bored, waiting for Lawrence to maybe show a little extra sign of life or to learn more about Seneca Crane and his crazy facial hair. It was a letdown and sapped away any excitement I might have had for the sequels. Though it seems like I’m very much in the minority on this. What did you guys think of The Hunger Games?