I want to preface this by stating that even though my personal motto is, “Life is short, read spoilers,” I try not to list spoilers in my reviews. That being said, I was glad that I read primers and spoilers of The Hunger Games before seeing the movie. And that is part of the problem. Online defenders of the film constantly remind critics that tons of exposition and character development are actually in the original novel. As a movie goer, I should not be penalized for not reading the source material. If the movie cannot stand alone by itself, then the movie is at fault. (For me, that is minus one grade.) I also want to say that if I wanted to see a terrible modernization of Greek mythology, I’d watch Wrath of the Titans. The movie, as a whole, held back for two main reasons: (1) in order to maintain that money-making, tween-friendly, PG-13 rating; and (2) to set up the next two movies of the trilogy. Ultimately, THG will be rated amongst the other movie trilogies, and I believe that is what the movie studio and producers want us to do. Unfortunately, this will fall short of the standard set by The Godfather. It should fall somewhere between The Matrix and Back to the Future.
The writer and director tried too hard to cram as much of the novel into the film. As much as that may placate the die-hard fans of the book, that may not necessarily be a good thing. Did Lord of the Rings fans get upset because Tom Bombadil was cut out of The Fellowship of the Ring? The recent HBO movie, Game Change ignored almost 80% of the book that was about Obama and Clinton, and focused entirely on Palin and McCain. THG used such a broad brush to paint us a picture of Panem that we don’t really get to see how much of a crapsack world District 12 is, or how much life sucks at the decadent Capitol if you happen to cross the boss, (in this case President Snow). In fact, we don’t see much of the Capitol; at all. We see that the citizens like to dress up like they are part of a 17th Century European royal court with their powdered faces and wigs. But that does not translate well into describing their barbaric and callous attitudes toward the Districts (especially the really poorer ones like Districts 11 & 12.) In that regards, THG’s Panem looks no worse that Atlas Shrugged: Part 1’s 2016 America, or Rick Santorum’s commercial describing 2014 America under a second Obama term.
In order to avoid an R rating, they decided to go with the shaky cam in order to portray Katniss’ POV, and in order to hide the brutal violence that befalls almost all of the Tribunes. But by desensitizing the violence, the director is playing the same role as the Gamemaster. He is entertaining the masses by whitewashing the savagery and inherent barbarism. The 74th Annual Hunger Games looked like an American Idol/Survivor hybrid with shiny weapons. Therefore my question is this: by watching a two-and-one-half hour film of sanitized killing, and half-hearted analogies of ancient Rome, how is the movie audience any different from the haves of Panem’s Capitol, and how are we supposed to sympathize with the plight of Katniss and her fellow have-nots of District 12?
As far as the film is concerned, the casting of the adults was brilliant because all of their performances are stellar. The main characters, i.e.: the Tribunes, perform admirably. I can’t say that anyone was miscast. I also believe that it is not their fault that their characters are not asked to deliver much emotion. The movie delivers the goods in terms of action and entertainment. However, it loses points for over reliance on the shaky cam, and its assumption that you already know the backstory and exposition of Panem and its citizens. Bottom line: it’s just not hungry enough to be a classic, but it is a solid first act of an eventual trilogy. My Grade = B+.