The Hunger Games was originally the first book of a series written by Suzanne Collins. Over time, it's developed a large and loyal fan base since its debut in 2008. With the film of the same name coming out, the people at Lionsgate surely hopes that this fan base gravitates towards the theaters to see the big screen translation in hopes of making it into a movie franchise.
Like the book, the film that goes by the same name tells the story of a teenage girl named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her mother and her sister Prim (Willow Shields). Katniss and her family live in what is now known as Panem, but was once called North America. In Panem, the powers that be hold an event once a year where one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts compete in a battle to the death competition known as the Hunger Games.
These games have been put together by the government of Panem as punishment for an attempted revolution that took place nearly eighty years earlier. This nationally televised event forces these teenagers to go against each other until only one is left standing. Katniss is one of the 24 kids enlisted in this year's event, which is the 74th occurrence of the games. Unlike the others who were randomly selected, she actually volunteers in order to take the place of her younger sister who had been selected instead. Like all of her other opponents, her only goal is to somehow make it all the way to the end.
The Hunger Games is a movie that will be familiar to most due to the fact that it's based on a novel that many have read and the fact that we've seen this stuff before. There have been quite a few films similar to this that have been released for the big screen. With that being said, it did have some potential to be a fantastic movie based on the promise that it showed early on. The only problem here is that it never reached the heights that it could have.
One of the negatives about The Hunger Games was the lack of character development. That hurt the movie in my eyes, because it didn't allow me to get into the actual characters. Almost all of the kids were nameless and faceless, so when one of them would die off, it would just feel empty and meaningless. If you're going to try to use a couple of dramatic scenes featuring people dying, it would help to have the characters be of some significance by learning something about them.
Character development would have helped this movie in particular, because there are so many dry spots and empty scenes where nothing happens. They could have easily taken these opportunities when nothing is actually going on to develop these guys and get the audience emotionally invested in them. That would have made the movie and its events more dramatic and engrossing, but they decided to go in another route.
A good portion of The Hunger Games shows certain characters sleeping, eating or sitting down. There literally might have been more scenes of them sleeping than there were of them actually fighting. If I wanted to see someone do any of that, I would just go and get married or something. These scenes repeatedly killed any momentum the movie looked like it was beginning to show anytime they came up. Like most people, I go to see a movie to be entertained and those things aren't entertaining to watch. You had a few good actors here and I think they could have been used much better.
This biggest flaw in The Hunger Games wasn't that it was terrible, the biggest flaw was that they just didn't do enough with what they had. For example, Gary Ross could have used the first quarter of the movie to develop the characters and show off some of the beautiful scenery that we don't get to see enough of. Instead we get thrown right into the movie and then a bunch of nothing follows behind it. The film itself ended up feeling like it was too long, because of things like this and it didn't need have so many empty areas.
The truth is The Hunger Games is a rated R movie that's toned down to fit what is required to obtain a PG-13 rating. They left a lot of stuff out that should have been included in order to allow their target audience to see it and the film is hindered in some important parts because of this. The violence was far too tame and much of it wasn't even shown. It's basic and can be viewed as The Running Man for younger audiences.
There were also some chances for some big ideas and themes to be examined, but that didn't happen either. Because of the way The Hunger Games is structured, it's difficult to get into it the way you're supposed to. The film story could have been much deeper, much stronger and more meaningful. Instead, what they did was keep the story very thin and on a straight and uncomplicated path.
It's also filled with some of those basic and familiar people who you're used to seeing in movies. There's the bully/jock types who are basically the best group of competitors in the field, the loser that no one believes in, the black guy who's also a top contender and there's the drunk. The drunk is an odd character that's played by Harrelson. He's never actually drunk after the first couple of scenes that he's in and is perfectly sober and fine throughout the rest of it. I know he might have been a drunk in the book, but that portion of the character is made completely irrelevant in the movie.
The Hunger Games isn't bad enough for me to completely rip it, but it simply wasn't that good and has very little to offer. I can't fault the actors on this one since most of them did what was asked of them. All the blame goes on the director of the film and the writers. There were several things that could have been done to save the movie, but they ignored most of those. Hopefully, I won't be saying the same thing about the sequels.
Director: Gary Ross
Film Length: 142 minutes
Release Date: March 23, 2012