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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

They say that you should not dwell too much on the negative when writing reviews because it makes you sound mean. The problem for The Hunger Games (the movie adaptation) is that there was so little positive to discuss.

Yes, I finally got around to watching The Hunger Games this past weekend. I was mildly excited to see it having very much liked the first book of the trilogy. The second and third books are another story. Now, having watched the film, I am disappointed.

So, let’s get the few positives out of the way so that people can’t say that I didn’t say anything nice. First of all, I think Jennifer Lawrence pulls off the role of Katniss Everdeen brilliantly. The fact that she was often forced to act out poorly contrived scenes is a side issue. Had it not been for her acting, things would have gone badly for the entirety of this movie.

In addition to Ms. Lawrence, Woody Harrelson is also great in the role, what he was given to work with, of Haymitch. There were also other actors who did well in bringing out their characters including: Isabelle Furhman (Clove), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Ceasar Flickerman), and Donald Sutherland (President Snow).

Some scenes were absolutely marvelous. The problem is, they were far and few between: the “Reaping” ceremony in District 12, Haymitch’s introduction to Katniss and Peeta on the train, and Katniss’ iconic shooting of the apple from the pig’s mouth. Even the scene where she attacks Peeta after he reveals he has a crush on her was well done. They were just as they were described in the book or at least translated well for the requirements of big screen story telling.

But, I will not mince words. As far as a movie adaptation, The Hunger Games is horrid. Watchable as a sidebar if you have read the books and know what is going on in the head of Katniss? Barely. Completely uninspiring if you haven’t? Absolutely.

I shouldn’t have to explain things, which I was required to do to my wife because the screenplay, along with the way it was edited together, made the back story hard to understand. The action of the book once the Hunger Games start is completely glossed over except for brief moments. The feeling of children in a fight for their lives for the amusement of a maniacal, totalitarian government is more like a romp through the forest which then falls into a B-horror film category with a crazy, machete-wielding madman loose in the woods. Whole, important scenes were cut out or hacked up in ways that made them feel disjointed. Don’t even get me started on the lameness of Rue pulling the spear out of her body in a way that completely shattered my tenuous grasp on the ability to suspend disbelief up to that point. I had flash backs to many a bad horror movie just because of this one scene.

The cinematography was good. Just thought I’d throw that out there to break up my negativity.

The book was based so much on Katniss’ internal monologue with herself. Yes, it became droning at times, and her whole does she love Peeta, does she not love Peeta internal jujitsu was tiring by the end (because everyone but her knew that she did), but the movie lacked this important element and failed to provide depth to her character. You felt for her only as a kid forced to fight for her life and the fact that most of the time she was on camera. Unlike in the book, where you cared about her over the other children because you were in her mind, when it comes to the movie, she feels like just another tribute. Heck, I felt more for Clove in the 10 seconds she was getting pummeled by Thresh, watching her go from confident, swaggering career tribute to frightened girl knowing she is about to die (kudos to Isabelle Furhman for that) than I think I felt for Katniss in the entire movie. Again, not knocking Jennifer Lawrence for that. She was not the one at fault.

The climax with the muttations in the arena was very much a let down and felt rushed for the sake of fitting the movie into an arbitrary running time. It was sort of the way I felt Mockingjay was rushed just to meet an arbitrary length by the publisher. The aftermath with Katniss struggling to come to grips with her feelings for Peeta and how she slogs through the final interview was like it was written by someone who knew nothing about the story. Which is odd, because I know Suzanne Collins led her hand to the script.

But wait, there’s more! I think the adding of other POV characters for the movie (i.e. scenes were Katniss was not present) was a bad move. Ok, got it, you wanted to show some of the behind the scenes stuff you don’t get in the book. But it was almost all unnecessary. I did however like the use of the commentators to describe the Tracker Jackers since we apparently abandoned Katniss’ internal monologue and I didn’t want to have to explain that plot point too.

I can’t believe this, but I would actually prefer to see this movie remade, rereleased, and done right. It was just that bad. I would suggest hiring Peter Jackson to direct the whole shebang too. He knows how to tell a story.

The cast was not the problem. Keep them all. It was just everything else from bad story telling, to bad editing. You can’t tell me that they couldn’t figure out a way to tell a story with the word count of The Hunger Games in two and a half hours. Heck, maybe making it three hours would have helped! I would have preferred that if it were true.

I give The Hunger Games (The Movie) a paltry one and half stars out of five. Honestly, read the book.

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