Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson converse during their training for a forced battle-to-the-death event called The Hunger Games
***1/2 out of ****

When I started writing this review, I found it impossible to get around to writing about the movie because I couldn't stop ranting over why I don't like popular youth-themed novel adaptations being too long and the MPAA's unquestionable favoritism towards potential blockbusters. While I am reminded of them, none of these issues were worth expanding on, as they hardly apply to my feelings about this particular film. So I will wait for another young-adult novel to be made into a movie that actually feels too long, as an opportunity to complain about the artistic process of adaptations being inhibited by fans who are literature-nazis demanding everything they read to be up on the screen. I will also wait for an independent movie to come out that gets an 'R'-rating for teen drinking, drug use, and/or smoking, so I can remind everyone that The Hunger Games was the 'PG-13' movie that got away with murder. Pun intended.

The Hunger Games is a very well produced distopian science fiction film in the tradition of cynical futuristic movies that were popular in the nineteen-seventies. I thought of Rollerball and to a lesser degree, Logan's Run. Then there are the undeniable comparisons made to the 2000 bloody Japanese film Battle Royale which has a very similar plot that is dealt with very differently. The Hunger Games is about a future civilization that, like ancient Rome, is advanced but exerts it's power with savage justice and oppression to maintain order. Battle Royale plays more like an irrational gory nightmare.

Director Gary Ross puts a heavy dose of naturalism to the strange environments of the story. This seems like the right approach. This movie is filled with the potential to alienate an audience with it's very unusual futuristic setting, but Ross makes it as personal as he can. Handheld cinematography and moments of improvised acting grabbed me in the same way episodes of Firefly or the recent Battlestar Galactica did by making the characters so real that the unreal universe they inhabit demands our attention as well.

The suspension of disbelief is necessary. I intend to read the famous books just to see if they can better justify how the cruelty of the annual Hunger Games maintains order when you would think it would only breed contempt and the temptation for revolt. The reason is supplied, but, without giving away details, an event takes place in reaction to the game that suggests the reason isn't good enough. 

I'm not sure what to say the movie, The Hunger Games is thematically about, except that I was totally caught up in it. I was never bored. It is an entertaining and often upsetting story of survival of body and soul in a cruel world. I hope I can say without any bias that a wonderful actress from my town makes every minute of it work. Jennifer Lawrence is a born movie star and brings weight to everything she is in, which is something you don't often get from today's other young and beautiful celebrities.

Check out Mike and Jay's good review on Half in the Bag (and their angry review of Jeff Who Lives at Home which I didn't think was that bad)


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