Movie Review: The Hunger Games
By Ryan Mazie
March 21, 2012
The casting is fine with Jennifer Lawrence (the fabulous X-Men: First Class and Winter’s Bone) delivering a thankfully captivating performance. Lawrence, unlike Kristen “lip-bitter” Stewart, is self-assured and displays vulnerability and energy beneath a steely and tired exterior. Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right, Journey 2) is friendly enough as the gregarious loverboy who knows when to turn on and off the charm. The established adult cast of Harrelson, Tucci, and Banks each should not disappoint fans of the book with their spot-on interpretations, especially the scene-stealing Banks who plays Effie with just the right amount of airiness.
The film’s biggest downfall is its budget. Made by mini-studio Lionsgate, The Hunger Games just looks and feels cheap. Rumored to have cost around $80 million (a figure that almost all box office pundits and even the studio itself predicts it should blow by in a $100 million+ opening weekend), it is hard to see where it all went. The CGI is subpar when creating the futuristic District 1 of Panem and the costumes are either hit (Effie’s garish outfits) or miss (Katniss’ dress made out of fire). Fun fact: Judianna Makovsky is the costume designer – she also designed for the first Harry Potter movie. The lack of funds is most noticeable with the CGI beasts towards the end.
Possibly holding the record for the least amount of wide shots in an action film, The Hunger Games is frustratingly claustrophobic. Director Ross fails to bring any beauty to the shots and the constant close-ups make the fight scenes a blur - although that may be partially intentional so the film can earn a PG-13 rating, featuring some brutal yet bloodless violence, all involving children.
Cinematographer Tom Stern, who was also behind the aesthetically pleasing Hereafter and Changeling, has seemingly forgotten to bring along a tripod on some days, randomly implying the hand-held camera technique periodically throughout the film. In other words, there is no need to see this in IMAX unless you want to appreciate Jennifer Lawrence’s face - which actually may be worth the surcharge, on second thought.
The studio is already so confident that the film will be a success, they set a release date months ago for the sequel. Catching Fire is scheduled for November 22, 2013 (the release date previously reserved for Harry Potter/Twilight films. With a little more than a year and a half to go, this will have a quick turnaround schedule). Thus, I am sure my criticism will do little to sway your decision in going to see this review-proof film. A record-breaking more than a million people already have pre-ordered tickets off of Fandango. However, if I can adjust your levels of anticipation, I feel as if I got something accomplished.
An okay start to the franchise, my hope for The Hunger Games craving fans is that the next installment can only improve in quality. And to them, “may the odds be ever in your favor.”
6 out of 10