Directed by Gary Ross
Produced by Nina Jacobson
Screenplay by Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Based on “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
In the interest of full disclosure I should start out by saying that I haven’t read the book the movie THE HUNGER GAMES is based on nor did I have any intention of reading it. Now before you start jumping up and down and calling me a hater, hear me out. THE HUNGER GAMES is a Young Adult novel and I generally don’t read Young Adult novels because…well, let’s face it: I’m not a Young Adult. That’s not to say I wouldn’t read it if recommended to me by folks I trust. I ain’t that much of a snob. It’s just that I leave the Young Adult novels to the young adults. After all, there are things I read that I think should be strictly for adults my age that they shouldn’t be reading. It’s all about respecting boundaries for me.
But I ended up seeing THE HUNGER GAMES because of a couple of reasons: the first is that since the movie opened there has been a small firestorm due to some really nasty and unpleasant racially inflammatory tweets going around. Seems as if some ‘fans’ of the book were upset upon seeing the movie and that some their beloved characters were (horrors!) played by black actors and actresses. Now if they are fans of the book as they claim they they must not have read the descriptions of the characters. From what I’ve read, the way Suzanne Collins describes a lot of the characters they could be biracial or black. If you’ve been hanging out here for any length of time or listened to me on Better In the Dark then you’ve heard me quote Harlan Ellison: “We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions.” So I felt that in order to know what I was talking about if this subject came up in discussion with my friends and/or enemies, I should at least see the movie.
The second reason? Patricia wanted to see it.
Before jumping into the movie proper I should get out of the way that I don’t see what the fuss about the black characters are. The way the characters are written, they could honestly have been played by any ethnicity.
THE HUNGER GAMES take place in a future North America that has been devastated by war. Rebuilt into the nation of Panem it is not divided into 48 states but 13 Districts. District 13 attempted to overthrow the oppressive government with no success. Ever since then, The Capitol of Panem created The Hunger Games. A yearly competitive televised pageant in which two teenagers from each District between the ages of 12 to 18 are selected by lottery. The teens are trained, placed in an arena and fight until only one is left alive.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to save her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) from The Hunger Games. Along with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) she is sent to The Capitol for training. They have an entire staff to supervise them including chaperone Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) alcoholic mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) himself a survivor of The Hunger Games and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) their stylist.
In between training and televised interviews with Hunger Games commentator Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) Abernathy struggles to get Katniss to open up and be more friendly to attract ‘sponsors’ who will help her stay alive through the competition. The situation is complicated by Peeta, who during his interview claims to have been in love with Katniss ever since they were children. But is he telling the truth or is he playing to the audience, hoping to win favor from sponsors? And does any of this matter when they’re in the arena?
For a movie that promises mass slaughter, THE HUNGER GAMES doesn’t deliver. In fact, most of the killings take place off camera and the ones that we do see are shot in that mollyfoggin’ shaky cam so that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. I enjoyed the look of the movie as it has wonderful costume and production design. The Capital feels like a real city inhabited by real people. But I don’t understand the point of building us up with the promise of seeing these characters fight to the death and then not showing it. And the movie is so emotionally distant so that when someone does die it has no impact, no feeling. At least not to me as I feel I never got to know any of these characters at all. It doesn’t help that the movie is directed with such seriousness and grim despair. The movie badly needs energy and it just doesn’t have it at all. It’s actually pretty dull going most of the way. My thanks go to Woody Harrelson and surprisingly, Lenny Kravitz as the both of them are highly entertaining to watch and they kept my interest up.
So should you see THE HUNGER GAMES? Chances are if you’re a fan of the books then you already have or plan to do so and so nothing I say will change your mind. And that’s okay. I get the very strong idea that this movie was made very much with the fans in mind and that’s okay. If you’re curious, check it out. It’s satisfying entertainment, the visual equivalent of fried chicken and baked potato.