To no one’s surprise, Gary Ross’ widely anticipated and hyped, The Hunger Games topped the weekend box-office with an astounding $152. 5 million. Although, I had never read Suzanne Collins’ novels on which the film is based, I was genuinely excited to see this movie, especially because of all the critical praise that it was receiving. Sadly, this was one of those films that I really wanted to like but enjoyed less and less as it went on.
This is not to say that The Hunger Games is a bad film – it’s actually quite good in parts – but I couldn’t help feeling that the movie was superficial and soulless. The film is pretty thin on plot and the concept of a dystopian future featuring games where contestants fight to the death has been done before. The Running Man, Roller Ball, Death Race 2000 and Battle Royale (which I have yet to see) have all covered similar ground. However, I am not suggesting that just because something is not original, it’s necessarily bad; lack of originality is certainly not my issue with The Hunger Games.
I’ll start with the acting, while Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of the main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen is very strong, several other Hunger Games contestants were painful to watch on screen. I cringed every time Amanda Stenberg’s, Rue had scenes involving dialogue. The actors portraying the adult characters were fine for the most part, but hardly spectacular; Donald Sutherland, however, looked bored in his mailed in performance of President Snow. Then again, stellar acting is not something I expect in this genre and it’s also not my main gripe with the film.
For a relatively big budget sci-fi film where the main story line revolves around a brutal game involving contestants fighting to the death, action scenes in The Hunger Games were for the most part, incomprehensible. The majority of the action employed the shaky-cam technique, which became extremely bothersome after a while. It’s extremely disappointing when action/thriller films constantly feature scenes where you can’t distinguish who’s fighting who or what is happening on screen altogether. In the case of The Hunger Games, this technique felt extremely gimmicky, as it was often used to mask the violence in the film in order to maintain its PG-13 rating. I also have to admit that the production values on a film this big were quite underwhelming (apart from the costumes); the sparse special effects failed to impress and the majority of the movie takes place in a very unspectacular forest-like environment.
Again, I do not want to give the impression that I absolutely hated this film. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great and found the first half to be very captivating. I also appreciated the movie’s social critique of North American greed and the modern obsession with reality television; I realize that this material is miles ahead of other films aimed at similar audiences à la Twilight. Had the director presented the content in an edgier fashion (it is after all a film about a violent game where the main goal is to eliminate your opponents) and actually held the camera steady during the action scenes, I think I would have enjoyed The Hunger Games a lot more than I did.