Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games

by Reymundo Salao

In the dystopian future, the civilization known as Panem has lived long after war, disaster and the ravaged ruins of what was known as America. In the aftermath of the Civil War which sought to rebel against the tyrannical government, the defeated rebels were divided into several districts. And as punishment for their rebellion, every year, one boy and one girl both between the ages of 12 to 18 shall be chosen from each district and to compete in a contest where they must kill each other and only one must be victorious, a ruthless reminder that no one can oppose the authority of the Capitol. This contest is known as The Hunger Games.

The strong anticipation for the movie paid off, certainly with a strong entrance at the US box office, and critical response which was equally high also. The movie was indeed a fine movie, but after a while in reviewing it, I felt that it could have been a far more stronger movie. It was a good movie, but it did not really leave an impression upon me; and it was a bit forgettable.

The main focus of The Hunger Games lie on the dramatic and emotional aspect of the story. The movie does get in deep with the emotions of how the characters feel; how the main protagonist Katniss Everdeen feels, and even on how seemingly minor characters like Cinna (played by musician Lenny Kravitz) were given enough focus emotionally. But while the movie was rich in emotion, it outbalanced itself by its lack of focus on the other aspects of the story.

It was interesting to note that when the conflict of the movie was over, it was only then that I felt so pumped up and had my senses wide open because the closing scenes was promising a better storyline for the (possible) sequel. It was not the conflict of Katniss in the games itself that entertained me; it was the political intrigue, the satirization of modern entertainment and media, of fashion, and of the gap between the rich and the poor. All of this deserves to be highlighted. All of this that was going on in the background interested me far more.

The movie also fails to focus on the more important characters, which are the other Hunger Game competitors. This focus on them could have let is get feel their emotional stress. This way, their struggles and defeats would clearly evoke the sense of tragedy that the story’s elements have.

To be brutally honest, some people (especially men and people probably over 40) may find the movie boring, because the movie was too focused on the emotional level of the storyline that it does not delve clearly around the backstory; which is supposed to be a main focal point of this first chapter to what could possibly be a movie series. The movie opens up to tell an interesting story about how this new dystopian world functions, but the initial storytelling and the whole idea of the movie was too good and perhaps too vast that it was not able deliver efficiently in telling us all the necessary aspects that could continue what it initially set out to tell. It was not even clear to me why it was called The Hunger Games. Even though that is pointed out in some of the conversations within the movie, I did not get a substantial explanation of the Why’s and the How’s. I feel that this movie requires its audience to have read the book first. Well-made movie adaptations are supposed to tell the story on its own.

Another thing that could make this movie not too impressive is that the action seemed to have been mellowed down. The idea of teenagers (some even below 18) killing each other, for some sport at that, is a controversial thing for a conventional Hollywood movie to do. But this controversial detail has with it a great storyline from a successful novel (series) to go with, it should have had the boldness to push forward and made the movie less-filtered, more violent as was portrayed in the book. Why? The violence of this movie should have been one of the major emotional fuels that would make this movie more impactful dramatically. Simmer down the violence, in this kind of story, and the result is that the emotion that it’s supposed to be building up would also simmer down. I believe that a violent movie can justify itself and its dignity if it has a magnificent storyline to go with it, or would carry the kind of impact that is actually completely against the idea of real-world violence. Many refer to this as “violent movies that campaign against violence”

Regardless of the lack of action and its monotonous focus, it was a solid movie on its own. As I said, it was not impressive, but still, it was good. Brilliant performances from Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, and Wes Bentley. I feel we have yet to see Donald Sutherland in a more powerful performance if there’s going to be a sequel as well. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth did fine also (The Twilight’s boys are cardboard compared to them). But it is the powerful performance of Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen) that takes center stage in this movie. Her acting is stunning and quietly full of emotion. There are so many scenes of her just looking silent, plain, and thinking, yet you can see how she manages to create that invisible emotional storm within her. The only other movie I’ve seen her from is X-Men First Class where she plays a young Mystique, she was impressive in that too.

Overall, the movie is okay. Good in a mellow sort of way. Perhaps the sequel, or what the movie set up to do in the end, would improve my attitude towards this movie. Despite its flaws, at least I could be proud that this “teen movie” movie is far more thought-provoking and intellectually rich as compared to the stupidity of the Twilight movies.

Many people, including me, cannot help but compare this movie to the Japanese movie entitled “Battle Royale” which was also based on a book, and was released in the year 2000. But both movies are different and unique from each other in many many ways. If you have already watched “The Hunger Games” you may want to check out “Battle Royale” Otherwise, if you do the reverse, you may end up with the same reaction as to mine, and as I conclude this review with my simple conclusion: It was good, but I’ve seen better.

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