Friday, 23 March 2012

The Hunger Games - just misses the mark

Ok, so totes in dange of (sorry, sorry) - and again...! I'm in danger of sounding like a broken record when it comes to novel to film adaptations (and slightly aghast that peeps in the biz aren't reading my reviews as wonderful analyses of how adaptations could work and applying them to their own work - it's free consultancy, yo!)

Anyhow, getting back to the necessary task at hand - The Hunger Games viewing for moi et Arctic Bunny was last night. I had pegged this as a 'must see of 2012' as most others did and I refrained from reading reviews, though I cracked when Incredible Suit posted this week (gah!).

*SPOILERS ALERT* Dare I say it, but it was an all around decent film but exceptionally and lazily adapted from the book. It took too long to 'get to the good stuff' and there were some other obvious flaws that have nothing to do with flaws from the book itself - it's all down to the film-makers.

I kind of guessed at this the moment the film opened and we see Game-Maker, Seneca Crane talking to blue haired presenter (played solidly well by Stanley Tucci) - and it became a continual problem - removing us out of Katniss's POV and the games and into the 'behind-the-scenes' world of the Capitol. UGH. It completely leached the strength of menace that an antagonist has - seeing Presi Snow chatting to Crane on various occasions, I sat there trying to fathom why this was in the narrative at all. It's like seeing the most bad ass robot and then they take you to see it nuts and bolts - or find it works on water. Lame.  Another classic example is when Katniss is in that ante-room before entering the pod-lift into the arena. It's suspenseful stuff and then [cut], we're in that control room with some lady telling us 'Ok, they're in.' Geez - talk about removing oneself from the suspenseful moment of Katniss entering the arena in one seamless sequence. That warrants a hit to the head, editor. 

Another issues were Peeta and Katniss - it wasn't good chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, but Josh came across stronger in his performance as the 'boy with the bread'. Which also brings me to the 'bread' scene - why is it raining and why wasn't it made clear that Katniss was literally starving to death with nothing to take to her family? The flashbacks were lazy and confusing. There could have one sequence of 'father's death - starving - bread via Peeta - daffodil' but no, that would have been too simple. If we knew she was at the end of her tether, that moment would have been more significant and so to, their relationship. Instead, when it's time for Katniss to turn on the 'charm', it's not even obvious that she has turned on anything. And then we kept cutting to see Gale in District 12, *shakes head*. And if they'd done the bread scene properly, we'd have known that Katniss does whatever it takes to survive - she's survived near death before - this is her trait, her winning element - not the bow and arrow.

And if that wasn't bad enough, we had some weird cutaways to blue haired presenter and the other dude, 'info dumping' but it felt like those commentary scenes in Dodgeball - I expected them to say there would be a 'Half time show'. (How else would they have given us the info, I hear you ask. Well, a  1 min montage showing Peeta and Katniss viewing the previous Hunger Games tapes and picking up on various booby traps and format the games take). Again, it wasn't well integrated into the character development of Katniss - how amazing would it have been if the filmmakers had shot it so that it's as if we're the viewers of the The Hunger Games, not the viewers watching the viewers watching the games. Make sense? Then the Capitol would have come across as this unreachable, unseeable terrible master - and there would have been more suspense when the crazy dogs come, or whenever anything was 'dropped' into the world. Adaptation rule - keep it contained! And heck, if you want to break from Katniss's POV, why don't we get some of Peeta's POV.

Furthermore, how the film portrayed the Capitol and its citizens was lacking. There was less impact of the 'us and them' mentality. Small scenes in the book like when Cinna (well played by Kravtiz) orders any food they want and then realises how 'disgusting' the Capitolians must appear to the District 12ers would have brought that home more. Also, Katniss's styling team wasn't there to show how they treat her like a pet - encapsulating the mental nature of the Capitol - how to them it's so harmless, which is to be pitied, whilst also being disgusting.

Otherwise, Katniss is disappointingly 'flat', though there are good moments. The thing that essentially killed it for me, was the climactic berry scene - when they both realise they have to kill one another, the conflict is supposed to be so high - and we see how Peeta is more 'the good one'. There is no time to properly show how Katniss comes to the realisation that the Capitol won't be happy if there isn't a victor. This is the MOMENT. Instead it's over in two seconds.

And DoP - we get the handheld camera stuff/CUs are there to make us feel awkward and uncomfortable. Methinks it was overkill in trying to 'glean' over the initial Cornucopia scene where 11 die straight away. But I wanted a better frequency of wonderful wides that would have helped to enhance Katniss' isolation. Oh well.

You might be forgiven in thinking that I severely disliked this film but as it is, it wasn't terrible. But yet again, it fell far short of the mark in getting to greatness. And this is the best book of the series so *shrug*

VERDICT - 7/10

Finally, if you really want to see a damn good portrayal of teenagers in a fight to survive or be killed scenario, rent 'Battle Royale' where the insanely maddening stakes are given due respect and intelligence.


  1. Good review. Maybe The Hunger Games is going to be the one young adult franchise that really lives up to the hype. Thankfully, it’s no Twilight- meaning that future installments will actually be something to look forward to and there won’t be any mopey romance angles. Fancy that! Check out my review when you can.

  2. Thanks Dan but unfortunately I don't think it will live up to the hype. Methinks it was made with the Twilight type audience in mind, so the film makers took away the actuality of the awfulness of the 'teenagers killing each other' - would have worked better as a 15 rated film. I mean scenes where Cato et al are all 'whooping' was just plain silly - it took away the menace and the horrible edge to the situations.

    Large part of Book 2 is mopey romance angles but because the film makers haven't done justice to the whole IDEA of the Hunger Games themselves, film 2 will likely be disappointing also.