johnlink ranks THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

I went into this movie the same way I went into the first HARRY POTTER, the first LORD OF THE RINGS, and the first TWILIGHT. With all these first features in their respective fantasy series, I was somewhat familiar with the premise, but didn’t go in knowing what would happen. I fell in love with the HARRY POTTER and LOTR franchises starting with movie one, and never watched another TWILIGHT flick because I found the first to be inane. So which category would HUNGER GAMES fall under?

I watched THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) in theaters on 4.4.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

I had no idea that this was a futuristic fantasy film. Without knowing where it really falls, it almost feels like a story which occurs roughly a hundred generations after an apocalyptic event. I’m not a big fan of the blue-haired future genre (the same sort of look turned me off of FIFTH ELEMENT), but I really appreciate how this film embraced that look.

Some of my enjoyment was formed in the way that the lead heroine Katniss (an amazing Jennifer Lawrence) goes through the same reluctant acceptance I did. She’s never been to the futuristic capitol until her entrance into the Hunger Games, a competition in which 24 children fight to the death, makes her a celebrity. She comes from the coal mines, from a post-apocalyptic setting both she and I are much more accustomed too, even if it is not a happy setting.

More of this film is set in the preparation for the battle than I imagined would be. I understood that the Games took place in a sprawling landscape, with the kids forming  groups and hunting each other in an increasingly LORD OF THE FLIES type manner. My assumption was that a giant majority of the film would take place there. Instead the first hour is spent setting up the political environment which obviously will become a major factor in the future films, and in forming the base for the main characters. I really enjoyed the pacing, even if it was entirely unexpected.

There is a tough balance to strike when the subject matter is so brutal, but the target audience is unquestionably PG-13. I think the story handicaps itself in the way that Katniss is never presented with a situation wherein she has to make a tough, unblinking decision about someone she likes. Once she kills someone undesirable instinctively, and in the climax her choices do get marginally tougher. But we never see any betrayal from characters who are meant to be likable, and that fact shields this movie (and the book, I guess) from making really tough decisions.

But despite that hiccup, this is a really solid start to the series. Director Gary Ross creates characters I want to pull for, to root against, and to learn more about. In a better way than any of the movies listed above, an excellent self contained story is told while also teasing the events to come. This movie looks nice, the forest views are majestic, even if they are manipulated by the game masters.  Woody Harrelson gives one of his better performances, and the rest of the cast is well rounded. But this is a star-making turn for the elegantly tough Jennifer Lawrence. I know she already had her Oscar Nom before this (for Winter’s Bone), but this movie launches her into stardom. The look and feel of this movie are successful on most every level, and I really find myself looking forward to the next installment.

There were many influences to be seen including Shirley Jackson’s short story THE LOTTERY, Peter Weir’s film THE TRUMAN SHOW, and even some aesthetic touches from Native American stories like THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. These influences are weaved seamlessly, and don’t feel like they are being ripped off, but rather like creative sound boards.

In the past several years several properties have tried to become the next HARRY POTTER. We’ve had non-starters like PERCY JACKSON or LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS. I think it is fairly safe to say that HUNGER GAMES is ready to take that throne for the next couple of years.

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 8; WRITING: 7

7+8+8+7+0=30

FINAL SCORE: 7.5

~ by johnlink00 on April 5, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)”

  1. […] I have a date with my wife to see CATCHING FIRE tomorrow. We wanted to revisit HUGER GAMES before going into the sequel, so we did just that. I did rank this back when it hit theaters, so here is a link to my original thoughts. […]

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