johnlink re-ranks THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

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.


I watched THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) on 11.23.13. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since it was in theaters.

24 children, aged 12-18, enter an arena of death. For 73 years, only one has come out. The 74th Annual Hunger Games pit these students in a death match as they battle the elements, outside intervention, and each other. This is an amazingly violent concept for a PG-13 movie based on a series of books aimed towards teens. I suppose kids (and adults alike) can draw out the metaphor of life being a competition in which you ultimately have to battle even those you like. It’s a pessimistic world view, and its a small miracle that the film manages to avoid being too dark.

The biggest obstacle this movie has is its inability to force its heroes into difficult decisions. While our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has to make a single hard choice at film’s end, she goes through the battle passively. She makes friends, yet is never confronted by any of them. The order in which the other tributes die is a little bit too convenient. This story never forces her to look on a former friend who wants to kill her. That sense of protection from the writers is felt throughout the film. The Games are held in her comfortable forest environment. When she needs something, she gets it. When she’s in trouble, she’s bailed out. The resources almost always seem to come from the outside, whether it be a medicine delivered by a sponsor, a hornet’s nest pointed out by a friend, or a moment of death saved by a sometimes enemy (and the character who does the saving there is the one person the film really had an opportunity to later confront Katniss with, but does not).

This isn’t to take too much away from the character of Katniss. In the late scenes, her male counterpart trails behind her as she leads them through the woods with her bow in front of her. She is alpha here, she is the one to be feared. Not too many films in the teen canon so clearly mark the woman as the protector and the male as the meek follower. Her choices in the film’s first act, her volunteering as tribute, have already marked her a strong woman. It is just a little disappointing that the film often doesn’t allow her to save herself.

But if the feeling here is becoming negative, it shouldn’t. This is a wonderfully entertaining film which also asks plenty of questions about the nature of humanity. The preparation for the titular games lasts over an hour, marking the character development as an equally important factor as the spectacle. The care taken in defining Katniss and her two male leads Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) works. Peeta is the one selected for the games. He is strong physically, yet considers himself a lesser competitor. While he sometimes comes across as weak, his lack of self-confidence is a wonderfully realistic trait of someone about to enter a death match without ever having become an adult. Gale seems the one more suited for the Games. He is taller, better built, more crafty, more in tune with the natural world. Yet the story chooses right in making Peeta the one who competes. Gale could have taken care of himself. Peeta needs Katniss.

Visually, this film mostly works. Some of the CGI feels too painted on. The capital is annoyingly bright and colorful, but that’s the point. The muted colors of the furthest reaching districts is an obvious, yet effective, choice. Life is not fun out in District 12, so why should it be colorful? I’m anxiously curious about where the visuals in this series takes us in the next couple of films. I hope there are more practical effects and less CGI, but we will see.

My opinions on the movie have mostly stayed the same. Looking at my previous scores, I found it a little more entertaining this time out, but see the flaws in the writing a little bit more clearly. Regardless, this is still a quality series and I’m glad to have a couple more to look forward to.





~ by johnlink00 on November 24, 2013.

2 Responses to “johnlink re-ranks THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)”

  1. I mostly agree. This is good, but not great.

    The second is considerably better.

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