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Movie Review: The Hunger Games Works for Newcomers to the Series

Like millions of other geeks around the country today I took in an early screening of The Hunger Games, and considering that I went into it with a fresh mind, void of any prenotion as what to expect, I thought it was an eye opening experience that will inevitably lead me to reading the damn books.  That’s a good thing.  That means the world of The Hunger Games captured my imagination like some other great science fiction/fantasy franchises of the past.  I now want to live and breath its air like the rest of you fanatics who will undoubtedly make this the #1 movie for the next few weeks.  The movie isn’t perfect by any means, as it suffers from some awful camera work at times, but overall The Hunger Games is an excellent movie for those individuals who like to futuristic post apocalyptic worlds that feature dystopian societies.

The Hunger Games

EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas

I would have to imagine that die hard fans of the book took exception to some of the pacing in the film, but overall, as a complete HG n00b, I was easily able to nail down the main themes that Collins intended to get across to the audience via her novels.  Her intention of creating a fictional world as an allegory to our own dangerous worship of mass media, and the corrupt forces who control it, will instantly resonate with viewers of the film.  I found the state of the HG world to be very clear, and once again I didn’t read the books, so I had no clue what this series was all about.  That’s a sign of a good film, but at the same time it’s a sign of a good story as well.

Even more than the characters’ own stories I found the tale of Panem to be the most interesting aspect of The Hunger Games movie.  To me this is where the science fiction aspect of this franchise shines, and it is well executed in the movie version of this modern classic.  I’ve always liked movies that envision human society after a catastrophic collapse.  Be it machines taking over, or humans destroying themselves, I’ve always enjoyed witnessing how humans react to adversary.  This is no different in The Hunger Games.  From the start of the movie it is made very clear that the citizens of this world are living in a society that is based on fear, due in part to the fact that it once collapsed from a major war.  The concept of the 12 districts and The Capital is relatable to any human’s situation, as it paints the all too familiar picture of a ruling body taking advantage of the masses.  If you dig these kinds of themes then you’ll enjoy The Hunger Games movie.

The Hunger Games has a Sci-Fi look melded with cultural imagery from the past

I think history buffs, and those geeks interested in the study of human behaviors, will also be fans of this film.  Images of Roman society, and even glimpses of our own American culture came to my mind while watching this flick.  I hate to say it, but I even saw flashes of Nazi Germany, and the USSR in the underlying message that I think Collins is trying to get across in the books, and as a result the movie.  The Hunger Games film did a great job of making me think of our own issues, and I can’t help but think that it’s a result of the excellent portrayal of the dystopian Panem society.  This movie really made me think that one day our way of life could be very similar to what I saw on the silver screen, because its themes are already present in our daily lives.

These themes center on the fact that as a culture we worship the TV, and that we will do, or watch whatever the people in charge tell us to.  Be it consumer goods, movies to watch, places to visit, or where to live, it always seems that we get a nudge from something in the media to get us there.  This is how the Game is portrayed in The Hunger Games.  Not only does it serve as the Super Bowl of Super Bowls for the ruling class (Capitol folk, not sure why they live privileged lives, but guessing its just like all of the other dominant civilizations where those with the means rule those without), but it also serves as a warning to the lower classes who inhabit the 12 districts.  It gives the people in power complete control over both classes of citizens in Panem, and it’s ingenious.  By holding the death games they maintain their influence over their divided populace without looking like the complete Communist dictators that they are.

Think these people don’t believe that their sh*t stinks?

Obviously, things aren’t  this dire in our own society, but if anything, movies like this should serve as a reminder that we can’t always trust what the people in charge are telling us.  There’s always a chance that they’re already corrupt, and serving their own personal needs.  Just look at the Romans, or any other major cultural civilization who got too greedy.  These historic societies are clearly mirrored to a degree in The Hunger Games, so I really appreciated the correlation.

I think the cast of this film did a fine job bringing the book to life, but I have to rely on those who have read it for final judgment on that statement.  Jennifer Lawrence did a fantastic job as the lead character, and I never realized how beautiful she really is.  This girl is a woman, and not one of those paper thin Hollywood types.  She’s got curves and it’s a good thing. Meow!

Yes please!

I also enjoyed Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and both of them together did help sell some of the more emotionally intense scenes.  Although, at times I felt like some of these scenes felt like they were in fast forward, but I’m sure that’s because the books helped to fill some of the minor details in.  Their relationship felt somewhat convenient at times, but again I credit that to the movie trying to speed up the book so we weren’t sitting there for 4 hours straight.

I wasn’t as big as a fan of the bad Hunger gamers, because they’re performances just seemed campy.  You know like “Mwua ha ha ha ha ah” type of evil plotting campy.  They seemed like cheap characters, and I never gave rat’s as* about them throughout the entire film.  On the other hand, the people of the Capital intrigued me greatly.  I loved the actor who played what I like to call the Director, or the head of the Hunger Games program, as well as Donald Sutherland’s President Snow.  This elder statesman of acting did a great job setting up the dirty politician aspect of this series, and I can’t wait to see where he takes things next.

Lastly, I also liked the Woody Harrelson character, and the technicolor Effie played by Elizabeth Banks.  To me they are similar to horse racers with Woody being the trainer, and Banks the owner, except they’re in charge of District 12’s competitors Katniss and Peeta.  I guess you could lump Lenny Kravitz into the mix because he is also part of team D12, but all of them together make up an interesting cast for an interesting look at a broken society.

Even with all of its upsides I couldn’t help but be annoyed with the cinematography of The Hunger Games.  For the most part this movie looks like it was shot by a bunch of unfortunate souls who have been stricken with Parkinson’s disease.  I hate the shaky camera effect, and this film used it extensively.  During its action sequences it employed the Bourne camera tactic, which essentially made the imagery on screen look like a cluster*ck.  I don’t understand why directors think this camera technique looks solid.  More often than not I found myself trying to focus on the camera rather than the story, which is not a good thing.  This earthquake approach to filming just doesn’t fly with me, but it doesn’t ruin the movie, so don’t take it as a major strike against the film adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Stare at this picture while you shake your computer to get an idea of some of the camera work in this movie

In the end I can wholeheartedly recommend The Hunger Games movie for fans of the book (no brainer), but more importantly to those of you who’ve never read them like myself.  It’s more than just a movie about a book.  It’s an interesting take on the dangers of political corruption and mass media’s influence on a society, especially those of which who have gone through catastrophic wars, or apocalyptic events.  It will remind you of fanatic images of our own past such as the old Nazi rallies, and other dangerous forms of patriotism that lead mankind to war, and if cooler heads didn’t prevail, a world not too dissimilar from Panem.  My biggest complaint about The Hunger Games movie is its less than perfect cinematography.  The camera work is shaky throughout, but action scenes will make you feel like your head is in a blender.  When I take everything into consideration I have to give The Hunger Games an EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas.  I think fans of the book may get more out of it, and not feel like some of the pacing is way too fast, but it still makes for a great movie even if you haven’t read the novels.  Check it out this weekend, and be prepared to dive head first into a whole new fictional world if you haven’t already down so!  You’ve been thinking you may have to read the next two books now…

The Hunger Games Official Trailer 2012 HD

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Tags : ImpressionsThe Hunger Games
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.