‘The Hunger Games’ Review Round-Up With G-Funk, SuperMarcey and Hedgie!

SoThe Hunger Gamescame out and we all rushed to be the first to see it. And guess what? We’re all winners! Why? Because it was awesome! Let’s take a look at what three of our heavy hitters had to say…

In the words of Hedgie…

A huge fan of the novel trilogy, I had high hopes and even higher expectations for this movie. It needed to convey the hopelessness and squalor of the Districts, particularly 12. It needed to show the flighty cluelessness of the Capitol and it’s citizens. Katniss needed to be strong, but also damaged. Peeta needed to be charming, and honest in his interactions with The Girl On Fire. Effie needed to be utterly and completely out of touch with the two children she was bonded to, and the world in which they live. Haymitch needed to be almost a lost cause, but not quite. The Careers needed to be total jerks. President Snow needed to be a total dick.

So I went into this movie, a midnight screening from which I am still recovering, with cautious optimism and a real need to see The Hunger Games, my Hunger Games, reflected on screen. I was not disappointed.

The movie portrays the struggle of the people of Panem with honesty and integrity. When given the contrasting societies of D12, with its run down shacks, grubby residents and oppressive peacekeepers and the Capitol, filled with bright, colourful, outrageously dressed and all together pretty but vapid citizens, the series really captures the Orwellian/Huxlian societies in the novel; which is one of my favourite aspects of the series.

I thought Effie was perfect. She was shrill, and clueless and obsessed with the tiny little aspects of life that really, to people in such impoverished conditions, couldn’t care less about. Least of all when they were on their way to the literal slaughter. Peeta and Katniss were both excellently cast, and their chemistry felt legitimate; Katniss often struggling to figure out her true feelings while Peeta displays open affection. Although the book was better at showing Katniss’ uneasiness about the whole relationship, the film did a fine job. The Career Tributes were sufficiently brutal – the bloodbath at the cornucopia marked the movie as certainly not something for the very young (although there was a kid aged about seven at my, as previously mentioned midnight screening, so what do I know?). Woody Harrelson, as Haymitch, was outstanding and Lenny Kravitz was an incredible Cinna.

There were of course a few differences from the film, a few things moved to new places in the script, or omitted entirely for the sake of timing or narrative but for the most part I really didn’t mind. I thought the use of the backstage aspects of the Hunger Games broadcast – the increased role of Seneca Crane, Claudius Templesmith and Caesar Flickerman as the audience’s window into the specifics of the games themselves was a really good way of avoiding any beige internal monologue or hammy forced exposition. And it provided a view the books did not; a better look into the mechanics of the role of the game makers, which are mentioned in the novels but never explicitly shown.

All up, I thought it was great. I loved every minute of it. There isn’t really much I would change and I think, although not a perfect film from a technical standpoint, the combination of overall faithfulness to the source material and minor changes to keep things interesting more than made up for it.

NINE outta TEN

Oh Stanley Tucci - you delight us so.

In the words of SuperMarcey

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, I am sure you’ve heard about The Hunger Games. The books are being read by just about everyone and the inevitable film adaptation has been made. But is it any good? In one word … YES!
Now I haven’t read the book by Suzanne Collins, the first in a trilogy. I managed to read a few chapters but life took over and I wasn’t able to finish it before the film’s release. So my review is solely on the film, as I can’t state whether it was faithful to the source material ect …
The film takes place in the future, where North America has collapsed and become Panem. Panem is a country that is divided into the Capitol and 12 Districts, each ranging in wealth and poverty. Each year, an event called The Hunger Games takes place, as part of a reminder (but really an intimidation by the government who controls all) of the past, they randomly select a girl and boy from each District known as Tributes to take part. They must eliminate each other and he the only one left wins and fortune awaits, the Games are also broadcast for everyone to see. From District 12 we meet Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers for the games in place of her sister. She joins her District 12 counter part Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as they train together and go into the games knowing they will likely die.
The premise is rather brutal, as The Hunger Games are an event where teenagers are forced to kill each other. Most of the people of Panem (unless you are rich) are have no hope, no money, barely any food and basically fend for themselves. It is a government controlled and repressed place, and trust me this aspect will certainly get you involved in the film. The rich who live in the Capitol (a place most will never see) are the ones who thrive and are basically puppets to the government. The politics in the first half of the film are fantastic, it isn’t too complex but it is certainly interesting and it really drives the film.
The main character of Katniss is the focus, it is after all her story and we’re with her all the way. We also get quite a bit of time with Peeta as well, and everyone else is really supporting but most get decent face time. I had no problems with this as it was done perfectly. I didn’t feel like any development was rushed or ignored, it really was paced well and it is engaging. Katniss and her interactions with others as well as her will to survive is such a strong spot. As soon as you meet this character you’ll be in love with her.

Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic; director Gary Ross wasn’t lying when he said she owned this film. I loved her, she brought all the right elements to Katniss, a tough and selfless individual, one of the best and strongest female leads I have seen for a while. While Liam Hemsworth wasn’t in it much, he was really good as her best friend Gale (I expect he has a bigger part to play in the sequels). Josh Hutcherson was a real surprise, I wasn’t overly sold from what I had seen of him in previews but the guy owned the role as Peeta. I thought he played it perfectly, and the chemistry was certainly there with Lawrence. Woody Harrelson was amazing, his character of Haymitch (A former District 12 victor) was great and Woody was perfectly cast. I liked Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, a kind of mentor and helper for Katniss, he had this soft touch that worked. Elizabeth Banks stole all her scenes as Effie, as flamboyant as they come, she played it perfectly and her timing was fantastic. Stanley Tucci was incredible; I don’t even want to say anything because you just need to see him! Donald Sutherland did well, he’s an amazing actor and he played his role with just the right amount of beef. A big surprise for me was Wes Bentley (loved the beard), I really hope this is the first sign of a good and solid come back, he rocked this role and he really feels like a new man.
The action in this film is brutal; the games themselves are brutal and hard to watch. The killing aspect was a lot more intense than I had expected and younger viewers might be distressed by it (heck my mother even had a hard time with some scenes), but there are so many other reasons why the games are brutal and you’ll see why. This part of the film was differently paced and it worked, we’re right in there with the people viewing and we don’t miss anything. I guess one slight downside is because we’re with Katniss, we don’t really get to know the other competitors and perhaps if we had their deaths would have hit harder. The relationship that forms between Katniss and Peeta was strong and I think it was handled really well. However with that said, the best bonds and the chemistry between the actors was on fire, was with Katniss and Cinna and Katniss and Haymitch. These really help build up the story and characters, without which the film would have suffered.
The look and feel of the film was great, from the dire and sad look of District 12 to the vibrance of the Capital, it looked amazing. The grand scale of events leading into the Games was also impressive, and the sort of talk show-esque stuff was actually incredibly entertaining. The script was a good one, and Gary Ross was clearly the right man for the job. I enjoyed this film so much, I am still thinking about it and that means something! I am eager to get the sequel, and see where the story leads.
The Hunger Games has a strong story, great characters, amazing performances, solid direction and script and it looks fantastic. You really can’t go wrong with this, from teens upwards this has such a strong appeal, I really can’t recommend this enough to everyone.

In the words of G-Funk…

The Hunger Gamesis a movie with a lot of attention on it as a result of the growing and increasingly fanatic fanbase that has sprung up around the book series. With such intense scrutiny and a horde of detail obsessed viewers ready to pick it apart (there have been complaints about the main characters backpack not being ‘orange’ enough) it would be easy for a film like this to falter under the pressure or a push to make the existing fans happy.

The end result is a perfect example of how to adapt a novel. Not a perfect example of a film (more on that later) but a great example of how to adapt a popular book to the big screen. Firstly, the characters have been very well cast. From Lawrence as Katniss down to the roles that only have a brief amount of screen time such as Kravitz as Cinna, everyone feels as though they have walked of the page and into the real world. Not only do they bear a striking resemblance to how the characters have been described but they are capable of embodying what make the character distinctive. Elizabeth Banks, usually a one-trick pony, disappears into the delightfully shallow and naive Effie and her banter with Harrelson’s gruff and moody Haymitch provide some of the best scenes in the movie. Some casting directors are happy to settle on the first actor who looks the part regardless of talent or range (yes, Twilight, I am looking at you). The Hunger Games could not have done better in assembling both a group of young performers whose agents must be wading through job offers come morning and a team of more experienced actors who take on the secondary roles with a fierce dedication.

Part of the intrigue in the book series came from Panem being a deep and well thought out world and the directors attention to detail on the screen and in the script draws this out for the film. From the desperate slums of District 12 to the circus-like fashion obsessed denizens of the Capitol everything looks like it’s grown out of a long history. Glimpses of the cities monuments do more than present a bright, futuristic city but a place that has existed. The technologies and the rituals feel natural and it’s easy to lose yourself in the experience. The set and costumes designers have done an amazing job making more than just a functional background but a real society.

Thematically the movie hits the nail on the head. Instead of forcing ‘The Message’ down the viewers throats director Ross utilizes quiet, poignant moments to spark a thought in the mind of the viewer, a welcome approach after so many films rely on characters speaking every thought out loud. A stand out moment occurs when Heymitch, the survivor of a previous Hunger Games, watches a child excitedly unwrapping his toy sword and using it to attack his sister. The film is littered with clever moments such as these that bring hammer the point home. Stanley Tucci is downright brilliant as Ceaser, the host of the games, putting a face on the televised aspect of the slaughter and perfectly mimicking the attitude of modern reality shows and violence obsessed news channels. Using Tucci and Bentley (the director of the Games) to open the movie, discussing the games before contrasting the glitz of the television show with the poverty of District 12.

With much of the novel being told from the point of view of Katniss, who is often alone and thinking to herself, the director is faced with the challenge of how to communicate details about what is going on in the arena to the viewer. It would be silly to have Katniss talking to herself or starting a voice-over (yes, you, Twilight) to explain Tracker Jackers, canons and whatnot. Instead they’ve opted to cut away to Ceaser in the studio, usually alongside Toby Jones as the Games producer, discussing the facts. These inserts hammer home the reality television aspect of the event, and the degree to which the slaughter of youths is used as entertainment for the tacky masses. Also welcome are the scenes inside the control room for the games, featuring a good-for-the-first-time-since-American-Beauty Wes Bentley that gives everything an added element of realism. The inclusion of the beginning of a revolution against the Capitol gets hinted at, a smart move in linking the events of this film directly to the rest of the series.

Whilst the above sounds like unfiltered gushing – and it is – this is not a perfect film. Ross has developed a caffeine-powered camera with all the expected side-effects in that it never stops jumping around. Combine this with the almost constant close-ups and fast edits and it’s sometimes indecipherable for anyone not currently on speed to follow. This makes sense for some of the more intense action sequence but when a character is jogging along a road it’s overkill. This is one aspect of the film that Ross could have eased off a little.

The ending is shockingly abrupt with everything getting tied up with almost a montage-like efficiency inside of about ten minutes once the game is ended. For those not expecting the first part of a trilogy this is going to seem confusing. As annoying as it normally is, slapping a big “To Be Continued” on the end would’ve worked nicely given the note that they end on. Now for the most petty complaint we will allow – it constantly seems strange that the boys of impoverished mining sector District 12 have such ready access to hair product. Even after hours spent lying in the mud on contestant still has perfectly styled hair. It’s silly, but it’s distracting.

For those wondering how the extreme violence from the book is handled in a film that is marketed towards a younger audience, think along the lines of the shower scene from Psycho. You see the axe swing, see the blood splatter and a body fall to the ground, but no footage of a weapon making contact. While this sounds as though all the killing happens of screen, it’s remarkable the details that the human imagination will fill in. It proves that subtlety can be just as effected as tipping buckets of gore on the camera – more so if well handled. The stunned silence in the cinema is testament to the effectiveness of the blood bath than begins the Hunger Games.

To surmise, it hit the nail on the head.

Score: NINE outta TEN