|Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games"|
Right off the bat, the filmmakers demonstrate a slipshod attitude by lazily tossing out about seven title cards explaining the back story, which is never a good sign when a movie makes you read exposition rather than view it. Those title cards tell us that certain factions of the populace are living in poverty due to some war and they’re being punished for their betrayal in this new country called Panem. I haven’t read the book but I know all that must have gotten a lot more explanation than the few sentences deemed worthy enough for the film. And the movie never explains much more after that about this new world order or the war that devastated it. It's more obsessed with the overstylized art direction, garish costuming, a few scattered expensive CGI shots, and the strange eye make-up worn by every cast member from Lawrence to Lenny Kravitz. I wanted to know more about the districts and why they have been sending in their victim/guinea pigs each year to appear in this garish reality show called "The Hunger Games” that all factions are obsessed with. These games are so popular amongst the new nation, it's lasted 75 years. Death and destruction as the new Olympics, go figure. But the lack of logic, back-story or explanation of any of this seems to have slipped the minds of director Gary Ross and his fellow screenwriters Billy Ray and adapting author Suzanne Collins. Why worry about things making sense for an audience when there are a costume designer's wet dreams and an art director's futuristic matte paintings to "ooh" and 'ahh" over?
|Elizabeth Banks in "The Hunger Games"|
|Stanley Tucci in "The Hunger Games"|
Then, there is the love triangle between Katniss (Lawrence) and her two suitors – the aforementioned Gale (Liam Hemsworth, who has precious little to do here except register as a younger version of his brother Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, quite good in “The Kids Are Alright” two years ago). The boys here seem like just two more hunks, nothing else. They're consistent with the way all young male leads seem to be cast in these things, for their brawn and magazine cover potential, rather than for true screen presence or acting ability.
|Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games"|
But despite these attributes, and a nice vindicating of the 1% holding down the 99% in today's economic world, this film seems mostly content to be slick, vacuous and shrill. Its parody has precious little bite. And I don’t know what it thinks about its main characters except that the world seems to continue to make teens moody and sullen, like they're all descendants of the likes of so serious Edward Cullen of the trite “Twilight” world. Hell, my generation had moody teens too, but at least they showed up in complex films like “Risky Business” and the John Hughes oeuvre. Don’t today’s filmmakers and teen audiences want a little more than just Calvin Klein ad posturing? Have any of them ever seen “The Graduate”?
But then this movie, and most of Hollywood these days, isn’t interested in making lasting classics. They’re primarily interested in making franchises, films that audiences, particularly teens, will come and see again and again and again, sequel after sequel.The studio spent more time on the PR and franchise implications than ensuring a great film, one that had clarity and integrity, was delivered. And yet despite such low aim, of course they’ve succeeded spectacularly on the box office front. Despite the wretched shortcomings, the audiences are lining up to see this drivel and the opening day sales already netted a nifty 20 million.
|Woody Harrelson in "The Hunger Games"|