I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Hunger Games

tn_hungergamesOkay, I admit it. I kinda liked THE HUNGER GAMES. I was real turned off by all the pre-release hoopla, the reporting of every miniscule detail of casting and filming, for a movie from an only okay director (sorry, Pleasantvillamaniacs) based on a book written for kids and too recent for any of the reporters to have grown up on it and have a personal connection to it. It seemed pretty transparent to me that publicists had convinced everybody that this was gonna be the next TWILIGHT, and they were running scared trying to learn the lingo and the character names to show they knew all about this. Hey man I’ll suck your dick for a hit.

Okay that last sentence was harsh but I wrote it down in my notebook and it’s too late to back out now, it’s part of the historical record. I still feel that way but also I gotta admit I was wrong when I predicted nobody would like the movie that much and it would be quickly forgotten. Then they hired a director I kinda like (I AM LEGEND’s Francis Lawrence) for parts 2-3 so I figured it was time to shut up and listen to all the cool uncles of the internet and try this out. Also I was kind of into Jennifer Lawrence after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Sorry. But I watched it with an open-minded and I mostly enjoyed it.

In case any of you are holdouts like I was I’ll explain what it’s about. Academy Award winner Jennifer “Li’l Mystique” Lawrence stars as a young girl (I’m not gonna say her name yet) in a depressing future where there’s apparently no manufactured food so she has to bowhunt for birds and shit to feed her mom and little sister. It’s actually not as bad as the place she lived at in WINTER’S BONE (in fact she kills and eats a squirrel in both movies, she’s gonna get typecast), except that the government comes around once a year to draft two “tributes” to go fight to the death in televised only-one-survives outdoor gladiatorial combat, and that’s kinda shitty in my opinion.

I know everybody points out the similarities to BATTLE ROYALE, but it was the different context that warmed me up to the movie. Here it’s not just brutal exploitation of bloodlust, it’s the government’s way of terrorizing the people into staying in line. It’s justified as punishment for an uprising that happened 75 years ago, agreed to in a treaty back then. They paint it as patriotic, with triumphant theme music. The DEATH RACE broadcasts are like wrestling, this is more mainstream, Olympics meets American Idol.

mp_hungergamesStanley Tucci is a TV host who interviews them, pretends to be moved by their stories, treats them like people chasing a dream when they’re really victims of a tyrannical government about to be publicly executed. But in an inspiring way, you know?

The ruling class who run the games are completely clueless to the plight of the victims, repeatedly wishing them “Happy Hunger Games!”, calling it a “pageant,” etc. They have no fucking idea. Elizabeth Banks, as a ridiculously made-up woman who’s supposed to be their chaperone or sponsor or something, seems to honestly think she’s on this girl’s side, like a slavemaster who prides herself in being “good” to her slaves. Woody Harrelson, as a former player turned trainer, seems more aware, giving good advice without pretending he’s a good guy. Lenny Kravitz, her costume designer, is the only person who acknowledges that fucked up shit is going on, saying “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Okay, you may have heard this whispered about in pop culture and what not, but Lawrence’s character is unfortunately named “Katniss Everdeen.” I know, I still feel bad for telling you guys that Will Smith’s character in AFTER EARTH was named “Cypher Raige,” now I gotta drop this one on you. They all got goofy names like that, ’cause it’s the future.

Here’s a quiz for you: HUNGER GAMES character or Spike Lee character?

1. Caesar Flickerman
2. Effie Trinket
3. Flipper Purify
4. Hob Vendor
5. Opal Gilstrap
6. Seneca Crane
7. Peeta Mellark
8. Haymitch Abernathy
9. Claudius Templesmith
10. Greer Childs
11. Magicky Oddlycakes
12. Cedar Cloud
13. Glimmer
14. Lala Bonilla
15. Foxface
16. Eggy
17. Indigo Downes

(ANSWERS: 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 15 – Hunger Games. 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 – Spike Lee. 11 – The Hobbit or something.)

still_hungergamesThe names are kinda silly, but I had a bigger problem with the fashions of the upper class people. I know they’re trying to establish how different their lives and priorities are, so Wes Bentley (P2) has time to shave his goatee into a flame shape and Banks can put on a corset and wig like it’s the old west and more makeup than a geisha. I like the concept, but they just look so… stupid. I don’t like looking at them. Especially the commentators, Tucci and Toby Jones with their big ass wigs.

The real problem I see with it is that Katniss is a peasant who is temporarily taken in by a world of luxury, given feasts and fancy hotel rooms, treated like a celebrity, all as part of forcing her to kill or be killed. Wouldn’t it be more uncomfortable, and therefore dramatic, if this world seemed tempting? If she was kinda seduced by it? I think so. But it’s just not an appealing world when everybody’s dressed up like they’re in that Nathan Lane NUTCRACKER movie or some crap like that. No thanks. Put me out in the woods again.

But I guess “uncomfortable” is not what they’re looking for. It’s impossible to really deliver on this concept but also be appropriate for kids. I don’t necessarily think the deaths have to be more graphic (although of course I hate the camera shaking they use to avoid having to show anything R-rated-ish). I just mean that thematically they’re forced to cop out. The horror of this Hunger Games thing is not that she could die – we figure she won’t. So the horror is that she’s forced to be a killer. But Katniss barely has to face the choice of killing someone she doesn’t want to. Her adorable ally Rue (Amandla Stenberg, COLOMBIANA) (SPOILER) is killed by someone else, so is the other guy from Rue’s district, and most everybody else. She only kills a bunch of jerks that are attacking her.

I was also thrown off by the use of animals in the Games. The movie establishes a pretty grounded world, and a scene involving a wasp’s nest worked fine without the flourish of them being genetically modified hallucinogenic wasps. Worse, the pack of vicious cat-dogs which, if I understand correctly, they created on a computer? I didn’t get how that worked.

But Katniss is a good heroine, the kind of blunt, no-time-for-bullshit character Lawrence excels at. She gets some excellent badass moments, like when she gets the elites’ attention by shooting an arrow through the apple on their roast pig, and when she taunts a gang of armed killers while they have her trapped in a tree. And the opening had me hooked with Banks painfully drawing out the drawing of the name like it’s the lottery, and the way the cameras communicate Katniss and her sister’s shock and disorientation as their names come up.

It’s got problems but it’s pretty good. Good enough to watch part 2, anyway.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 11th, 2013 at 2:22 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

66 Responses to “The Hunger Games”

  1. So I just turned on the TV and saw that a heavily edited early morning re-run of this was running. I turn the TV off and a review of it pops up on your websight. If this had happened on Halloween with a different movie, I would have shat my pants. (No, not really. But it would have been eerier.)

  2. p.s. Honestly I think AFTER EARTH is a way more solid “young adult” type of sci-fi adventure. But with its cool heroine and class warfare themes HUNGER GAMES is more fit for continuation.

  3. I had a much bigger problem with the shaky cam. Double bullshit here because Ross said it was to avoid making a slick, glamorized version of killing children. So it’s a phony pretentious reason for using a phony pretentious technique, and it’s bullshit. It was for the rating.

    And more so that Katniss never had to actively kill someone. Always self defense or indirectly. Just reeks of Hollywood “likability” issues. And this comes from the book, but an author isn’t going to risk turning readers off to her heroine either, at least not in part one.

    And also, EVERY battle Royale story cops out by doing half the deaths off camera or in a quick montage. If you’re writing a story about a fight to the death between 24 combatants, you better damn well think of 23 awesome deaths.

  4. I enjoyed it pretty well too, though I admit I woulda preferred a more brutal, R-rated version(I never read the book but as I understand it it’s actually more graphic than the movie). I agree all the high society people look like morons, but I dunno, maybe if you grew up in that world that sort of society seems appealing? Then again, I see celebs today wearing clothes that I find hideous but apparently cost like $100k and are considered high fashion too, so what do I know?

    Also I’ve read various interviews with Lawrence, and she really does seem to be down to earth, straightforward, no-bullshit type. Very respectable lady from all I’ve read.

  5. I don’t know why the clothes seem to be such a dealbreaker for many. They obviously went for an absolutely understandable Baroque-meets-hightened-version-of-contemporary-silliness approach. Just look at some of the weird shit that NORMAL people wear today! To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if we dress in this movie around 2085.

  6. I admit I liked the books these are based on. I think they do a bit better job addressing some of the things you mentioned, playing up more of her horror at maybe having to hurt somebody else and the seduction of living in the city.

    Also, the ending of the last book is (SPOILERs) probably the bleakest, most nihilistic thing I’ve ever seen in a kids’ book. It’s really dark, and not dark in the way that people talk about Star Wars V but dark as in like every single character is either dead or not much better off. All of the main characters left alive just spend every day in a hollow joyless traumatized daze, Woody Harrelson is back to being an alcoholic wreck, and then on top of that the whole theme of the last book is that there are no good guys, society will never stop exploiting you; you can’t even trust the guys who say they want to fix things, they’re just as bad as the last guy. Maybe worse.

    It really is just shockingly hopeless. There’s not even a moral, it’s just like “hey, the world is a fucked up place, here you go kids”.

  7. OJ (not that one)

    November 11th, 2013 at 2:51 am

    I know you probably had way more time for reading back in the joint, but you need to get the book(s), “young adult” be damned. (The only thing that get them labeled that is the age of the protagonists, anyway.) I picked up the first one because your old pal Drew McMoriarty liked it, and it blew me the fuck away. The first film baaarely does the book justice, but that’s probably not all Gary Ross’s fault. Maybe I’m just defending him because he wrote Dave, but 100% of the books take place inside Katniss’s head and you obviously cannot film this without making it Voiceoverpalooza. Also, reading about the ridiculous fashions (slightly toned down for the film, as far as I remember) is not nearly at grating as having to actually look at them.

  8. it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not particularly good either, it’s just that the bar is so fucking low for these “Young Adult” adaptions that it can’t help but seem like a masterpiece when compared to say, fucking TWILIGHT

    here’s my beef with the movie, I dislike it when movie adaptions of novels are just truncated versions of the book without putting it’s own spin on it that makes it stand on it’s own, I’ve never read the book but this movie still got that particular Spidey sense tingling, I could tell that a lot was missing, for example they never explain why it’s fucking called The Hunger Games, which from what I remember from reading a review of the book is because it helps decide which Districts get the lion’s share of food, which is supposed to be scarce in this future, if I hadn’t already knew that I never would have known why it’s called The Hunger Games, that’s a sign of laziness and sloppiness if I ever saw one, JURASSIC PARK and THE SHINING are perfect examples of how you adapt a novel right, yeah a lot of stuff had to be left out too but they work so well as movies that it doesn’t matter

    and the action stinks, for a movie about a fight to the death the “action sequences” (if you can even call then that) sure are dull and unexciting

    however there is one thing that saves the movie, that it works as an interesting commentary on the modern day, the stark divide between the rich and the poor, reality TV, the way the media manipulates people’s emotions about things and conspiracy theories of a coming “New World Order”, it captures the zeitgeist well and I can see why it’s become so popular

    so yeah, I’m up for the next one, but they need to step up their game

  9. and by the way, I just want to say that PLEASANTVILLE is a fucking awesome movie, it’s a movie that very easily could have just been a lame comedy, but instead it decided to go beyond it’s “high concept” premise and actually say some interesting things

  10. I’m with Vern. Has problems, but good enough to want to see a sequel. High praise.

    I both liked and hated the costume choices. I get that they’re going for a French aristocracy thing and trying to bring up imagery of the French Revolution and whatever. Makes sense. It’s just too on the nose and it drawing from a historical context betrays the immediate reality and timeliness of class warfare right here and now. By trying to be symbolic it becomes less meaningful. Its obviousness betrays its intentions.

    Good movie. I even liked some of the shaky cam (the scene where they’re running for their backpacks or whatever in the beginning is especially effective).

    I don’t know, I’ve seen it once like 6 months ago and it was on HBO and I still remember a lot about it, and not because it was stupid. Hard to dislike a movie that does that.

    I hope they find a role for Vin Diesel in one of these.

  11. I saw this during its theatrical run, mainly to see what all the fuss being kicked up was (never read any of the books), and liked it well enough. It surprised me in that it made a ton of money for a movie that’s essentially (as Tugboat pointed out in reference to the final book) quite bleak. Maybe the books (and by extension this movie) tapped into that whole “emo” subculture that [why] these kids today have latched onto, and they wholeheartedly went to town on it. Fuckit; whatever works.

    Plus, you’ve got Josh Hutcherson (quite possibly the biggest dweeb in that age group since Anthony Michael Hall in his mid-80’s heyday) playing what amounts to a heroine in distress role, and Lawrence’s Katniss is the Alpha Female character who rises up and saves the day. Weird… it’s almost as though the movie crashes into audience expectations (for those uninitiated to the books) at a 90 degree angle. Am I primed for the second movie?… damn skippy. And it’s no coincidence that it’s dropping in late November, just as the first two Twilight movies did. Very shrewd.

    Gotta love the supporting cast in this movie (especially Woody Harrelson, split down the middle between nonchalant diffidence and utter seriousness, and Stanley Tucci doing mid-OTT smarmy as only he can), but Jennifer Lawrence carries this movie on her shoulders, and well. Having seen her on Letterman twice and read a number of print interviews with her… she comes across as semi-goofy and utterly grounded and just plain real. And ALL of that fluidly translates into her movie performances. Setting aside her exotically generic good looks, I think she’s the best natural actress working today.

  12. Griff— I hear you vis-à-vis about the gulf between any book worth its salt and the movie adaptation if it follows. The trick is to disregard the port of departure and just let the voyage take you where it will. Not so difficult if you’ve not read the book, more tricky if you have. Apples and oranges, mate.

  13. I never saw this, because come on. It’s an action movie for teenage girls, who historically have the worst taste of any group of people ever. But I have to admit that the trailer for the second one looks pretty good. Lots of good stick-it-to-the-Man moments. And since it’s been scientifically proven by now that Jennifer Lawrence is probably the awesomest hot chick in the world, I might just have to play catch-up like Vern did.

  14. Mr. Majestyk— I beg to differ, sir. Japanese teenage girls set the standard for what reigns triumphant in worldwide pop culture. Or so I’ve read.

    Plus, it behooves you not to let but a subjective stiffy draw you towards Miss Lawrence’s considerable thespian abilities. Hot actress/gifted actress is kind of a double-edged sword, but it’s a good sword, and a sharp sword. And a sword I’d like to be impaled upon.

    OK; you’re correct.

  15. I liked Lawrence before I knew she was hot. WINTER’S BONE was my favorite movie of whatever year that was, and they managed to dull her down enough that it wasn’t until her first red carpet pictures that I realized what a gorgeous young woman she was. But it’s not even her looks that do the trick. She just has a light in her that draws the eye. It’s impossible to look at anything else when she’s onscreen.

  16. The books are actually good with something worthwile to say (unlike Twilight books). If I had a YA kid, I’d love her/him to read these books. They ending is good too.

    My problem with the film (as an adaptation it had a lot of problems, especially during the games section) is that Katniss in the book at the beginning is very very thin. The majority of the community is on the verge of starvation and she is very skinny with lots of scars and filth. She starts to fill up at the train journey as she manages to eat regularly and to her fill and when she reaches the capital they put her into some kind of a beauty device where all her scars are erased and she is kind of real life photoshopped. In the film she looks healthy and well fed to start with which could have been avoided with some sort of film make up or something since it is actually a big deal in the story.

  17. Mr. M— Yes, that’s sheer animal magnetism. It conquers all, especially on the movie screen. You can’t develop that or teach that… it’s just THERE.

  18. I’m going to just second what Griff said, both about the Hunger Games and Pleasantville. I caught Hunger Games because it was streaming on Netflix, but to be honest I probably wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. I’ve never read the books, but the movie felt like it was an adaptation regardless. Much like the early Harry Potter movies, there was something inert about the Hunger Games. The movie seemed to drag its feet a lot, and while I don’t mind this in a lot of films (see: Blade Runner of the Lord of the Rings movies), the world of the Hunger Games wasn’t immersive enough for me to want to hang out in it for two and a half hours. A good adaptation knows when to tell all of the fans of the book to go fuck off. Film is a different medium and you might not be able to include all of your Tom Bombadils.

    And yeah Pleasantville is pretty fucking great. It takes Plato’s allegory of the cave and projects it onto 1950s America. In lesser hands the movie would have just been a dumb comedy about how things are different today than they were fifty years ago. Instead, the film really transcended that easy dichotomy. Hell, I even remember enjoying Seabiscut, so Gary Ross isn’t so bad.

  19. Eliza: I’ve heard nothing but good things about HUNGER GAMES as reading material for its target demographic. Strong female protagonist with more on her mind than romance, who gets by on skill and will, not by being rescued by the men in her life. I’m all for it. But I’m not in that demographic so I’m not particularly interested in reading the books. I never read HARRY POTTER either.

  20. “I know everybody points out the similarities to BATTLE ROYALE, but it was the different context that warmed me up to the movie. Here it’s not just brutal exploitation of bloodlust, it’s the government’s way of terrorizing the people into staying in line.”

    Actually, wasn’t it explained in Battle Royale that a different class of kids was picked for the BR every year due to the governemtn passing the Battle Royale Act, which was enacted in response to rising crime rates among the country’s youth? I’m pretty sure there was still a government-terrorizing-the-people-to-keep-them-in-line thing going on there. Same with RUNNING MAN, right, though less explicit? Doesn’t this all just go back to the Romans entertaining the citizens with gladiator matches while the city around them crumbles and burns?

  21. The main reason I haven’t yet watched this, is how tacky it looked visually in all the marketing. But sequels-director Lawrence obviously has a strong visual sense (despite his weird love of tacky CGI humanoids), and the trailers are making the sequel look really good.

    So I have to watch this as well, in preparation for the next one.

    Also, I think it’s really cool that this is essentially a big scale action movie with a strong FEMALE lead, and it made more than 400 million in USA. This is a first time in movie history. I think that’s a really big deal, and it will certainly help to make more female-starring, big scale action movies in the future.

  22. I liked the movie but for me, the issue, is that the actual Hunger Games part is REALLY boring so I wanted to learn more about the world and not the sub plot.

  23. I checked out of this as soon as I realised that the ridiculously dressed imbeciles controlled the rest of the world. I never got past a the mental image of a regular looking guy smashing the makeup off an over dressed hipster.

    To be honest, I had a better film playing in my head thinking about people setting fire to ludicrous facial hair and kicking the wigs off pampered men.

  24. Mrs Ashbrook did thoroughly enjoy the books and assured me they are top notch.

    I’m sticking with Jack Reacher.

  25. Why’s everyone saying that Katniss is a strong female lead? In the books, maybe – I haven’t read those. But in the movie? For someone who is allegedly as hard as she’s made out to be, she scarcely ever manages to get out of a tight spot on her own. Injured? Sponsors send gift. Cornered? Little girl points out wasps. Stung by wasps? Little girl saves her. Peeta injured? Sponsors. Impending death in a fight with knife-wielding girl? Another guy saves her. I’m not saying she should be a teenage John Rambo (actually, that’d be awesome), but some additional resourcefulness on her part would’ve been nice.

    I actually thought the movie was a bland, lazy, boring mess, badly written and shot. I’m surprised so many of you folks view it positively.

  26. I haven’t seen this one, but I probably should, since it’s on Netflix and everything. I tried picking up the book a couple years ago, but gave up after 100 pages. It was really, really poorly written; short declarative sentence after short declarative sentence. Add in the inherent silliness of the whole enterprise, and I just couldn’t hang with it.

    That said, I am a fan of teenage murder, and Jennifer Lawrence is babetacular. Maybe I’ll watch it tonight.

    Mostly though I want a hard R adaptation of The Long Walk. That’s a “teenagers have to outlast each other or be brutally murdered” story done right.

  27. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but as far as I’m concerned, pop culture is such a dire wasteland for young women that any female protagonist whose primary goal is not to find a dick to put in herself for the rest of her life is probably a step in the right direction.

  28. This is one of the few examples where I’m convinced that a film would have completely bombed if it wasn’t for the presence of its lead. Jennifer Lawrence single-handedly carries this film. She is the franchise. Put Vanessa Hudgens or Chloe Grace Moretz in there and the whole thing falls apart. And they say the age of the movie star is over.

    I generally liked it, though, despite some stupidity (seriously, that kid painting the world’s most elaborately detailed camouflage on himself is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen). But hey, I’d rather have the kids watching this than Twilight.

    Also, it’s nice to see the bow and arrow back in fashion (Rambo, Brave, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, this). Can’t wait for the nunchucks to make a comeback.

  29. Or the mini garden forks, they’ll be back, you mark my words.

  30. But the real question is: Does the movie pass the Bechdel test? *runs away*

  31. I’m having a Griff moment here, too. I just bought the three-pack of books yesterday. I read the first book not long ago after seeing the film. I thought the movie was a good adaptation, not great, but that Lawrence’s performance is near perfect.

    I wish they had included a few more of the touches and plot points that really demonstrate how cut-throat and brutal their society is, especially when it comes to the games. (BOOK SPOILER) I thought it was a big mistake to leave out the part of the book where they’re chased by the dogs and Katniss realizes that the dogs are genetically modified versions of the dead contestants, even Rue. To me, it was just a horrific moment and showed how these childreb were thought of like animals. END SPOILER

    From the trailers, I think they’re going to show a lot more of the nasty side of the Hunger Games world and society. It reminds me of how the Harry Potter series became darker as it went on, at least until its ridiculous ending.

  32. I read the books. They were great.

    Then I watched the movie… and oh, boy.

    It’s not QUITE as bad as it could’ve been… but to say it misses any of the satirical points the book was trying to make is probably being kinder to the movie than it deserves.

    And the shakycam was worst for me at the very beginning of the movie. There’s an entire two minute montage of Katniss’ home town near the start where I simply could not tell what the hell was going on (and that was AFTER I’d read the book). There’s a one-second shot of a peddlar selling… something? Then what looks like a game of Chinese checkers? Then some people walking away from the camera down a road? All delivered in cuts of one or two seconds? How the hell am I supposed to get ANYTHING from this?

    When the action started… I thought it improved. Not much, but it did improve.

    On the whole I’d put this a step below “Prometheus” in terms of quality. “Prometheus” is definitely better on a technical level. And while both are bad films with a few interesting bits, “Prometheus” at least TRIES to do something interesting with its source material – even if it doesn’t succeed. “The Hunger Games”, the movie, felt like a cash-in made by people who clearly didn’t understand the appeal of the books.

    Rue’s death was done brilliantly though. It was a real “lightsaber duel in Attack of the Clones” moment – left me wondering why the rest of the film couldn’t have been as good as that.

    (What annoyed me even more than the film, though, were the legions of people on the Internet who were quick to chime in and call this one “just a rip-off of Battle Royale!” As though they’d “caught out” Suzanne Collins and “proved” the worthlessness of her books in one insufferably smug observation. Apparently based on the thinking that “Battle Royale” was a totally original and unique piece of social satire that had no influences, anywhere. And don’t get me wrong, I love me some “Battle Royale”; but original and unique it was not, even when it first came out.)

    This one wasn’t on my “worst of 2012” list because there were films that I found were a FAR worse experience – even if they might have been better films on an objective level. That said, I found “The Hunger Games” enough of a lazy cash-in of a novel I really enjoyed that I still kinda want somebody to do a proper evisceration. Mouth, you there?

  33. On Vern’s review:

    “The ruling class who run the games are completely clueless to the plight of the victims, repeatedly wishing them “Happy Hunger Games!”, calling it a “pageant,” etc. They have no fucking idea.”

    See, this is one moment where the movie misses the point of the book. And I know it’s kind of unfair to judge a 2-hour movie to a 300-page book – some stuff is always going to be left out – but my point here is that the movie doesn’t do anything of its own to make up for what was left out. Heck, it doesn’t seem to have any awareness that there was something there to be put IN.

    The ruling classes are 100% complicit in the plight of their victims in the books. It’s hinted at that this is why they feed the contestants luxury food and throw them parades – it’s because they’re so terrified of a lower-class “revolt” that they’re willing to go along with the barbarity of the Hunger Games, but at the same time they have enough of a conscience to make the contestants’ final days “special”. It’s their way of feeling less bad about what they’re doing, basically. I didn’t get any of this from the movie (which immediately brings up the question: why, then, do the ruling classes not just keep the contestants in a dungeon or something? This is never answered.)

    “Wouldn’t it be more uncomfortable, and therefore dramatic, if this world seemed tempting? If she was kinda seduced by it? I think so.”

    I kinda wish they’d gone with this, since all of the elements that Katniss finds most revolting in the novel – the tongueless escaped slave that she couldn’t help, the vomit vodka, etc – seem to have been removed from the film. (In all fairness, I don’t think the vomit drink even featured in the first book, but the slave definitely did.) Again – I don’t mind these elements being removed from the movie – I just wish they’d put SOMETHING in the film to justify it.

  34. So do the common people think the Hunger Games are a noble patriotic duty they are proud to participate in or do they think it’s total bullshit and all the pageantry is for the benefit of the ruling class?

  35. This movie made me realize how miserable it must have been for non-book readers to deal with HARRY POTTER. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but the whole time there kept being little references and gestures that you know made sense to people who knew the books, but that seemed random and weightless to me.

    But the only real problem with the movie, as a movie, is that it’s too damn long. Ross made a strong choice to divide each of the three movements into distinct visual styles, but the flip-side of that is that the viewer sits through an almost feature-length run time and THEN the games get started.

    Still, I liked it and look forward to the sequels, which I’m given to understand go to some truly intense and challenging places. Bring it on.

  36. Crustacean, they are bitter and resentful. In fact the whole next two books/three movies are about the revolution Katniss started by daring to defy the Capital (and having two victors).

    The biggest crime was that in cutting away from the kills, they robbed the film of some of it’s most powerful moments. The death of Rue was fucking powerful in the book, and pretty gruesome too, but the need to get a PG moment ruined that.

    The third book is a mess, but like Tugboat said, it’s the grimmest most hopeless end of anything not written by Cormac McCarthy. It might even be worse than having everyone live at the end of the Twilight “books”.

  37. these comments are making me want to read the books

  38. Griff, I literally just started the second one and came on here for a break. Do it!

  39. Griff, they’re not bad – the second is the best. The third is a fucking mess, but still interesting in a very fucked up way.

  40. I was resigned to the shaky action before I saw it; the dealbreaker for me was the film’s failure to communicate a sense of danger during the Games. The movie seems to forget that people are out to kill Katniss whenever it needs her to pause and have an emotional moment in an open clearing or whatever. I might be exaggerating but it seemed to me that the basic elements of tactics and suspense just weren’t there.

    But guys, I heard that Ms. Lawrence was getting all this crap about her weight from the filmmakers (it might have been Catching Fire or X-Men, I can’t remember). Holy shit dude, finally they give us a woman who doesn’t look like a coat hanger and Hollywood is like “whoops!”??

  41. It’s weird, for being such a cool story idea, it seems like this never gets executed very well in movies. Hunger Games blows it by copping out big time, both in terms of the morally untarnished heroine, and the shaky-cam killing.

    Battle Royale gets major points for ballsiness, and delivers on the action big-time, but has tons of over-acting and ultimately comes off really shallow and empty.

    The Condemned is painfully boring and the action sucks.

    It’s funny, but The Running Man might still be the best version of this type of story, despite being ultra-campy and over-the-top, unless I’m forgetting something.

  42. I have watched and read Battale Royale (great book, the film pales after you read it) and can safely say that they are different and even if she picked up the idea she gave her own good and solid spin on it.

  43. “I have watched and read Battale Royale (great book, the film pales after you read it) and can safely say that they are different and even if she picked up the idea she gave her own good and solid spin on it”.

    RE:

    The whole concept of “She stole the idea from Battle Royale” is beyond retarded. There have been countless of real world civilizations, where similar games have been held regularly. If someone thinks Hunger Games is a copycat of Battle Royale, they just have an awful knowledge of history.

  44. BTW Eliza, just to point out, I wasn’t arguing against your thoughtful response, but just commenting on the ridiculous copycat accusations that raised when Hunger Games was released.

  45. Tuukka –

    “The whole concept of “She stole the idea from Battle Royale” is beyond retarded. There have been countless of real world civilizations, where similar games have been held regularly. If someone thinks Hunger Games is a copycat of Battle Royale, they just have an awful knowledge of history.”

    YES! That’s exactly what I mean. This is what irks me about the people who smugly dismiss the series as “just a Battle Royale rip-off”. Not only is it obnoxious and (in my opinion) downright incorrect, it also dismisses all of the other stuff that influenced “Battle Royale” and probably “The Hunger Games” as well.

  46. I never thought BATTLE ROYALE was screamingly original anyway. If anything, it felt really out of touch and derivative. It took so much effort to see that movie in the early 2000s after Tarantino talked it up so much and then it was a total letdown.

  47. Majestyk, did you really watch WINTER’S BONE and not think that was a beautiful young woman you were watching? But then you saw her on a red carpet and went “Whaaaaaaaaaaa?”

    I don’t mean to single you out, it’s just I have heard that very same WINTER’S BONE/red carpet comment often since the movie came out and it surprises me. I actually think she’ s prettier without red carpet stuff all over her but that’s fine, she rocks it both ways. Must be that light inside her that draws me, though now I just want her to be that vulnerable girl I saw in LIKE CRAZY and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS so I can protect her, but clearly she would eat me alive.

  48. renfield: I’ve heard that someone wanted her to lose weight for something & she basically told them to fuck off. I really, really hope that’s a true story.

    I’ll jump on the “love her” bandwagon. My favorite true life moment with her is her reaction to Jack Nicholson interrupting an interview she was doing at some awards ceremony. It’s equal parts flirty, honored, funny & freaked out.

  49. I mean, clearly I could tell that she was a good-looking young lady, but steam didn’t start coming out of my ears like a cartoon wolf until I saw her in a certain red dress. (The same thing happened with Scarlett Johansson after LOST IN TRANSLATION. Possibly with the same red dress.) Now I can’t not see it, no matter how she’s done up.

  50. I’ll admit it, I didn’t see HUNGER GAMES because it looked like BATTLE ROYALE for teenage girls. I thought BATTLE ROYALE was good but not great, so seeing a PG-13 version that was completely unwilling to “go there” held little appeal.

  51. Okay, red dress/Scar-Jo makes more sense to me than red carpet/makeup. I still prefer natural J-Law.

    I read the first book to see if it really was better than the movie, and I must say I thought it was terrible writing. Just because it’s told in first person doesn’t make it a good narrative. Collins’ text was just a list of things happening. Katniss did this, then she saw this, then she felt this and that reminded her of this. Not really creating a world or tone there.

    I only noticed one scene in the book that wasn’t jammed into the movie, but even then if those dogs were supposed to be recycled combatants, I didn’t even get that from Collins’ writing. Sure, Hunger Gamers would put that on me, that I didn’t read carefully enough, but you guys know me pretty well. Do you really think I missed that if it were well written and constructed?

    Basically same problems with the book as the movie. Still worried about “likability” and we can’t have our heroine actually kill someone in cold blood.

    However, the CATCHING FIRE embargo has lifted now so I am allowed to say it is much better, mainly because it follows Franchise Fred’s rules of revisiting a similar formula from a different angle, and Francis Lawrence is a much better director.

    Still, is this all just building up to a “revolution,” i.e. a big battle scene? So it’s the same as THE MATRIX and HARRY POTTER then…

  52. Fred, it was pretty explicit in the book that the dogs were in some way, the competitors – you might have missed that one here.

    If they keep the big battle as written, shit is gonna get fucked UP.

  53. Darth, entirely possible. Also possible that I got it at the time but I’ve since forgotten because it impressed me so little. I was just thinking, “Finally, here’s SOMETHING from the book that they didn’t cram into the movie just to make the fans happy.”

    Also with the violence in the book, I must read like a producer, but I never read it as anything graphic that we’d see on screen. I know all the techniques to insinuate violence so I just assume it will be like that. Although I still didn’t picture shakycam in my mind’s eye (though I like to joke that even the book was Shakycam), you just imagine they can portray that with careful framing, editing, etc. which Francis Lawrence actually does more in the sequel.

  54. It can’t be as bad of an adaptation as fucking Ender’s Game.

    I was watching Jennifer Lawrence’s post-winning-the-Oscar interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLKZb1wLmAY

    She’s pretty great. She seems so baffled that people would care about the sort of celebrity stuff that people care about. What a gal.

  55. I like that joke, Fred. “I wish they didn’t use all that shakycam.” “Well, that’s straight from the book.”

  56. Darth, I just finished the final book this morning, and I was surprised how crazy it gets (good way). I have no idea how they’d film some of the things described in the final battle without an “R” rating, unless they make it lame. I’m also worried about how some of the “mutts” are going to be portrayed.

    There’s one part where they encounter BOOK SPOILER the black tar wave where it would make a very powerful scene of the cameraman reaching out from the net covered in black END SPOILER.

  57. I just know I’d have Twitter followers correcting me, saying, “But Fred, books can’t be shakycam!”

  58. “renfield: I’ve heard that someone wanted her to lose weight for something & she basically told them to fuck off. I really, really hope that’s a true story.”

    I’m all for healthy perspective of oneself, especially being a role model for young people but in this case, she really needed to lose weight because of how her character looks like at the start of the film. And the fact that she cannot get food and is almost always hungry is a big deal (in the book that is)

    Other than that, I like her. Loved her in The Winter’s Bone and think her very pretty indeed. And I like the fact that she seems to have a smart head above her pretty shoulders. I still don’t see what the big deal re: Silver Linings Playbook was but she looked great there too.

  59. Just cg her into a waif like Captain America

  60. I don’t think it was for HUNGER GAMES that someone told her to lose weight. I didn’t hear that story until recently. But, maybe it was HUNGER GAMES and the story didn’t come out, or I didn’t hear it, until recently.

  61. I wouldn’t change a thing about her, particularly her weight. I even read (somewhere, a good while ago) that David O. Russell (or the producers involved) wanted her to put ON a few pounds for Silver Linings Playbook. No matter.

    Which brings me to Sunny Point #2. Am I the only one to get a less than confident vibe from the American Hustle trailer? Yeah, it’s one of those movies where the trailer would usually thump your impressionable skull with the pronouncements of its cast as “Academy Award Winner (insert name)”, “Academy Award Nominee (insert name)”, and so on, but that’s not really Russell’s style, yet he seems to be playing that recipe game here just the same. The top six names of the cast all fit that profile… but I truly believe Russell’s gonna go three strikes & out with this one.

    He’s trying to do what PT Anderson did with Boogie Nights (exceedingly well) to timecapsule 1970’s decadence/immorality, but every fiber of my better upcoming movie instincts tells me it’s going to falter. You can have all the best actors of the moment in place, but if the GESTALT of it doesn’t occur….. the whole effort tumbles like a line of dominoes.

  62. Cookie Monster parodies HG.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT7nD02Im5E

    (You’ve finally made it J-Law!)

  63. Caught this last night. Basically a remake of first film, but bigger and better. I like how at one point J-Law has this FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING-ish group of Victors out in that jungle arena.

    In fact, probably my favorite blockbuster of the year. So far.

  64. It was okay. I can’t help but feel that there’s a pretty powerful story in there somewhere that the film just isn’t quite selling you. Moments like the old dude giving her the three fingers, or her dress turning into the mockingjay … man, I really wanted them to pull at my heartstrings like they’re obviously supposed to. At least they avoided much of the visual faux pas from the previous film.

  65. renfield – maybe J-Law should’ve broken some dude’s neck at the end?

    *Boom*

  66. Saw it at a matinee yesterday— it was OK, verging on good, not quite as kinetic as the first one. Jennifer Lawrence was on point, as expected, except for that final reaction shot where she goes from anguished to resigned, then gets all fierce. Hello? That felt unearned; prior to that, she was great.

    Fuckit; I can’t get my head straight on this now. Further impressions if/when Vern goes to HG2 town.

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