Harry Potter is done and Twilight is coming to an end. There’s room for a new wave of teenage dramas and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was ripe for the picking. Director Gary Ross adapts the messy and unbalanced dystopian story to the best of his ability, but even his talents aren’t strong enough to off-set such a half thought out script that trades character progression for sappy romance that aims at the hearts of shallow romantics.
In a dystopian future the nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts. Each year there is a game held that pits 2 youngsters from each district against each other in a brutal fight to the death. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) offers herself as tribute to protect her sister and insecure Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is chosen as the male counterpart.
The two must train together in hopes of getting the upper-hand against the kids from the other districts. One of them is clearly the winner while the other one is simply a whiny bitch that has nothing better to do than to complain all day and night. There’s some groundbreaking character development going on here that almost feels like the film is playing on the same level as something like The Godfather. I’m kidding, because The Hunger Games is almost an exact rip-off of Battle Royale.
Still, looking at the film for what it’s worth leaves you empty handed. Gary Ross’ direction is flavorless and substituted with shaky cam syndrome whenever things get too heated for the PG-13 crowd. He keeps the violence mostly off-screen and instead focuses on the shuffle of relationships between Katniss and her various boy toys. One might be the true love while the other a front for the games, but none of that really matters, because the actual games themselves are boring.
There’s an extended scene where Katniss is held up in a tree by a group of ruthless killers and instead of burning down the tree or putting in a good effort towards killing her, they simply decide to plop down right there and nap it out until she climbs down. I’m sure your mind can take you to the results of this bonehead decision. It’s idiotic stuff like this that strongly reflects the lack of enthusiasm or care towards the script and direction.
The Hunger Games could have been a violent futuristic story centered on love and romance, but instead Gary Ross takes some shortcuts and tosses in a few kisses and sappy music cues to get your emotions going. For the action he implements the use of shadows and off-camera deaths, which is even lazier than some of that tree business I was discussing earlier.
The performances range from mildly watchable (Woody Harrelson & Stanley Tucci) to downright painful, sluggish and lifeless (Josh Hutcherson & Jennifer Lawrence). Ross assembles a hefty list of A-listers and a few B and even C-listers (Wes Bentley’s beard), but a dozen shining stars doesn’t cover up a shit-stained story that disregards drama that’s actually developed, not implied and action that flows without water breaks.
The Hunger Games is a misfire in my book, but a smashing success in the eyes of Hollywood. The only increases the sequel will have are in budget and stars, but not quality, which is what matters the most.
Ross’ use of handheld camera movement makes the 1080p video transfer suffer from pixelation and blurred detail. Some of the blue and green tints are given their due when the camera is mounted for a few seconds, but most of the film can be described as a plethora of bright lights and exotic colors, none more legible than the next.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the real winner of the bunch. Your ears will be able to absorb even the tiniest of details is this optimized for excitement track. I had a hard time trying to fall asleep while watching the film a second time and that was because of the audio track and its constant force of aural impact.
The following bonus material is featured throughout the 2 disc package:
- The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games (HD)
- Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon (HD)
- Letters from the Rose Garden (HD)
- Controlling the Games (HD)
- A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell (HD)
- Preparing for the Games: A Director’s Process (HD)
- Propaganda Film (HD)
- Marketing Gallery (HD)
- Digital Copy
Fans of the book will no doubtingly love this film, but I’m not sure how it will sit with the rest of the general public. There’s too many moments that consist of nothing but characters sitting in trees or complaining about the whole idea of tribute.
The characters are about as interesting as watching a badly made soap opera and the direction ranges from calm scenery shots to frantic shaky cam, which does not suit the film at all. The only redeeming quality in this package is the audio track, because it’s flawless and engaging. I can’t recommend the film, but I can recommend the disc to people that have already seen the film and know they like it.