The rest of my family saw the much anticipated blockbuster the weekend it came out, but I was off being responsible, so I was only recently able to join the cool kids in saying I’ve seen The Hunger Games.
That’s what I thought as I walked out of the theater after watching The Hunger Games.
I wanted to love it, because I love the book.
I didn’t love it.
I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.
I liked it, I guess.
Was there a budget lapse for this film? That’s what I kept wondering as I watched. I mean, the book series is about the most popular series to come out since Harry Potter and Twilight, right? So, why did the whole thing feel kinda low budget? It was like I was watching an indie version of The Hunger Games, or a documentary format, or what the movie would be like if they’d made it back in 1995.
I mean, this story was supposed to be a futuristic fantasy to the max, right? A pimped out techstreme Capitol city of overblown excess, worldliness and vanity! Mind-blowing architectural and landscaping applications like the Las Vegas strip on steroids! People with over-the-top cosmetic enhancements, pigmentations, and alterations that would make Priscilla Presley look like an ancient hack!
What did they give us? A funky shaved beard. Hair pulled back in a pony tail then spray painted blue. A white powdered face with a big, curly, white wig. They were doing that back in 17th century France, for heaven’s sake.
I see more extreme experimentation with body, skin, and hair applications at the local mall than I saw in “The Capitol.”
On the other hand, District 12 is supposed to be the extreme in repression and poverty. When Gale met Katniss in the woods to hunt, he looked liked he’d just stepped out of a Gap ad – all clean cut, preppy and buff.
Then there’s “The Games.” Where were the mutant dogs with the creepy human characteristics that resembled the dead tributes? If they can make Ralph Fiennes’ face morph into Voldemort, can’t they superimpose a generic teen face onto a dog’s? And where was Rue jumping from tree to tree? They made vampires do it in the Twilight movies.
What I wasn’t disappointed with was Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence was fabulous – a perfect casting choice. She was tough, yet vulnerable. The only thing lacking in her role was that the screenplay adaptation didn’t give her enough to work with in telling more of her story – her survival struggle, her family’s and district’s history, her deep connection to Gale for survival, her background with Peeta. She had the capability to do more, the format just didn’t let her.
Haymitch was well cast too. I was a Woody Harrelson fan back in his Cheers days. He is a phenomenal actor though a strange person in real life, which is probably why he has an inclination to play dark, complicated characters. He does it well, as he does here with Haymitch. Again, I think the screenplay left him hangin’ with what he could have done with it had they let his character develop more.
In fact, that’s what was lacking overall in this movie – depth.
There were no cheesy Hollywood additives or preservatives, like needless nudity, and for that I was grateful. They did stay true to the integral framework of the book and handle the violent nature of the story well, but there was just too much missing emotionally. With a lengthy 142 minute running time, they could have filled that time much more effectively to connect you to the characters. They really assumed you’d read the book before you went to the theater, which is kind of a cop out. Why does Katniss hug her stylist Cinna so intensely before she enters the arena? You only know why if you’ve read the book.
Overall, I was sufficiently entertained while I ate plenty of popcorn and candy. But I left the theater still feeling hungry.