The Hunger Games (2012) (PG-13)

Congratulations to the world of teens, tweens, and twi-moms—you have found yourselves a new addiction!
Suzanne Collins's teen series The Hunger Games has had a great amount of success, but not without some controversy. Some claim that the books are too adult for young kids and even though the targeted audience is teens, younger children are reading the books. The basic idea of the series is that humanity and society have devolved to the point where kids are forced to compete in a game to the death. Kids killing kids....hmmm anyone else getting a Lord of the Flies feeling? I have much to say about the books but I'll postpone that and talk about the movie for a little while:
Earth is presumably the planet that we're on, the time is not given but it seems to be sometime in the future. It's assumed that the movie and book are based where North America used to be because almost all the kids are white and they all speak English—hence North America, more specifically the United States. Whether Suzanne Collins was trying to make a political statement or not, The Hunger Games has this new area called Panem split up into 12 districts. This just made me think of "District 9" which is more gritty and more enjoyable.
Katniss Everdeen, from District 12, is the main character—a girl who hates the government and loves her family. When her sister is chosen by lottery to be in the Hunger Games, she volunteers to take her place. Now she has to battle her way to survival against her own teammate with the help of an alcoholic coach—sounds pleasant, no?
The rest of the movie is the actual Games themselves. The violence is actually not that bad, remember that the producers had to keep it edgy enough to be true to the book and tame enough to let the little readers be able to watch it. Who wants a R-rated teen movie?
For me the violence actually helps the movie because its essentially what the book is about. What the movie lacks, like the book, is actual momentum.
"The Hunger Games" saga has been branded as the 'new Twilight", which I think is good for its ratings (opening night brought in 152.5 million and complete gross is close to 408 million).
Differing from its counterpart, "Twilight", "The Hunger Games" has actual acting talent. The cast is pretty formidable, Jennifer Lawrence as the main girl (seeming to reprise her moody performance in "Winter's Bone"), Josh Hutcherson as the other contestant from District 12, Woody Harrelson as the coach, an indistinguishable Elizabeth Banks as the annoying Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, and Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane. But even though it's got a great cast,"The Hunger Games" doesn't utilize them as it should. I think the most obvious offense is using Wes Bentley's undeniable talent in such a cliche role.
It's Katniss who carries the movie and we're supposed to be transported back into the world of teen angst because of her narration. *Sigh*.
I have to admit that I pretty much forced myself to read the books, they are so predictable and paper thin. I had just come off reading a very intense and in-depth series (The Millennium Trilogy) so when I got to the teen series, it felt childish.
Suzanne Collins, although taking an original idea, seems to have exploited the Twilight franchise's most beloved characteristic: the love triangle.
Whether viewers and readers realize it or not, they are being misled into the arena of 'teams'. I'm sure you've heard "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob" but now it can be about a different series. It's manipulative and condescending—let me rephrase—I hate love triangles!
If you're looking for a teen series that has equally good books and movies you simply can't beat the Harry Potter installments. Whether you like them or not, they are the pinnacle to reach when turning a series into movies.
I had to try two times before I could get into The Hunger Games. From the beginning, you can tell which of the two men Katniss is going to choose. It's offensively obvious. But it takes Suzanne Collins three books to get her there and then the 'final twist' to seal the deal is so cheap that I actually laughed out loud.
The movie has its good parts, the special effects are state-of-the-art and the action itself is somewhat redeeming. But like the book, the movie lacks a certain something—a connectivity to the characters—a believability—choose realism or fantasy but don't try to tip-toe in the middle.
Katniss is one of the most horribly constructed lead characters. We're supposed to believe that she's sentimental to a fault yet so determined that she's willing to kill.
Brace yourselves for another movie, I hope this one isn't going to be split into two parts.
Oh and, spoiler alert, they have to play the games again. Not exactly breaking the bank with originality.

Score: 2 out of 4 stars

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