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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012)
Genre: Adventure
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Gary Ross

I was very surprised when the spouse took me to watch The Hunger Games yesterday because of a co-worker's recommendation. I had no interest in watching the movie, especially after from I learned about the story a while back. It sounded like the infamous but excellent Japanese novel/film... Battle Royale! Apparently, author/screenwriter Suzanne Collins claims that she had never heard of it before the completion of her novel that this movie is based on. Whether that is true or not will always be up for debate but I went into the theater, though perplexed by the spouse's choice, with an open mind.

The movie is about a cruel reality television show that's named The Hunger Games - which is by the way, a horribly unimaginative name - which features contestants plucked straight from the youths of 12 to 18 years old from the 12 districts under the rule of an overseeing Capitol. The game is simple: they have to kill each other until only one remains. It's the 74th game since its creation, and it serves as a reminder of a rebellion that occurred against the Capitol and thus a way to control the population of the districts under its rule. The plot may come across shocking to most American audience because killing children in a movie is a serious taboo but let's hope this movie has changed that perception from this point forward. But just when you think that this movie has guts, it certainly can't claim the glory that could come from such a risqué proposition.

You see, the movie is very good when it comes to building up momentum. All the things that happened before the actual game started were actually quite engaging. I really enjoyed seeing how the "tributes" are selected using the lottery system and the things that they have to go through before they start killing each other, which involve wooing the crowd and potential sponsors. Once the kids are placed inside the large, confined arena, things start to fall apart. Sure, some of these contestants are really, really young and you would think that it would be extremely easy to score a bunch of emotional deaths for us the viewers but the way that the whole game is shot, it feels like Suzanne Collins and director Gary Ross are almost ashamed of this part of the supposedly bloody tale. Well, I supposed the PG-13 rating was a clear indication that things are going to get so downplayed. I am a believer that off-screen deaths can be very devastating but the way they were handled here are just so unconvincing and lack any hint of panache. You can't give us an incredible build up only to show us a rushed, unexciting, below mediocre pay-off. It's just plain criminal.

The Hunger Games had so much going on for it halfway through: Great casts, eye-popping visual designs, an intoxicating, believable world filled with both oppression and excess but when it's time to make all of those things stick while inside the hunting ground, everything begins to falter instead. If they want to make the eventual sequel works, they really have to commit to the promise of the idea and not compromise to be just like Capitol, whose only interest is to make some money while ensuring that the audience remains merely docile.

RATING: 2 out of 5

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