Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

PG-13, 2 hr. 22 min.  Directed By:  Gary Ross.  Release Date:  Mar 23, 2012.

I went in to The Hunger Games without knowing much about the movie:  I knew that 24 kids, one boy and one girl from twelve Districts surrounding a capital city go in to a survival contest and only one comes out.  I know that this variant of the science fiction tale “The Lottery” was punishment for an uprising in the Districts, who are treated somewhere between vassals and cattle by the folks in the capital city, that had happened decades ago.  I knew that the cast was going to be fan-freaking-tastic.  It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that I realized that these were books first.  I haven’t read them, although in the wake of the movie, I might consider it. 

I mentioned that this is a variant on an old story, one that I remember from a grade school reading primer, where a village needs to maintain its population for some reason, and so, every year, a lottery of names is held.  The names drawn are pampered and fed for a few days, then slaughtered like veal calves.  However, The Hunger Games provides a face to the victims of that lottery for execution bit.  Two actually, and sufficient gender role reversals that I was a little impressed.  It’s not often that Hollywood pulls us out of our culturally-defined roles, so I noticed, and I’m not proud to say that I made fun of Josh Hutcherson’s character for getting in touch with his traditional feminine role.  Just a little, though.  Something about pants, and who was wearing them.  But I have to admit, I actually liked his character, Peeta, and I didn’t like Lawrence’s Catniss.  Still don’t, truth be told.  There are a ton of wonderful characters here (which I suspect is what separates this from that drivel Twilight), and I have to admit I probably liked Rue, who has a small part in the story, almost as much as I liked Peeta, who is the male lead.

You don’t need to read the books to know what was going on, although I have to admit I have a certain curiosity for HOW Catniss and Peeta find themselves in this predicament.  This is supposed to be North America post-apocalypse, and I’m guessing a few centuries have passed between 2012 and when this takes place.  I would have liked more information on the founding of this new country and its Districts.  I wanted more information about the uprising, and the formation of the Hunger Games.  Like, why they’re called the “Hunger” Games.  I’d also like to know what colorblind idiot decided to dress the people of the capital like that, and why so many of the women looked like men (or occasionally, like Andy Dick) in drag.  

But, with that exception, I found this to be a very, very fun movie after all the angst between Catniss and Gale was over.  The movie is visually pretty sweet, and while there’s nothing truly original in here in terms of story, they do improve on pretty much everything I spotted that’s been borrowed from other books and movies.  The cast, as I imagined, is pretty outstanding.  I usually like Josh Hutcherson, and I’m hoping he’s got a long career out in front of him.  Ditto for Jennifer Lawrence, although I have to admit, I didn’t think she was the world’s best Mystique.  

Definitely check this out.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  There is a little bit of graphic violence, so you should probably not pull a stunt like the parents sitting next to me, whose child screamed throughout the Grand Melee in the opening scenes of the actual Games.  We need a license to have a dog…