Review: The Hunger Games (Bumbray's take)
Read JimmyO's review here
REVIEW: I knew absolutely nothing about THE HUNGER GAMES going in, other than the fact that they were based on a wildly popular series of young adult novels. Then again, so was TWILIGHT, so that didnt tell me much. However, TWILLIGHT is not a very good comparison to THE HUNGER GAMES. HARRY POTTER is probably closer, as my first exposure to the iconic world of Katniss Everdeen was a very positive one.
I really enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES. The concept is fantastic, even if it does owe more than a little to BATTLE ROYALE (how strange that in a decade, BATTLE ROYALE went from being essentially banned in North America, to now inspiring a PG-13 series of mega-blockbusters). Katniss is a superb heroine for a series of films, with her being the exact opposite of the whiny Bella Swan from TWILIGHT. Heres a resilient, noble heroine who's a strong role model for all younger viewers, both female and male, and its obvious that thanks to this, Jennifer Lawrence is about to turn into a megastar.
Shes absolutely terrific here, with this being a natural, big-budget progression from her surprisingly similar role in the terrific WINTERS BONE (hopefully, the hype around HUNGER GAMES will bring that film to a wider audience). Shes damn terrific, and she carries herself throughout with the confidence of a legit movie star. You simply cant take your eyes off her.
The actors supporting Lawrence are also quite good, with Hutcherson making a likable second lead- but this is Lawrences show through and through. Some early reviews have noted that Katniss and Peetas eventually romance rang false- but really, theres a point to that, and Im sure it will pay off in future installments. Her other love interest, played by Liam Hemsworth (brother of Chris) barely registers, but again- will likely play a major role in the inevitable sequels.
Like HARRY POTTER, the adult supporting cast of THE HUNGER GAMES is great. Lots of great character actors pop up as the freakish, moneyed residents of the Capitol- who dress like Marie-Antoinette and the French Aristocracy would have if they lived in the eighties and made music videos on MTV. Some of the outfits here might have even given Duran-Duran or WHAM! pause. Stanley Tucci has a ball hamming it up as the Hunger Games host- a la Richard Dawson in THE RUNNING MAN- with him sporting a blue wig thats only slightly less ridiculous than poor Toby Jones do, which makes it look like a poodles scalp was stitched to his head. The gorgeous Elizabeth Banks also gets a chance to chew some scenery as the gal who goes from district to district picking tributes.
Of the heavy hitters, Woody Harrelson has the best part as the alcoholic former tribute Haymitch (with his phony blond locks looking pretty tame compared to his other co-stars). Its a gem of a part that I hope grows in further installments. He does a terrific job in his relatively brief screen time of giving the impression of a guy deeply haunted by his past in the games, but whos still willing to risk his freedom in order to help his tribute trainees, using his skills behind the scenes to get them much-needed supplies, and showing them how to play to the cameras.
Good as it is though, I still had a few problems with THE HUNGER GAMES. I was a bit taken aback by the way all the tributes seem to form alliances considering that by the time its over there can only be one winner. In BATTLE ROYALE they did something similar, but the payoff was better. And, despite mostly loving Gary Rosss direction (this being his first film since SEABISCUIT), the editing bugged me, particularly in the action scenes- which are almost indecipherable. A hunch tells me this was probably an effort to secure a PG-13, but the cutting was a distraction. Also- there are some dodgy CGI characters that really bugged me towards the end, but they werent bad enough to really affect my enjoyment.
Overall, this is far, far superior to what I was expecting. Maybe THE HUNGER GAMES is going to be the one young adult franchise that really lives up to the hype. Thankfully, its no TWILIGHT- meaning that future installments will actually be something to look forward to. Fancy that!
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