• TheDMonline.com Staff Member?
  • Log In
Share |

The Odds Favor "The Hunger Games"

 

Judging from the box office receipts, literally everyone saw “The Hunger Games” over the weekend. The Oxford Malco was certainly packed. I had to squeeze in next to an old lady. It was the hottest date I’ve had in weeks. OK, months. All right, my entire life. But is the movie worth all this hoopla?

I’m much too old to be going to any midnight showings and didn’t wind up seeing the movie until Saturday, so I overheard a lot of different reactions while walking around campus from all you young whippersnappers who went to the midnight showing (now I’ll thank you to kindly get off my lawn). 

The prevailing opinion I heard was that the movie left a lot out from the book. I really wish I had a nickel for every time I heard “it was good, but they left out sooo much from the book.” I’d have, like, nine nickels. So I had adopted something of a wait-and-see mentality going in. 

Turns out I need not have worried. “The Hunger Games” was as purely entertaining and as splendid of a movie-going experience as I’ve ever had. You know what else? It’s better than the book. 

Put down your tar and feathers. I liked the books as much as anyone, really (the first two, anyway), and I complain as loudly as anyone else when movie adaptations stray from the books, but I found the changes made to “The Hunger Games” to be perfectly acceptable and in many cases helped move things along without in any way damaging the story. Suzanne Collins, the author of the books, wrote the screenplay herself, and it shows; although some bits here and there are altered, the tone of the book is intact and I really felt like I was watching the book.

Most of the praise for this must go to Collins herself and the actors. The cast was stellar in a lot of big ways and some more subtle ways. They do a fantastic job in bringing the characters from the book to life. Jennifer Lawrence carries the movie, and everyone from Woody Harrelson to Lenny Kravitz (who shows up for a few minutes to sex you with his eyes) are so good that I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the roles.

Was there anything I didn’t like? Well, I wouldn’t be a movie reviewer if there wasn’t. The writing and acting are so good, it’s easy to miss that the direction isn’t as solid as I would have liked. Firstly, as with many action movies these days, there’s too much shaky cam and it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on during action scenes. It bothered me more here than in some other movies, as I actually almost yelled “Be still!” at the screen a few times. 

The other problem is probably only a problem for me. As far as the design of the film, I wanted “The Hunger Games” to be the next “Blade Runner.” In fact, that’s how I pictured it when I was reading the book, and I even listened to the “Blade Runner” soundtrack a good bit as I read. Now those are massively big shoes to fill, and frankly, it was silly of me to expect it, but I really felt that there wasn’t a lot of imagination as far as the city scenes and the look of a lot of the futuristic elements. Sure, everything looks wild, but it was all very standard from what you’d see in any other science fiction movie these days.

Those may seem like major complaints, but the movie itself was so good that when it was over I didn’t mind that I hadn’t just watched the next “Citizen Kane.” I’d just watched a really good, entertaining and exciting movie with great writing, acting and music in the middle of a theater packed with people who had just as much fun watching it as I did.

This is amazing considering the subject matter, which is very dark. The idea of kids killing kids for entertainment for rich people is pretty intense. I give the filmmakers massive amounts of credit for not dumbing down the story for the screen. Rarely is a movie that’s aimed at teenagers actually intelligent. “The Hunger Games,” both the book and the movie, gives its audience credit for being able to handle and process its intensity. It’s a teen movie based on a teen book that doesn’t pander (cough, “Twilight,” cough), and it doesn’t insult your intelligence (cough, “Twilight” again, cough). 

I’ve heard a few complaints that the violence was toned down too much from the book. It is, and it didn’t bother me at all. This is still a pretty violent movie made all the more effective by leaving a lot of it to the imagination.

The smart writing takes the story of “The Hunger Games” far beyond what is, essentially, on paper a rip-off of “The Running Man” and “Battle Royale” with a bit of “The Truman Show” sprinkled on top.      

You don’t have to have read the books to enjoy the movie; in fact, you might enjoy it more if you haven’t. Go see it if you haven’t yet, and may the odds be ever in your favor.