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    The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

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    Paeter
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    The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on March 23rd 2012, 11:40 pm

    In the last few years the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins has rapidly gained an audience in the mainstream market consisting of both male and female readers, despite the fact that the genre is science fiction and the perspective is an uncommon first person present tense.

    My younger sister, who got me to read most of the Harry Potter books, also somehow convinced me to read all three of the Hunger Games books, although I should say that I found them moderately enjoyable. And when I heard news of the movie in development I became very curious as to how they would adapt this kind of book to the screen.

    The premise of the film is the same as that of the books. In the future the United States has been divided into Districts, all ruled by a Capitol. At some point, the blue collar people of the Districts, whose sweat and labor give a life of self-indulgence to those in the Capitol, rose in rebellion against the Capitol and lost. As punishment, the Capitol greatly restricts the food supply to each District and holds a competition each year featuring two representatives of each District. The winning District is awarded more food for a year. The contest? The Hunger Games: an all out fight to the death in a simulated wilderness environment until only a single District's competitor remains.

    The story centers on 17 year-old Katniss, who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister when she is selected by lottery to compete in in the Hunger Games, but the story also features a supporting ensemble cast of interesting characters.

    All of the performances in this film are great and never took me out of the movie. I would classify this not as a sci-fi action flick, but as an emotionally involving sci-fi drama with a helping of romance on the side. The romance isn't quite as strong as in the book, which despite my interest in romance I was grateful for. However it is still an important part of the story. There are certainly some action beats too, but the characters propel the experience from beginning to end and the action is always in service to the drama, never simply spectacle.

    I don't think there was a ton of money thrown at the effects budget, which doesn't have to be a problem. Much of the movie takes place in a forest environment requiring no green screen or digital effects. And the experience is no less intense for the scarcity of CGI. However there were a few moments in the Capitol, such as the chariot parade presenting the competitors to an enthusiastic sea of people, that utilized glaringly obvious green screen backgrounds. And if you've read the books, you'll likely find the outfits Katniss wears for public presentations to fall far short of their potential. A shame given the important emotional impact her costumes were meant to have in contribution to her survival.

    Although the overall experience is strong, it also feels like setup for a larger story, which it is. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger by any means, but there is still plenty of unfinished business. Because of this, the story may feel incomplete and lacking some of the payoff viewers typically expect.

    There are some very compelling ideas being expressed in this movie that are worth contemplating. The Capitol is clearly portrayed as "the enemy" or at least as "the problem" for the protagonists. And chief among the characteristics of the Capitol's culture are a disregard for human life, an obsession with entertainment and self-indulgence, and a gross prioritization of outward appearances, which takes the form of overly made-up women and strikingly effeminate men. That final ingredient in connection with what we're meant to think of as a "bad" society makes me wonder what the reaction to this film will be from the homosexual community.

    Either way, I felt myself thinking about my own priorities, and the times I've chosen to immerse myself in a video game or other entertainment instead of pursuing something of greater worth, such as investing time in my family or in pursuit of my relationship with God.

    This movie isn't condemning entertainment, and neither do I. But this film does seem to suggest that we should not make experiencing pleasure our highest priority. A bitter tasting medicine if we're willing to swallow it and one not often coming from Hollywood. But a medicine we need.

    The Hunger Games is a great movie with wide appeal that falls short of its potential, but is engaging and thought provoking all the same.

    Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens.

    Quality: 8.5/10
    Relevance: 8.0/10

    For more information about what these scores mean, visit spiritblade.net/reviewscores
    Listen to this review this weekend at spiritblade.net/podcast


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    DNArington

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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  DNArington on March 24th 2012, 12:37 am

    I completely agree with you! It is a great movie but did not quite reach it's full potential. I haven't read the books yet, but, with watching this movie and my sister loving the first book (she just started #2), I already reserved the audiobook at the library and I can't wait!! study

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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  mindspike on March 24th 2012, 6:08 pm

    I reviewed the movie on my site as well. Thought I'd repost the highlights here. 'Fraid I'm not as kind as Paeter to the film.

    Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” debuted in US theaters this week, to much hype and the attendance of many teenagers. For both of you who may be unfamiliar with this violent work of chick-lit: in a dystopian future, The Capitol forces each of the 12 Districts in the nation to send a pair of teenagers to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Think “A Clockwork Orange” meets “The Running Man” and you get the basic look and feel of the movie. The book series was aggressively advertised as a sci-fi action novel – which it most definitely is not. The movie suffers from the same poor marketing, as it is being portrayed as an action film when it is in fact a drama of the much more ordinary sort. Which isn’t to say it’s not a decent enough movie if you're into that sort of thing.

    A little while back I reviewed the book trilogy, both on my podcast and in a guest post over at the Two-Fisted Blogger. I’m afraid neither review was very favorable. Looking at it from the perspective of time, I see that both reviews were colored by a desire for the novels to be something that they expressly were not. I wanted an action novel, and I got chick-lit teen drama. Perversely, I was aching to see The Hunger Games made into a movie. Unfortunately I wanted an action movie, and I got a chick-flick teen drama. I suppose it serves me right.

    Final score: 2 out of 5. Get the whole review, along with my breakdown categories of Story, Character, Production Value, Content, and Shelf Life at the Critical Press Media site.

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    Nathan James Norman
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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 25th 2012, 5:36 pm

    I think my only hyper-critique of the movie was the "J.J. Abrams - style camera shake" that was prevalent throughout. t was a bit excessive and not nearly as effective as how Abrams uses it.

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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on March 26th 2012, 5:10 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:I think my only hyper-critique of the movie was the "J.J. Abrams - style camera shake" that was prevalent throughout. t was a bit excessive and not nearly as effective as how Abrams uses it.

    Wow, I didn't even notice that. Must be overused so much today that my eyes are starting to adjust. Yikes, Hollywood. Time to find a new gimmick. (Or just go back to using more "bullet-time" again! Woohoo!)


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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on March 29th 2012, 11:12 am

    How in the world does a movie that is edited like a Bourne movie, with has the atmosphere of pre-Star Wars sci-fi movie, the "big ideas" of an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, and the plot of a dystopian sci-fi novel become #1 in the box office in 2012?

    I've seen the movie -- liked it because it felt like those old sci-fi movies like Logan's Run or 1984 -- and I'm reading the novel -- getting Ender's Game vibes.

    And this is a pop culture phenomenon? Moms from my church are reading it and loving it. In fact, the copy of the book I'm reading was borrowed from the mother of some kids from my Sunday school class. What kind of topsy-turvy world is this? Is it really because of the "teen romance" angle?

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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  Hackmodford on March 29th 2012, 12:07 pm

    I watched it... it was okay... I think I would've been better off waiting for the whole trilogy to be completed since the movie obviously needs a sequel.

    I was seriously upset by how the capitol could influence the game... Fireballs? Mutant Dogs (real/holograms?) It was really unfair... but I guess that's the point right?


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    BenAvery

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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on March 29th 2012, 12:11 pm

    "Unfair" was one reaction I had, which i think they would want you to have.

    I haven't finished the book, so I don't know what the book's explanation was -- but in the movie, my other reaction was of slight confusion. How WERE they doing these things?

    It's interesting, because in the book it is a first person narrative, so we only know what Katniss knows and she explains many things along the way. The movie had to explain things in other ways, so some things are given more explanation than the book. Other things, far, far less.


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    Re: The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

    Post  tmorrill on April 3rd 2012, 9:11 am

    I just got done watching it here on base and I had a reaction that I wasn't expecting.

    I liked it better than the book overall but it left out a few key details (and added in some unnecessary ones) which detracted from the movie overall.

    I'd say most of the characterizations were spot on. The main exception I can think of is Haymitch (he wasn't drunk/burnout enough). As someone who's been a burnt out drunk (not the kind that mentors children before they go fight to the death though) he came across more as a guy who likes to drink as opposed to "needing" to drink to help numb the pain.

    One glaring thing that got left out from Cinna's character was when he first met Katniss he whispers, "How despicable we must seem to you." By not showing this and the officials in the District 12 it can make it seem more black and white than it really is, which both detracts from the story and can cloud over the concept of Original Sin (not that I think that is what the directors intended, but something I picked up on).


    As far as how they were controlling things I just assumed they had technology that let them do that. After all any technology that is sufficently advanced will be indistinguishable from magic.


    I enjoyed the techno-future-Rome feel of the Capitol though, from what little we saw. Mainly the chariot scene where the arena looked kind of like the Colosseum to me.

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