Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

3:23 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
It is time, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the most reliable and original movie reviewer in the world to make his voice heard! A brief glance at the title might have clued you in, but The Hunger Games (The movie which inspired the best selling books!) is the topic of today's ramblings.

I begin by noting that I was going into this film with little to no optimism, and a biased predisposition to hate on anything that was not true to the books--which feelings were exacerbated by the Harry Potter movies, which were good , but seldom true to the book...but I digress.

Hunger Games. It begins the movie in District 12, which was almost certainly filmed in West Virginia, or some equally dismal third world environment. From the very beginning the movie fosters an atmosphere of ever settling unease. The same pit of the stomach, something is wrong, kind of feeling that one gets from movies set in poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa, or in screwed up apartheid settings. Very effective.

The cinematography, especially for the first 25 odd minutes, was almost certainly coordinated by the people who did the Blair Witch Project. It feeds into the tense atmosphere and sense of unease, but it might be a little hard on those who get motion sick. I spent the first 15 minutes adjusting, and longer than that wondering what the devil they were doing.

I figured out what they were doing when it got around to the violence, and I can say in retrospect that they did it remarkably well. Although the shifting angles and often chaotic feel smooths out considerably during the time the Capitol, it returns full force in the arena scenes. And at this point, instead of the shaky angles and rapid panning being introduced during major action scenes, the viewer has already been acclimated to the unorthodox style during calm scenes. By doing this, all the violence and brutality is present as described, but because of the chaotic presentation, one does not have to see it in maddeningly gory detail. The violent scenes were, I thought, fantastic. I wasn't grossed out, but neither was it a case of the ridiculous depiction of battle as something clean and choreographed.

The movie was largely very true to the books, and although some things were left out, very little was added. I am very well pleased with its fidelity to the books.

The score was by James Newton Howard; 'nuff said.

The casting was, in a word, fantastic. I was prepared for a Katniss performance in the school of Kristin Stewart; instead, she was remarkably well acted; no gross over-acting, and she made excellent use of facial expression. At no point did I feel like I was being subjected to child or Teen acting. Donald Sutherland makes a good President Snow. To quote Mutti "He exudes genial evil." Woody Harrelson not only refrained from being insufferable, but played his role really, really, well. Subtlety is not an attribute I would have thought to allow him, but he had it, humor, and muted intensity. Very good.

I give this movie a high recommendation for those who have read the book. For those who have not read the book, it will still be enjoyable, but probably not as much so. The general less-is-more style the film seems to take is nicely augmented if you know what is running through the character's heads, and some of the additional back story and motivation.

I do not recommend this movie for young children, nor those who lack maturity. I found it to be more deeply unsettling than many of the more violent movies I have seen; if you also got that feeling in your gut at times while watching District 9, you might know the feeling I mean.

I thought Hunger Games was a better adaptation than any I have seen in a long while, and I very much look forward to the next installation.