Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW: The Hunger Games

I should start by saying two things. First, I didn't read the books; I tried but but but... the first 5 pages didn't grab me, a'ight!?! and that's usually my gauge for knowing if I'll like a book. Doesn't mean it's bad. Second, even without reading it I do agree with core fans that the film should've been  made Rated-R. I watched a movie where children -CHILDREN mind you- are sent by an authoritarian government to slaughter each other for entertainment, and I didn't quite feel the horror of that, not like when watching Battle Royale or reading Lord of the Flies. Maybe I was too distracted by Jennifer Lawrence's protuberant shiny cheeks, or the point is that we as a society have grown "comfortable" with this kind of violence. Which, granted, is a horror in itself.

For the few souls who don't know, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where North America has been redesigned into one rich and superfluous capitol which oppresses and enslaves poverty-stricken surrounding districts who decades ago tried and failed to revolt. As a means to keep them in line, each of the districts must send two juvenile tributes who will all fight to the death in a yearly televised event. The action thus follows the underdogs, the duo from the poorest district whose spirits and ingenuity will challenge more than the other contestants.

I have to give praise to Lionsgate who knew they were holding something special and went all-in by injecting $80M into it (their biggest investment ever) without however making it a Michael-Bayesque atrocity. Director Gary Ross already proved his chops at using tricky visuals to help carry a story instead of swiping it, and keeps a surprisingly steady pace for a 2h20m  film where the Games themselves only start at the half-way mark. He does however make it too sleek, sometimes even going Tony Scott-like with unnecessary shaky and blurry shots (at least one person in the audience had to "leave n' heave" because of it) and missing the mark repeatedly when he should've gone for far more shocking and arresting a narrative. He instead tries to romanticise the whole thing, Twilight generation requirement I guess.

"Toi et moi dans'l couloir, ta-tsa-na-na..."

What does serve the narrative and quite well are the incredible costume, courtesy of Judiana Makosvky whose  unique touch brought to life Harry Potter's robes and the X-Men's leather uniform. The clothing and make-up serve as in intentional indicator of  these people's politics, allowing to gradually discover their world through fashion instead of having it all spoon-fed to us wholesale. Where the district dweller's rags uniquely reflect each of their personalities, so does the Capitol citizen's overdone flash reminds us that they too are prisoners to their society's divide. Elizabeth Banks' universally concealing make-up and wigs can't be interpreted otherwise; her situation in life desperately depends on her self-torturing with corsets and booties that no one even today would dare risk their life with.

Speaking of Lizzie Banks, somebody please write her up for a Best Supporting Actress nod as I found myself unable to take my eyes off her every appearance, making her character far more complex than it had the right to be. Same goes for Woody Harrelson who arrested me with the singular use of his voice that conveys just how little life is left in his Games mentor character, showing us without visual aid the full horrors he himself was submitted to. As for the leads, Jennifer Lawrence is as solid and confident a choice as you could get for such a part, though her chemistry with co-star Josh Hutcherson never feels quite right. Maybe that was the point, would need to ask the book's fans in that regard. Not that I will. Sorry.

"Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot-O...."

All in all I was surprised at how entertaining and well crafted the film was, but found myself craving a more incendiary approach to a subject matter that does touch us all in this day and age: juvenile violence. Most surprising though is how wide-appealing it is, compared to it's shining-in-sunlight predecessor who mostly catered to a tweeny-ladies viewership. Definitely recommended, but not in IMAX. Leave n' Heave, you know...

Final Word: 7.5/10

1 comment:

  1. It's okay, you could've said that it was your girlfriend who leave n'heave!!!