The Hunger Games – In Review

Originally Written by Anthony Fertino

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There is no accounting for the sudden rise of popularity of any one particular piece of media. It requires a remarkable number of variables to synchronize into one full symbiotic relationship between society and media, determined most by wants and needs of a people whose wants and needs are most determined by the obstacles of their age.

But there are universal attributes which demand satisfaction, and if it is possible to harness the hunger of these attributes, then anything is possible.

In an age where a young woman’s “hero” is sold to be such a thoroughly helpless form as Bella Swan, it was inevitable that a hero would arise with a proper answer to this plea for someone strong. That person is by her very nature, Katniss Everdeen. That is to say, a hero is something universal, and never restricted by gender.

A hero is an idea. An idea that is fulfilled every day by ordinary men and women. And no one was born for a representation of something with such immense magnitude, during an age of financial depression and violence which thirsts for a hero most, than Jennifer Lawrence.

Lawrence displays a character we should all aspire to be, and who we all need to be in our decade. We are a struggling nation overcoming obstacles, and we all have people depending on us, and if not others, certainly ourselves. The level of subtlety Lawrence has so generously gifted upon us Hunger Games fans fills with abundance the void of hearing Katniss’ every thought.

Her pain, her conflict, and her will are devastatingly effective from the first frame we see her to the last. There is nothing that has not already been said about her in positive light that I could add, but there is no question that it earns reaffirmation. She is dangerous, she is vulnerable.

Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t just look like Katniss, though exceptionally accomplished by the film’s superb make-up department. Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, and it’s undeniable that if non-fans of the series view the film, and have no idea what’s going on, they will still feel fulfilled by the end of the film by Lawrence’s brilliant performance. She is a virtuoso. She is here to stay, and we can expect a hell of a lot more from her.

We can’t wait.

For the sake of your continued reading, I will pursue further positive insight. We find an equally appropriately casted character in Woody Harrelson, who has so clearly polished his rough, comedic character type into Haymitch so successfully, I don’t believe it’ll be possible to imagine anyone else now that we’ve seen it. Likewise, Stanley Tucci has all the hateable charisma of someone announcing the red carpet for the Oscars.

Please take an intermission, readers! Now is a good time to open up The Hunger Games on IMDb, because I’ll be mentioning a few crew members who you may or may not know of. But then you fanatics have pictures of their living rooms; don’t you worry.

Due to a scheduling conflict of Danny Elfman’s, he was unable to conduct with agitation and flail his hands around hoping to make a piece of music for The Hunger Games. And what we end up with is a severely underused James Newton Howard.

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True, the best suspense is always found in silence, but due to Gary Ross’ shaky-cam direction of near Cloverfield proportions (or perhaps I’m exaggerating and was simply disappointed from being woozy now and then in the film), the action of our live-adaptation was abrupt and didn’t allow for suspense so much as surprise.

I’ll go ahead and tie in a sub-idea here: the violence. The violence was dry and muted for near the entire film but for the visceral hand-to-hand combat Katniss faces in the last half hour. As such, there was nothing Howard could do, and even the supposed Soundtrack to the film refrained from actually applying its music to the film.

The latter is beneficial, of course. I can’t imagine Taylor Swift’s nagging country music to any scene of this film. No offense, country fans. But picture Rue’s death. Play Swift’s music to it. See it? Hear it? Exactly.

So ultimately, I have to say that Howard should have been given some more elbow room to enhance a film as he does so well. The best thing about The Village is that extraordinary violin-work throughout.

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And as for the violence? Holding back to reel in more audiences takes away the stakes, and the fear. The ante is down. You never feel the desperation that Katniss of the novel makes you feel. If Lawrence weren’t so damn good, the action would feel rather lacking.

But the pacing! Oh, the pacing. What a reward. You don’t feel bored, not at any moment. Sure, most of the relationship development is abandoned, but Katniss’ own development never is, and that’s a good thing. A very good thing. We want more Lawrence.

Also, less Peeta. Josh Hutcherson should stick to Jules Verne hack-work rather than waste our screen-time. Here’s an actor who looks like a boy, which embodies the helplessness of the character well enough, if not for his casting also the result of tempting younger girls. Rather despicable. How Twilight of you! And is it just me or does Gale’s actor, Liam Hemsworth, resemble Robert Pattinson?

Besides, aside for the cave scene, he’s full of dead pan shots. There’s a difference between stillness and just standing there. Lawrence is thinking. She’s got momentum. She’s feeling, existing.

Hutcherson is barely going along with the motions. Billy Ray was a neat addition to the screenwriting team of Collins and the director himself to help fine tune this character out a little more. And removing the puss? Yeah, that helps keep the rating lower.

 

You’ll want another intermission, folks! Aren’t you tired yet? I do appreciate your abandoning something productive for this though. Maybe you organize something in your room? The closet? Then come back.

Are you back?

 

Hello?

Okay. So. Judianna Makovsky most certainly dominated the visual appeal of the film. The depicted Capitol was frustratingly computerized, and District 12 hardly had the opportunity to display the adversity and paleness of its character by having Katniss jump right into the woods, which of course, are inhabited for the entire second half of the film. We mostly see a lot of trees. M. Night Shyamalan’s ears just perked up.

But the result is, we understand Katniss, and not the world she resides in. We aren’t fully aware (unless fans of the source material) how needed Katniss truly is, and what would compel her to such resilience as to give her own life at the end of the Games, after she has already saved her sister.

Rescuing her sister was all she wanted, so why save the world? The concept of the games is awful, but the rest of the time, what else needs to be changed? The universe is unclear. The time could have been taken to establish the world of the hero. It is a necessity.

And back to Makovsky. Her costume design was vivid, precise, and inviting. It lures you into the world you never get the chance to see, reassuring you that it doesn’t matter, covering the plot-hole efficiently by effectively generating a world of its own. That is a highlight of any aesthetic expression—it will invariably be an expression of both the designer and the era of its creation. Even in fiction.

Having practiced and toned the profession since Harry Potter’s first silver-screen adaptation, the creativity of The Hunger Games’ wardrobes is clearly defined and establishes the characters better than the narrative does. Thank you, Judianna Makovsky, for picking up the slack.

American Beauty director Gary Ross accompanies his cinematographer from the same film for this latest endeavor, and ends up with woods that don’t feel much like anything. Sure, it assumes the suggestion of an arena rather than something natural, but it doesn’t have that fearsome or serene depth that the lighting of a film can manipulate a setting into.

Considering the beauty of Mother Nature, I would have expected Tom Stern to develop a tone at least slightly more daring or ominous for something as terrible as The Hunger Games. This is a considerable contrast to Ross’ repeat work with Debra Zane, who was so imperative to this production, and half-succeeded at her job.

Lastly, I will say that the balance of story is well-secured. Very, very well-handled. What is removed is not entirely essential, and the capacity to abandon literally all of Katniss’ insights and perspectives and inward reactions while still sustaining a sense of significance and even grandeur.

The Hunger Games is lacking in its presentation of fear, breaks even between its star and its supporting cast, severely under-utilizes an esteemed composer, and ignores atmosphere—but irrevocably pushes forward with the proper acceleration of a taut script, commanded by a lead with sharpened talent which can only further improve, and will at least satisfy even the most skeptical of die-hard fans.

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