Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hunger Games: Review

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”


So I went to watch the Hunger Games today, a highly anticipated movie judging from the number of my friends who are talking about it, courtesy of Cathay and Nuffnang, and as part of the requirements for Cathay Cineleisure's Next Online Sensation competition. The movie tells the story of a reality TV show where contestants battle it out to see who can stay hungry the longest while staring at a 10 course meal buffet being served in front of them. No wait, I'm just kidding. That was the first impression that I got when I first heard of the movie.

Set in the hypothetical future, Hunger Games follow the story of Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence, who played Mystique in X-Men: First Class), who lives in a sort of post-apocalyptic nation called Panem (which used to be North America). Every year, a barbaric game, which is not unlike the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome, is held as a reminder to the distant past where the 12 districts of Panem rebelled unsuccessfully against the Capitol, resulting in such a skewed treaty being signed. 

The treaty stipulates that each district has to send a girl and a boy each, as Tributes to the Capitol and the Hunger Games, where they have to fight the other Tributes to death. Yes, you read it right. The children have to literally kill each other. If you are against powerful people taking children against their will and forcing them to fight, this movie may not be suitable for you (Invisible Children might want to make a HUNGER2012 video after watching this movie).

le evil Capitol

Although the poster and the trailer may seem cool and exciting, this is indeed a very dark movie, with lots of questions regarding morality, rights and humanity. It makes you wonder about what's right or wrong, what should be considered entertainment and where the boundaries between humanity and savagery should be drawn.

For someone who took Sociology before, I can't help but see Marxist themes all over the movie. How the poor and the working class, the proletariat, is oppressed by the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie, through means such as the Hunger Games, and the constant burning question of revolution that is playing on everyone's mind. Watching the movie also kinda reminded me of an article that I read earlier today about North Korea, where the government employs strict and cruel laws to keep the citizens in check, and I can't help but draw chilling similarities between what's happening now and what is being portrayed in the movie.

The movie does a good job in portraying all these hard questions and making audience wonder about it. It doesn't come across as too forceful or too biased and it certainly got me thinking, if I was one of the tributes, would I do the same? It also asks the question of whether us as humans, would be capable of such despicable acts? After all, aren't these things a relic of the past, perhaps in the Roman times? Can a government hold such a power over us? Or can we fight back, just like Katniss, even at individual levels? I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of these questions when watching the movie.

Deep questions aside, the movie also does a good job at portraying a nation that is divided by class and districts. The laid down, post-apocalyptic feel which reminds of Fallout 3, that characterize the outer districts like District 12 and District 11, while the futuristic, posh and uptown feel of the Capitol, reminded me of Star Wars. The contrast between the citizens of the districts , where the citizens of the Capitol engage in fashion statements such as dyed hair and expensive clothing (even their dogs are pink), while District 12 citizens look like they came out if the 1970s, help to further emphasize the conflict that the movie tries to portray.

There's a wilderness

And there's an underground bunker with policemen that loves white

Not only that, the movie also manages to keep things going at a steady pace. While it is a dark movie in general that tries to raise deep issues among the audience, there are some light moments here and there to sort of give the audience a little break from all the intensity. And believe me when I say the movie is intense. An arena where people kill each other for entertainment is certainly not very amusing. Betrayals, cruelty and cunning is rife. I was sitting at the edge of my seat most of the time, wondering what would happen next and how would the next Tribute die.

Still, there are some small moments of humanity that shines through here and there in the movie, even though it might be about surviving and not getting killed most of the time, like when Katniss interacted with a young girl from District 11 or the moment of jealousy when Katniss's crush saw here holding hands with her fellow participant. That elicited quite a number of laughter of the audiences. The movie also do a pretty good job at portraying the underlying relationships between the characters, such as love and arrogance. Which is good because it doesn't just make you feel a single mood throughout the movie. It literally takes you through the emotional journey experience by the characters themselves.

It's moments like this that shines throughout the movie. Sort of like the candles that light up the bleakness portrayed throughout the movie

My only complain is of the camera work and a little of the acting. The camera tends to be a little shaky sometimes, I don't know if the production team forgot to buy a stabilizer or if they wanted the realistic feel, but it tends to get a little unnerving after a while. The speed of the angle change during the first half of the movie was also a little too much. It's like before your eyes get to focus and then BAM, scene change. I got dizzy for a while back there.

The fights are also a blur. Perhaps the directors did not want too much violence or gore to be shown but when you keep shaking, twisting and blurring the camera during fights until you can't see a thing, it would be better if you have not shown them at all.

Oh, and don't get me started on Jennifer's sister, Prim. I dunno if the book portrayed her like that, but looking at how she acted in the first half of the movie, where she can't stop crying, I just feel like throwing her to the hunger games itself to get killed. All her whining and screaming, ugh. If I was her brother, I would have think twice about volunteering to protect her. And Jennifer too was a bit tad arrogant during the first half of the movie. But she's forgivable because she's supposed to suck at making people hate her, which is really good because I definitely hated her too at the first half of the movie. Which is suffice to say that the character development was good too.

Speaking of which, the movie also introduces quite a few quirky characters to help add spice to the entire feel of the movie. The drunk mentor, the District 12 representative that reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, each added their unique flavor to the movie that kept it going.

One of the many colors you can find

All in all, the film portrayal of the Hunger Games is a good one. It doesn't bore you, keeps you excited and challenges you with deep questions. Even after the credits rolled, you would be left still thinking about the movie itself and the questions it is trying to portray. I would give it a 8/10. And I would definitely want to read its book now (the movie was adapted from a book). And movies that makes me want to read its book is usually rare, because most movie adaptations cannot make it.

And may the odds be in my favor for winning Cineleisure's next online sensation games!

Tags: Cineleisure's Next Online Sensation, #itsgonnagetsensational, Cathay Cineleisure Orchard

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