The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

My inner match over The Hunger Games

with 39 comments

Let’s talk about The Hunger Games. Not that I expect you to listen.

I for one don’t listen to what other people have to say about this movie anymore unless it’s something very special. Since I started to blog about movies last summer I haven’t seen any movie getting so many reviews in such a short time. It’s really a bit overwhelming and it feels as if anything there is to say about it already has been said – not once, not twice but a multitude of times.

Still: here I am, offering you yet another take. To give you the short version: I was conflicted about it. So I figured I’d let my inner voices – the enthusiast and the naysayer – go a match, bringing out some of their points. And in the end I’ll try to come to some kind of verdict.

But before we get to the actual game, we’ll begin somewhere else. I give you:

A Prelude

I took an extra glance at my ticket as we approached our seats for the afternoon showing of The Hunger Games.

Was this really the right place? Perhaps we had entered the wrong salon in the multiplex theatre and the waiter at the door didn’t notice?

Judging from age of the audience you could easily imagine they were just about to watch Lorax or The Pirates. They weren’t exactly toddlers and I didn’t spot any pacifiers. But there was a whole bunch of them who couldn’t possibly be one day over seven. They were so small that they needed to sit on cushions in order to be able to see the screen properly.

Then I remembered. The media council had settled for an 11 year limit, which in Sweden means 7 if you’re in company with an adult. Perhaps there were some parents hiding in the back somewhere, but I certainly didn’t see them.

I hadn’t read the book, but I knew the basics of the story. It was about children killing other children in a gladiator game where only one of 24 participants would come out alive. It boggled my mind how any parent could allow their 7 year old to watch this.

I looked around again to see if they at least had provided the kids with something to hug when it got too tough. But alas, I saw nothing of this. And I wondered if the cinema had a stock of teddy bears to bring out in case of emergency.

And then I shrugged it all off. It wasn’t my duty to protect them and not the media council’s either. I had to assume that the parents knew what they were doing. It was probably just me who hadn’t kept up with the development the last few years. Diminishing returns and all that jazz. The kids were probably used to far worse already.

I took a deep breath and sank deeper into my armchair. The games could begin.

The Match

So, with the prelude out of our way, are you still with me? This brings us into the next part of this post: the match between my inner combatants. On one side there’s the yaysayer, on the other hand the naysayer. Let’s hear some of their arguments for and against the film. And in the next part I’ll tell you what I finally thought about it.

Yay: Jennifer Lawrence. That’s the only reason you need to watch it. She resembles quite a bit to the character she played in Winter’s Bone: a resilient young woman, as tough as any action hero, down-to-Earth, nurturing and love giving to some extent, but never so much that it becomes a weakness and a burden. I want her to become my big sister. For Jennifer Lawrence’s sake I hope she won’t get stuck in this kind of roles forever. But for this movie – she’s perfect as it is.

Nay: Apart from Jennifer Lawrence, is there anything to say about the other actors and the other characters in this movie? No. I wouldn’t think so. You never get to know them. There are over 20 people on the screen, dying left and right, but you never really care that much about it because you don’t know them. They’re barely more of real persons than the dolls that they use in school when they’re teaching you to stop a fire in someone’s clothes or give a heart massage. Take the love interest from Katness’ home district for instance. He was so underdeveloped that you could as well have left him out altogether.

Yay: The satire and black humored commentary on the reality TV shows is spot on. Hopefully it will make the young audience start to think more critically about it.

Nay: What is it with the design of the parts that are about the TV-show? Why do people need to look so over-the-top with all that purple and pink and ridiculous facial hair? It makes it look childish and cheap, like a children’s television show. It made it look more unreal and less believable and engaging than it could have been.

Yay: The two and a half hours went quickly. Time really flies when you’re properly entertained! I wasn’t bored for a second and it felt as if they had made a good balance giving room for the different settings: the district she came from, the preparations and television show and the actual games.

Nay: You could tell that this is an adaptation of a very long book and that they had to leave out things. There were some events that didn’t make sense to someone like me, who couldn’t fill out the gaps with knowledge I had gotten from the book. For instance, what was this thing about Katness suddenly making a gesture into the TV-camera and an uproar starting in the district she came from? It came out of the blue to me; you really never saw her way towards being a hero. It was just assumed she was. And that’s just one example. Perhaps this book would have fit better for a TV adaptation, allowing more space to give a proper background and understanding for what’s going on.

Yay: The mix between the high tech and the low tech is a little bit odd. It’s like Robin Hood meeting Star Trek, but how weird as it sounds, it works pretty well. I was too caught up in the story to worry about the logic. And that’s all I ask for when it comes to good sci-fi/fantasy.

Nay: The shaky hand camera. What were they thinking? I’m generally quite positive to them compared to most film buffs I know of, but this was just ridiculous. They were shaking around stuff just for the sake of shaking it. I think a good sign of that you’re shaking your camera too much is that people start noticing it. My daughter, who had watched the movie earlier, warned me about it. She got seasick by all the uncalled for shaking. Not cool.

The verdict

So what’s my verdict? Is it a “yay” or a “nay”? Well, as you probably understand, I’m somewhere in the middle. I haven’t brought up all of my arguments, and to be completely honest, I find it easier to come up with more “nays” than “yays”. I haven’t gotten into the crappy CGI dogs or the cop-out ending or the silly implied love triangle that I didn’t buy for a second.

However: in the end it boils down to one question: do I want to watch the sequel? And to that, my answer will be: “Yes!”.

All in all, it’s a “Yay” – but with a LOT of reservations.

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, US, 2012) My rating: 3,5/5

I watched this movie together with my fellow Swedish bloggers in the informal network Filmspanarna, which meets up every month to watch a movie and chat intensely about anything film or blogging. If you have a movie blog you can get in touch with any of us to get an invite to our next meeting.

And here are the thoughts of my fellow bloggers:

Deny Everything (in English)

Fiffi’s Filmtajm

Fripp’s filmrevyer

Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

April 4, 2012 at 7:00 am

39 Responses

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  1. Very good write-up even though I think you’re grade is maybe slightly more positive than your text. I agree on almost everything except from

    “For instance, what was this thing about Katness suddenly making a gesture into the TV-camera and an uproar starting in the district she came from? It came out of the blue to me; you really never saw her way towards being a hero.”

    Yes the scene came out of nowhere but it was the only time in the film I got an emotional connection with it. I think it was a true hero depiction and it almost made me cry.

    • Thanks Joel! I’m actually pretty certain about my rating. While it’s easy to come up with problems, the ultimate question is if I want to see more of it and the answer is yes. All in all I think it’s not excellent by any means, but pretty good. It left me at the same satisfaction level as Super 8, which I also gave a 3,5.

      I liked the scene where we saw her looking into the camera too; I just thought it wasn’t properly set up. We should have seen something about what was going on in the outer world earlier to buy into it.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

  2. Well as you know, I’m not much of a movie buff but even I did a half review of this on my social networking site of choice, here, I’ll plonk it here, it kind of sums up my opinions well.

    “Mini-Movie Review posted here, because I’m not really a game reviewer and not really a movie reviewer but I’ve been asked enough I felt I should post a public answer well, somewhere:

    To take a note from moviebob, give me a second to put on this bullet proof vest and hide behind this 10″ thick steel door before I say anything at all about a series that certain fans are overly passionate about.

    Hunger games, the only movie I felt bad disliking. I don’t think the movie was bad persay, just painfully mediocre particularly with the hype I’d seen it get. The book was such a good premise, the PG-13 Rating really limited a what of what they could show/do with it. The effects were surprisingly cheap, the costume, sets, and really generic outdoorsy backgrounds mixed with awkward shakeycam action moments. I do have to say for fans of the books that understand the entire series a lot better than I do it’s probably a decent enough adaptation to enjoy seeing their work ‘come to life.’ but outside looking in it comes off as painfully generic and roughly 10 years out of date with it’s graphics and presentation.

    There are definitely some good acting moments, and some of the ideas (teenagers being forced to kill each other on screen) are very edgy and interesting to explore but the PG-13 rating kept a lot of those from being explored. Mixed with a lot of very formulaeic plot elements for the genre outside of the one I just mentioned and the terribly generic aesthetic choices, I just have to say, it was mediocre. But I’m willing to cheer it from the rooftops if only because the characters are a lot more interesting, better developed, better role models, better, well, everything than the other recently popular series that got turned into movies aimed primarily at a young teenaged female audience.”

    Holly "Digit" Dotson

    April 4, 2012 at 7:29 am

    • That’s a great little review and I’m with you in some points, especially regarding some of the aesthetical choices. I’m more positive than you are in the end and I think one of the reasons is that it, as you say, gives a better role model for a female audience than many other blockbusters.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

      • I agree whole heartedly that’s why I wish the movie itself had been better, my biggest hope is that as it is, it actually inspires some to pick up the book, where it’s better presented.

        Holly "Digit" Dotson

        April 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm

  3. Superb write-up. I agree with you on the shaky cam. That was a few things about the film I didn’t like. I wanted to scream “keep the fucking camera still, I wanna know what’s going on”.

    Steven Flores

    April 4, 2012 at 7:39 am

  4. […] inte heller att titta in hos de andra filmspanarna som var med och såg filmen: Fiffi, Henke, Jessica och […]

  5. […] The Velvet Cafe […]

  6. […] är dom andra filmspanarnas recensioner av filmen: Jessica, Sofia, Henke och Joel. […]


    April 4, 2012 at 7:50 am

  7. Well, most of the kids did on the other hand have one of these giant buckets of popcorn to hug. Maybe just as good as a tebby bear?

    I’m completely with you on the back and forth with this movie, but did not feel the left out parts as keenly as you did. Maybe because I was prepared for them and managed to let them just slide by?


    April 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

    • Popcorn is a nuisance at theatres! Period.

      I might very well get to read the book the film is based on. It will beinteresting to see if my evaluation of the film will change when the plot holes have filled out.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

  8. Jessica! Well written as usual and expected.

    Your review is great. You put into words exactly my take on the movie. Spot on, comment after comment are as I saw it. I gave the film a rating of 3/5 because even if it is flawed it has great entertainment value.


    April 4, 2012 at 8:07 am

    • Thanks Henke! Yes, I think we’re pretty much on the same page, even though I’m a tad more generous than you are.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

  9. Right on target there, every comment fits like a glove. You´re just much more generous that me. 😉

    For me, the movie fades away. It doesn´t stay. I really don´t care for anyone except Katness and Prim, everyone else is just extra, a shadow, non important people. When I see those people die right before my eyes and I really don´t care, eeehmmm…there´s something major wrong there and I refuse to think that´s me being a coldhearted and ruthless bitch 😉 But, if we had the chance to get to now every participant as well as Katness the movie would be a week long.

    I think lots of my issues about the film isn´t issues in the book but that doesn´t help me from thinking that the film is just a huge hype. A huuuuuge hype.


    April 4, 2012 at 8:45 am

    • You really do get angrier on this film by the minute. We need an updated review in 3 days. =)

    • The hype thing makes you a bit weary, I admit that. If you hear and see too much about a movie you get a bit tired of it even before seeing it. But I think it’s a little unfair to take that into consideration when you write a review. So I tried to imagine what I would have thought about the movie if I’d just stumbled upon it without having it marketed to me, if it had been a small, unheard of festival film. And I thought it was quite good, at least entertaining.

      I’m glad to see this movie doing a box office success if you compare it to other blockbusters. After all it’s pretty ok from a gender perspective and it highlights the abusurdity of reality television. Compared to movies that are all about special effects, I’d say it will have a more longlasting impression.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:34 am

    • I think that a better script and/or better director could have made a better film where we got to know more of the characters. Not to bore you with my Joss Whedon comments again, but he has shown that you can create deep and alive characters without using a whole week. It can be done in a movie of 140+ minutes.


      April 4, 2012 at 10:42 am

  10. I have seen it twice now and I still didn’t get AFFECTED by the shaky cam. I thought it fitted quite well with the disorientation of being selected for the games and probable death

    • I can agree on that it fit in there, but it wasn’t just in that scene, it was like… everywhere. Right from the start. Even in scenes where there was no real reason for it.


      April 4, 2012 at 11:14 am

  11. I’m curious about all the kids in the cinema. hope they handled it ok! I think this film would have been a dream come true when I was little!

    The other thing you don’t learn in the film is exactly why it is called the ‘hunger’ games. Which is pretty odd.


    April 4, 2012 at 11:28 am

    • Well I didn’t hear any loud crying, but it’s hard to say what it caused in the form of nightmares… I think it would have been fine for me as a 12 year old, but as a 7 year on my own… Admittedly I have no strong memories from that age but it appears just weird.

      Re: the hunger – isn’t that more about hunger being one of the tools they use to keep people under control. Apparently those who live in the poor areas are VERY hungry and trade more tickets with their own name for extra food rations. Maybe it’s explained more clearly in the books.

      For the record: I don’t agree with those who say that Jennifer Lawerence isn’t skinny enough.


      April 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

  12. I’ve not seen Hunger Games yet, and I’m not convinced by the hype right now. I’d be curious to see both Battle Royale and Hunger Games and how they compare, as they share some very similar concepts. (I’ve seen Battle Royale, and suspect I’d probably be disappointed by Hunger Games, as the concept wouldn’t be that new to me.)


    April 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    • I haven’t seen Battle Royale myself, but those who have seem to be more critical to Hunger Games. At least that’s my impression. I’ve heard other people saying that the comparsion isn’t fair or relevant. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; I think it’s hard to avoid.

      I do’t think there’s any urgency to see Hunger Games in a theatre. While I wouldn’t talk anyone out of seeing it (apart from children), you could as well wait until it comes out on DVD. Keep it for a night when you feel like watching a movie that doesn’t require too much of thinking.


      April 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

  13. I don’t think we are supposed to care about the other people dying- I cared about Katniss and Peeta. That’s enough (at least for me). I also took the gesture that Katniss gives to mean a symbol to the oppressed people.

    • Well making us care about 24 people would be impossible but I think it would have been good to get a little better picture of a few more at least.
      I realized what the gesture was; the problem I had was that it seemed to come out of the blue. It felt as if I hadn’t seen the love from the audience develop over time.


      April 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  14. Nice even handed review Jessica,

    I thought Lawrence was much more powerful in Winters Bone. But maybe that film raised my expectations for her to an unreachable level for this film.

    I think this film lost something by trying to be a PG-13 film. The level of horror and violence seemed like it had been toned down a lot.

    I sort of liked how they made the 1% into pink and purple foppish dandies l:-)


    April 5, 2012 at 12:47 am

    • Thanks! I think Winter’s Bone is a far better movie, so it’s not all that easy to make a fair comparsion between her performances. She had more to work with there, a more powerful story and character.

      I wonder how the movie had become if they had made it for a 15 year + audience. (15 being the highest age limit in Sweden). I think it could have benefited from that. Not that it needed to be gory necessarily, but they could have designed it not to aim for kids.


      April 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

  15. I really enjoyed this movie. I expected something like Twilight, Eragon or Harry Potter but it’s vastly superior to the first two and I liked it more than the first Harry Potter. I like it enough to have started reading the books.

    Sure, there are some minuses. The other characters weren’t worked out well. I suppose you do that to vilify them so teenagers don’t care if they die. But I had too much fun to worry about it. As for the shaky cam? I didn’t even notice it.

    As for Battle Royale, yes, it is a even better. See it if you have the chance.


    August 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    • Never mind about Battle Royale, I see you’ve already seen it 🙂


      August 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    • Yep, as you noticed I’ve seen Battle Royale, and I think it’s a more interesting movie that leaves a longer lasting impression. Though it’s definitely not for an audience as wide as The Hunger Games.

      In the end I’d say The Hunger Games worked pretty well for me. The ultimate verdict is: do I want to see the next installation in the series or not? And my answer is yes: definitely.


      August 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      • Ah yes, that’s a good point. I don’t want to see the second Twilight movie while I’m looking forward to the next Hunger Games movie.


        August 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  16. […] CinemaReel TalkFear of a Ghost PlanetInspired GroundFilm CrazyWide Screen WorldSurrender to the VoidThe Velvet CaféThe Warning SignNever Too Early Movie […]

  17. […] PS. The Hunger Games var en av filmerna som Filmspanarna såg på bio innan jag joinade (nej, stavningskontroll, jag menar inte “ointjänade”, jag menar det svengelska ordet joinade som kan översättas till “anslöt mig till”)  den mysiga gemenskapen. Varför inte hoppa iväg och läs deras recensioner om ni inte gjort det tidigare: Fiffi, Joel, Sofia, Henke och Jessica. […]

  18. […] The Hunger Games – thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. From my review: “She resembles quite a bit to the character she played in Winter’s Bone: a resilient young woman, as tough as any action hero, down-to-Earth, nurturing and love giving to some extent, but never so much that it becomes a weakness and a burden. I want her to become my big sister.”  […]

  19. […] my own part I found it pretty similar to the first film. There are negatives, but after an inner battle, the positives take the overhand. The issues I had […]

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