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My inner match over The Hunger Games

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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