The Hunger Games

I had a genuinely open mind about this thing. I liked Ross' Pleasantville, I enjoy Jennifer Lawrence. I even rewatched Winter's Bone and Battle Royale to get me amped up for this thing this week.

This is well reviewed? This is going to be massively successful at the box office? Do people need a Twilight alternative so badly that they will embrace this wimpy piece of shit? The script is thoroughly weak, everything feels artificial and stilted, nobody has any chemistry with anyone, it excuses its way out of most of its own violence in some very creatively pathetic ways. Many of its concepts and world-building elements are horribly explained, or not explained at all. And it's without an ounce of energy, ambition or even wit. All we have are bare-bones outlines of characters and plot, with no interest in truly embracing this world and what it means.

There is a specific element I truly hated, and that has to be how the other kids work. None of these kids seems terrified. It's like they're playing paintball. Our heroes are calm and collected which makes them look strong, I can buy that, but these other oppressed districters, who before the game we've only seen gussied up and smiling for the ruling class to get sponsors, suddenly are cartoonishly evil saying cartoonishly evil things, or not taking it seriously at all, until the very end when the last guy is over the top acting insane. Aren't they coming from hardship too? Aren't we supposed to be sympathetic to some degree for all of them? Is it so hard to attempt to give a rats ass about any of them other than the runt of the litter? It's incompetent character work, incompetent acting, incompetent filmmaking in general. Compare this to Battle Royale, which I think is overrated, but gets it right in how these kids should behave to the situation. Some off themselves, some fight in fear, some get sudden adrenaline rushes, some are flat out terrible to each other, and some are too stupid to understand what is really going to happen to them. There's some actual commentary on teenagers there. In The Hunger games you get no sense of who any of these other kids actually are, and it matters. There's no real build of any of them to a final battle. There's no real build of any of the sponsors or game master as people you should hate, especially not in any realistic sense. It doesn't care, it's just going through the motions. Nothing visceral. It takes itself too seriously to be fun, but not seriously enough to engage in its concept and succeed as drama.

It's a story about poor children forced to battle each other for the rich masses, and there's no depth to any of it. No story for the other competitors and the pain they came from, and no stakes beyond merely surviving, despite this tacked on element towards the end about messing with the game and angering the ruling class. It's all so... feeble. It's the most mediocre thing that ever mediocred.

But Jennifer Lawrence is a star and the sole saving grace of the film, a single blade of grass in a field of Astroturf. She wrestles bad dialogue to the ground and strangles what little life she can out of its sad little frame with subtle facial expressions and the right intonations.

So celebrate all you will at the prospects Katniss will upend Bella as the teen girl role model of choice. It doesn't change that this is a seriously bad film, suitable perhaps instead as a teen series for the WB Network.... if only they could afford the effects, costumers, and wasted character actors. The bad line readings, generic teen dreamboats and thorough tonal awkwardness are ready to air.

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