In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Here's the sad truth about Hollywood. It doesn't matter if a film tells an excellent story. Or if it's beautifully shot. Or if it's an Academy Award winner. No, the only thing that matters is the only thing that ever matters: how much money it makes.
And so, here we are again with movies that don't need sequels, getting sequels. Miramax and The Weinstein Company want to produce follow-ups to the following films: Bad Santa, Rounders, and Shakespeare in Love. Yes, seriously. We aren't lying. Please, take a moment to face palm.
Okay, have you recovered? Good. Because before we go any further, those aren't the only sequels the studio is toying with, they're just the front-runners. In the press release, Bridget Jones's Diary, Copland, From Dusk Till Dawn, Swingers, Clerks, Shall We Dance, and The Amityville Horror. Yes, once again, seriously. Take another moment to face palm.
Aside from the obvious fact that none of these movies warrant sequels, three of them (Bridget Jones's Diary, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Clerks) ALREADY HAVE THEM. Blerg. It just goes to show that when a movie studio has the opportunity to make more money on a film that's already been a financial success, they take it. But what irks me most about this is that when the follow-up films are made solely for financial reasons, any artistic integrity established with the first movie is typically thrown out the window. So we're often left with movie theaters full of films that not only suck, but somehow manage to also ruin the originals that we know and love.
Here's what the studio execs had to say:
Miramax and TWC Founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein:
“We are very close to these films and the new management of Miramax also feels that we are in the best position to create sequels that are at once worthy and compelling in their own right. We look forward to working with Mike and his team on getting these films into production as soon as possible, and extending our partnership in the years ahead.”
Mike Lang, CEO of Miramax:
“We are thrilled and honored to work with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. There is no better partner to build on these great films and turn them into franchises, while also creating exciting new TV properties. This agreement will extend the Miramax library while also enabling us to create new content without committing near-term capital.”
TWC COO David Glasser:
“This is the perfect addition to our ongoing slate, giving us the ability to work on already existing franchises that have had such lucrative success at the box office, as well as a great starting ground to our newfound relationship. We clearly believe it will be mutually beneficial for both companies.”
Whatever. Bottom line? This is all just fucking stupid.
Source: Coming Soon