I liked “The Hunger Games” more than I thought I would. Normally I don’t go to franchise movies based on young-adult fiction empires; I still haven’t seen more than a couple minutes of any Harry Potter flick, and the first “Twilight” bored both Kate and me so much we never went back for the rest. (For a girl in love, Bella Swan wears a look on her face throughout that suggests nothing so much as constipation.)
But honestly, after “Winter’s Bone,” I’d follow that nice Jenny Lawrence pretty much anywhere, and what I knew of the story made it sound like an action-movie version of that indie darling. A tough girl from a poor neighborhood kicks ass by way of saving her little sister from doom? Same log line!
So I went in more or less unspoiled, having not read the books or the pregame chat or the fan fiction. And even though I think young adults need to read about fewer dystopian worlds where all the grownups are cruel fops, I give Suzanne Collins, the author of this particular one, a lot of credit. She did what all these great bestselling authors do, i.e., take something familiar and make it unfamiliar enough we still want to read about it. The dystopian nation of Panem is a cartoon of cruelty and foppery, almost preposterously so, but it’s an entertaining one. Stanley Tucci lives there; how bad can it be?
Ultimately, though, I have to agree with David Edelstein: The film’s major flaw is that it didn’t go far enough. Of course, the violence is toned down for the PG-13 rating, but what I wanted more of were the creepy parts that reminded me of my own dystopian world — more of the reality show (hosted by Tucci) that broadcasts the games to the rest of the nation, mostly. The event where the girls and boys are chosen from the nation’s 12 impoverished districts to be warriors is kicked off with a short film telling everyone why this is happening, and it’s such a perfect piece of propaganda, it could have been made by Roger Ailes. The thuggish soldiers who enforce the grinding bootheel of oppression are referred to as “peacekeepers.” A brief riot back home is shot almost entirely in shakycam closeup and medium shots, so you don’t get a sense of the odds everyone is facing.
I wanted to know more about the districts, and I understand that may come in the sequel. I hope it’s not downplayed in favor of the Young Love storyline, which drove me nuts. The main character has a boyfriend back home who pouts because she’s playacting attraction for another player in the arena; doesn’t he know she’s fighting for her life here?
Well, that’s what the script called for.
But, all things considered, not a bad action flick for the whole family. As long as you don’t mind 23 kids dying along the way. But you get Stanley Tucci, so it evens out.
For a much funnier movie review, here’s Lindy West on the new, 3D-ified “Titanic.”
And to make this an all-movie blog post, I spent this evening at the Mitten Movie Project. One of the shorts was about this place, the Goat Yard, a famous riverside boat club here in Detroit. I’m not sure if this was an extended cut from a larger feature or not, but it was the story of the goat that gave the place its name. He was a large billy named Nemo, and there was a story about him jumping up and down on a Porsche.
I want a goat.
And I want a happy Wednesday for you.