Every once in a while there is a movie which causes people to queue up for blocks and sit in cramped theaters just for the privilege of being one of the first to see the film. “Star Wars,” “The Dark Knight,” even some “Harry Potter” movies. But in those cases, there was a justification for standing in line, for staying up late and seeing a film at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday rather than wait until after work on Friday. “The Hunger Games” should not invite that kind of devotion.
This statement may rankle some who have seen the movie, but it won’t bother many who have taken the time to read the admittedly sophomoric books by Suzanne Collins.
It’s only fair to start at the very beginning, with the title: “The Hunger Games.” Yes, they explain in the film why the games are given such a nomenclature: the people are starving. However, there is zero evidence of this throughout the film. Everyone, including the rather cherubic Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, “X-Men: First Class”) appear extremely well-fed.
Katniss and her classmate Peta (Josh Hutcherson, “Red Dawn” remake) are forced to enter an annual to-the-death game held by the ruling class in a post-apocalyptic America called Panem. The two face off against teenagers from the other districts held in thrall by the bloodthirsty Capitol (or “Capital” as it should have been spelled, as a capitol is simply the building of legislature in a capital city).
The misuse of words most children learn to differentiate by the fourth grade aside, the film smacks with blatant parallels to “The Running Man” and the Japanese “Battle Royale” books and films, rendering any originality in the story virtually non-existent.
That being said, the actual titular event takes up a relatively small percentage of screen time, further disappointing the viewer by bogging down the story with more exposition than is necessary and failing to include important facts. The silent symbolic gesture shared by the downtrodden is one of those things that is never explained and simply looks stupid in the film as a result. The writer of the original young adult novels may have been brought in to help write the screenplay, but it is patently obvious she has less experience working on films than she does with writing original stories.
In the end, those who read the books beforehand will be left disappointed and those who never read the books will have no idea what’s going on some of the time. Either way, by the close of the film, “The Hunger Games” leaves one with an empty stomach.
Ammo Dump rating: 3 out of 10 arrows
(Rated PG-13; 142 min.)
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