Tuesday, May 1, 2012


The Hunger Games, the bestselling series of novels, unsurprisingly made it to theaters amidst an overwhelming marketing push. For months, booksellers and retail outlets across the nation from Barnes and Nobles to Wal-Mart have been pulling-out all the stops to make way for the “Hunger Games”.  Of course anything met with so much retail fanfare is met by this critic with suspicion to say the least after so many such releases have delivered less than promised by the hype. But, to my surprise, The Hunger Games has been a pleasant change from the standard mass-market drivel—the book series that is.
The plot of the story is intriguing. A society driven into rebellion by the decadence of the ruling class is punished by being divided into several different Districts, each of which is required to offer-up a “tribute” - a person selected by lottery to fight in a battle to the death against all the other tributes selected from the various Districts. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to fight in the Hunger Games in the stead of her younger sister who was selected in the lottery. The Everdeen sisters come from one of the poorest Districts—an area reminiscent of Harlan County, USA and likewise home to impoverished mine workers—highlighting the stories primary theme: class inequality and the disaffected decadence of the rulers who laugh and feast while their “tributes” are forced to brawl for their amusement.
The movie, on the other hand, was something altogether different. Granted, even the books are unlikely to go down in the history of great literature, but the message was a relief from the Neoconservative apocalyptic drumbeat that typifies the book-section at Wal-Mart. (Yes, Wal-Mart does have a modest selection of books, and, yes, I know because I’m forced to shop there as are many people from small town Oklahoma. But that’s a different conversation for a different time.) While the general plot of the story was left in tact, ideologically speaking, the movie was a cinematic disappointment. Visually, it was a bore— colorful, but unexciting to say the least. In fact, much of the camera work had the same nauseating effect of a COPS episode. The “reality” style camera work was an obvious attempt to compensate for the utterly bland acting of the cast, (with the exception of dynamic Woody Harrelson). The cookie-cutter good-looks of the sophomoric actors received no help from the utter lack of imagination of the cinematographer. The verdict: worth a look when it hits Netflix.

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