Terrible bark, not much bite – 3 out of 5
Review by Muna Hussen, Communications Planner
The much-lauded The Hunger Games has finally hit the silver screen and I, for one, was quite excited to see the broth Gary Ross’ directorship had made of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. Less excited was I to see Orange’s new gold spot which featured a mobile phone crackdown squad, though several 15” Canadian Tourism ads were excellently suited to the big screen.
Having already devoured all 3 books (yes, I know they’re meant for young adults, but until September I still consider myself part of this group), I wondered if the film would either fall into the gap of badly adapted films (*coughs Norwegian Wood) or be transcended to heights set by directors such as Peter Jackson.
Well, several days later, the jury is in – though thankfully, the film is nothing like the Twilight Trilogy. Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic novel of a depression-ravaged land of districts is translated well enough onto the screen and juxtaposed by the glittering colour-clashes of the Capital. But Gary Ross’ direction never quite hits the heights it aspires to. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of excitement in The Hunger Games, but it does start off rather slow. Only the transformation of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from rather grubby Woodland Wanderer to stunning Female Love Object lifts the first hour; for a while the action continues to crawl along even whilst the contestants train in the Capital (the only entertainment here provided by Stanley Tucci’s wig and creepy smile).
However, despite the colours and fiery dresses, all that glitters indeed isn’t gold. Gary Ross’ butchering – I mean, condensing – of the novels meant the very best parts seem to have been left on the cutting floor and on the page. We see little of other characters and don’t get to know anyone other than Katniss – even her love interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is one-dimensional on the big screen.
Worse; Gary Ross’ direction makes use of too many close-ups, which work excellently in emotional situations (for example, the sadness in Peeta’s face as he admits he loves Katniss), but fail to really take in the stunning scenes of the woodland glade where the battle for their lives commences. Here, finally, I am given the action I was longing for; the violence erupts with a stunning bloodbath to kick off the competition – though glaringly missing in actual blood. Ross does build on the tension by giving us small drips of action at key moments throughout the following hour of gruesome hide and seek, which result in some real instants of terror that pour off the screen. The beginning of the final fight scene literally made me crush my box of popcorn in my hands (I was picking popcorn out of my bag all the way home). But again, Ross’ in-your-face direction spoiled the action and neither my friend nor I could really see what was going on. This quickly went from exciting to exasperating, lifted only for a few moments when the camera finally panned out and we saw our three survivors fight to the death.
However, this excitement is definitely too little too late, as Ross ends the film with too many scenes, each only a few seconds long, resulting in a confusing melee of images that sort of stumble to an end. Ultimately, the most enjoyable part of The Hunger Games for me was seeing Lenny Kravitz (in gold eye-shadow!), but Ross’ direction failed to really bring to life the best parts of the novels.