Severely Malnourished

Posted by : | November 23, 2013


Movies have the power to elicit many emotions.  Hours after watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, Lionsgate), I was sullen.  Snappish.  Somewhat pessimistic.  I wish I could say these feelings came about because of the story’s themes of oppression, hardship and death, but deep down I know it’s because of the filmmaking itself.


josh-hutcherson-hunger-games-catching-fire-peeta-portraitFull disclosure: I am not exactly a fan of Suzanne Collins’ novels.  Or novel, I should say.  I only read the first one and had zero interest in continuing on with the saga of clumsy teen romance set amidst a government sponsored competition where the participants are required to hunt and kill each other.  How romantic.  I actually liked the dystopian premise until a milksop Peeta truly ruined everything.  But whatever, this is plenty of folks’ bag, and the world created by the author does offer some intriguing possibilities for its translation to film.

Too bad it capitalizes on none of them.

While watching this I was constantly thinking about the disappointment of missed opportunities.  Relationships are left severely underdeveloped in place of bland exposition.  Two characters fall in love without any of the steps usually associated with falling in love, which is so interesting.  Also, how do people supposed to ultimately kill each other form alliances?  I’d like to see that explored a bit. A decent cast has been brought back and assembled, from Jennifer Lawrence resuming the starring role, to Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman as supporting cast.  They make the most of what they have (especially Sutherland), but the script gives them so very little to do.

Characters spend a lot of time looking alternately grave, then scared, then grave again all while having zero chemistry with each other and conversing in terse, lackluster dialogue that’s often delivered as stiff and awkwardly as is was written.  There’s very little life in this morose script, and thus very few people to root for.  I counted only two, those being a spirited Jena Malone, who’s eyes betray a volcano of emotions ready to erupt that the filmmakers exploit all too infrequently, and a flamboyant Stanley Tucci, who is infectious as a hammy talk show host.

I have a problem with the latter, though: I liked the Tucci character, but I shouldn’t.  He was funny, almost personable, but he should be despised, embodying everything the shallow, selfish citizens of the capital stand for.  The camera loves him, however, obviously realizing his effect on the audience and how much his energy helps maintain our interest.  A few glib remarks peppered through the life and death situations of The Games seem similarly out of place.  This tonal problem occurs throughout the movie.  We’re expected to take this all very seriously, but then we’re not?  I’d love to say this was some sort of sly commentary, but it smacks of sloppiness, a lack of vision from both director Francis Lawrence and writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt.



But there’s plenty of blame to go around, from the drab cinematography to ridiculously inconsistent art direction.  Could they have made it more obvious that they didn’t want to build sets for this?  And how stupid do those white Robocop suits of armor on the stormtroo- I mean, military/police/whatever- look?  The mining slums of District 12 do look appropriately gritty, but the supposed fantastical Capital has all the wow factor of a futuristic city designed by a CGI student 10 years ago.  Great job with that bigger budget, guys.

I could really go on and on about the story retread and the gaping plot holes (that ending…ugh), but what’s the point?  Fans of the books, bring on the hate, but watching this made me want to join team Edward.  Blockbusters don’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable, but I see only waste here, from the idea to the cast to my 2 ½ hours.

There’s a part of me that wanted to write a hilarious, mocking, scathing review, but that wouldn’t be quite honest.  I go to all movies wanting to love them.  This one just made me sad.

My Rating: 1 out of 4 Hugs That I Need Nowcatching_fire_640Did Stephanie agree?

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  1. Posted June 4, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    […] as it is to watch, Disney’s Maleficent isn’t quite the torturous experience that was The Hunger Games, but I have to admit that toward the end I was squirming in my seat, wondering when this 97 minute […]

  2. Posted December 27, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Hi, i have reading out and i will definitely bookmarrk your site, just wanted to say i liked this article.

  3. TechKris
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Seeing this tonight. I hope I can stay awake… :). Thanks for an awesome review though!

  4. Lisa Ligon
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    One other off review topic – just saw Captain Phillips this evening, and my heart is still racing from the action and suspense! I rate it a 10 out of 10. Wish it was a new release so we could see a Steph and Pat review on that one.

    • Patrick
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      We debated seeing this one, and still might. I want to see it for myself, even if it’s never featured on the site.

      • Lisa Ligon
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

        I found it to be very unique in that it doesn’t give the audience ANY breaks from the intensity of how a situation like this can chamge in a second. Thenothermaspectmit showed very well is the complex relationship between captors and their prisoners. Hope you get to see it!

      • Lisa Ligon
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

        And Dallas Buyers Club just officially opened nationwide so that could be another fun PS review. More Porcupine Sundae! Your fans are demanding it – big pressure cooker on that.

  5. Lisa Ligon
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi from Lisa L!

    This comment is for both Steph and Pat – am assuming you read each other’s comments.

    Like Steph,I liked the movie, but it did not set me on fire. A lot of it felt recycled to me, and lacked the verve of the first Games movie.

    I loved the first film because I felt Katniss was an unusually strong and interesting female protagonist, which is very lacking in most Hollywood blockbusters. The first film also did a great job of revealing the different regions of Panem in a way that really drew me in. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time, as black and white Kansas turned into the technicolor of Oz.

    I agreed with Pat about the love story being lame and very underdeveloped. For the record, it’s Team Helmswoth for me on this one. (I’ve decided that the Helmsworth boys are the Baldwin brothers of the 2010’s, stunningly good looking and sort of interchangeable.) Peeta was a wuss.

    One final comment that’s pretty off topic: Have you both seen Winter’s Bone? It was one of my favorite films of 2010, and it really struck me how similar the the basic plot line was to Hunger Games. Also starring Jennifer Lawrence, it’s about a teenage girl with an incapacitated mother, absent father, and younger siblings who are completely dependent on her. She has to enter an underworld that is truly a horror to save her family, and is incredibly strong and courageous throughout all of her journey. But unlike Games, there’s no love story, magical world of the Capital, or Cinna to turn her into a princess. It’s gritty and intense, but is surprisingly optimistic in a non-Hollywood cliche sort of way. I highly recommend it.

    Am loving the Porcupine open movie discussion forum. Am looking forward to more Steph & Pat reviews.

    • Patrick
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you guys both liked it, and the audience applauded for pete’s sake! I have a feeling I’m going to be in the minority on this one…

      By the way, loved Winter’s Bone. Great movie.

  6. Posted November 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I said the exact same thing about the storm trooper/ peace keepers! Cheap! I loved Catching Fire, but am easy to please. I also love your review. Take it for what it’s worth. Enjoying PS! 🙂

    • Patrick
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      Well, everyone seems to like this movie way more than I did. What can I say? But seriously, those costumes, right? They were the opposite of threatening. They were very clean too, for guys that were shooting, beating and whipping people all day long.

      And how hard to please can I be? I liked Thor!

  7. Stephanie
    Posted November 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    OMG we both made Twilight references in our blogs!!!!!! Well first off, I am embarrassed to report that if you were more sullen, snappish and pessimistic than usual, I didn’t notice 🙂 lolz just kidding. I don’t want to kick you when you’re down, that’s no fun. Here are some hugz OOOOOOOOOOOO

    PS yes camera shots! One that annoyed me after a while was — though gorgeous and riveting — I feel like 57% of the movie was close-up shots of Jennifer Lawrence thinking hard about life…

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