Posted by : Patrick | 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.
Full 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 NowDid Stephanie agree?