Re-View: The Hunger Games | On Demand
We take a second look at the mega-grossing Suzanne Collins adaptation.
Our first look “Even if you know nothing of Panem, mockingjays and Katniss Everdeen, skip this darkly suggestive first chapter of a soon-to-be-major sci-fi franchise at your own risk.”
Another view What’s stranger: that one of the year’s biggest hits is about kids killing kids in a televised death tournament? Or that this nightmare premise—Battle Royale meets Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”—has inspired such a bloodless blockbuster? While just about any version of Suzanne Collins’s young-adult best-seller would have slayed the box-office competition, the Gamemakers behind this PG-13 adaptation have taken no chances. You know the studio’s playing it safe when it’s tapped the director of Seabiscuit.
The film starts promisingly, with eagle-eyed archer Katniss (an excellent Jennifer Lawrence) volunteering for the titular competition in place of her little sister, whose name is drawn at random during the reaping ceremony. Satire mingles with dread in the subsequent hour, as the unlucky chosen are trotted out like reality-TV stars—which, in essence, they are—and the movie flirts with a potent (if muddled) critique of disposable-celebrity culture.
Oddly enough, it’s when the games finally begin that the movie flatlines. Writer-director Gary Ross obfuscates the violence in a “tasteful” flurry of unintelligible motion. (If these aren’t the worst action scenes of the year, they’re certainly the most gutless.) The skittishness extends to the dramatic stakes; Katniss’s unwavering moral code is never challenged, because her most sympathetic rivals are dispatched by her most villainous ones. We’re basically watching a good girl take on the bad guys, in a geographically ill-defined environment. Ross, mismatched to the material, deserves the lion’s share of the blame. This franchise needs its Alfonso Cuarón, stat. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Sat 18.)