Hunger Games Lacks Strong Emotional Heft

Jennifer Lawrence is a fine actress, and mark our words carefully now, one about whom y’all will be hearing and talking a lot in the coming years and decades.
– The Wise SI in the review of Winter’s Bone, June 2010

As we were driving home through the dense mid-Atlantic fog, we couldn’t help thinking how apposite that America, which willfully denies basic healthcare to 75 million of its people (25% of the population) and callously watches many of them die every year, should be the cradle of Hunger Games.

It’s as if Hollywood mockingly superimposed the current dystopia on to a distant future.

Another instance of art imitating life?

Be that as it may, Hunger Games is a decent movie that retains your attention despite its length (2-hours and 14-minutes).

Albeit one that lacks the emotional heft indispensable to take a good movie into the rarefied realms of the stratosphere.

Hunger Games is not a film that’s likely to win Best Actor, Best Actress or Best Picture awards.

Jennifer Lawrence – Any Day

Given our great fondness for Jennifer ‘Winter’s Bone‘ Lawrence, it’s no surprise that we’d catch the first show of Hunger Games.

And we did, heading for the midnight screening a few hours back.

We loved Jennifer’s stellar performance in Winter’s Bone and the 21-year-old actress acquits herself very well in Hunger Games too.

Jennifer Lawrence is easily the best North American actress in the younger-than-Meryl-Streep category. 😉

With her lips attractively, seductively parted a wee bit most of the time, the young lady cuts an impressive figure in Hunger Games even if we were a trifle unconvinced that she looks 16 (her character’s age in the film).

Jennifer Lawrence dominates, and is the best part of, Hunger Games.

Good but ….

Hunger Games is a movie about a dystopian future in the nation of Panem where the violent death of some people is high octane entertainment for many others.

Think back to ancient Rome with the crowds wildly cheering a man vs lion fight in the arena with its foreordained conclusion.

The dystopia that Hunger Games‘ director Gary Ross presents is drawn from Suzanne Collins’ eponymous novel.

Collins also collaborated with Ross and Billy Ray on the screenplay.

An ill-fated rebellion by 12 districts of the nation some seven decades earlier has extracted a heavy price from the losers.

Every district must send two youngsters every year to the Capitol, where the 24 youths participate in a fight-to-the-end contest overseen by a TV host.

Only one person comes out alive from the vicious, sanguinary contest.

Think of it as a more unseemly, uglier version of American Idol that holds millions of Americans in thrall every year.

Drawn into this contest is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who lives with her younger sister and mother in the impoverished, dreary 12th District.

After her father’s death in a mining accident, Katniss is the breadwinner of the family, hunting and foraging for hard-to-come-by food.

The setting of the 12th District is not unlike the poverty-ridden Ozark region portrayed in Winter’s Bone.

Hey, the people look similar too.

Weathered, beaten down and struggling for survival.

The Capitol where the contestants gather, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast with its opulent buildings, plentiful food and garishly dressed bloodthirsty people cheering the death-march of the youngsters from the 12 districts.

When her frightened-out-of-her-wits younger sister Prim is chosen in the annual ‘reaping’ to represent the 12th District in the upcoming “Hunger Games,” Katniss quickly volunteers to take her place.

The male contestant chosen from the 12th District is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).

Hunger Games’ best visual moments come during the violent contest in a forest-like setting.

Fireballs and feral beasts wrought up remotely by the Hunger Games show hosts compete in their destructive power with the viciousness of other contestants, some of whom have been training a long time unlike Katniss and Peeta.

From here on, for Katniss and Peeta it’s an obstacle course of surviving one tough challenge, and challenger, after another.

The photography is pleasing, the CGI effects convincing (and thankfully not overdone) and the violence moderated, presumably to lure youngsters to the movie.

Donald Sutherland as the President of Panem, Woody Harrelson as the drunk mentor and Stanley Tucci as the blue pompadoured TV show host are pretty impressive.

Josh Hutcherson is alright as Peeta.

Where They Stumble

When one of the contestants is female and the other male, hormones must be in play and romance must soon follow.

That’s the law of biology and it dutifully follows its pre-ordained course in Hunger Games too.

Alas, the movie-makers stumble here for the passion between Katniss and Peeta seems like a somnolent affair with none of the fireworks one would expect in such an intense setting.

But our bigger grievance with the movie is its failure to make a powerful emotional connect.

Complex movies like Hunger Games or Hugo with their ‘mechanical’ perfection fail to achieve this connection that simple dramas like Casablanca or The Artist easily accomplish.

Although the former may seem picture-perfect, they end up emotionally imperfect when it comes to touching the soul of the moviegoer.

But that’s an old fogey speaking.

Because the young girls who thronged the movie hall in large numbers at an East Coast theatre seemed to be relishing every moment of the movie.

4 Responses to "Hunger Games Lacks Strong Emotional Heft"

  1. gandhiji   March 23, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Why the height disparity this bad in the movie.. Responds:

    We’ve seen the other pictures in the same series (your link) two or three days back.

    Ms.Lawrence is wearing high heels.

  2. vjcool   March 26, 2012 at 8:19 am Responds:

    The story line seems similar to Hunger Games!

    • vjcool   March 27, 2012 at 1:11 am

      there are other films with similar storyline.. seems the most poignant Responds:


      South Korea, Japan and China will become powerful forces in the 21st century movie industry.

  3. Naveen   September 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I saw Hunger Games over the weekend and I was least impressed.

    It started off fairly well but clinically disintegrated once the games begin. I would not mind a repeat of Arnold’s The Running Man. Responds:

    Jennifer Lawrence’s best film was Winter’s Bone.

    Her latest film House at the End of the Street has been massacred by the critics.

    Culturally, I think Indians find it difficult to relate to movies like Hunger Games, or those famous vampire films like the Twilight Saga series.

    Or maybe we’re smarter to recognize them as the garbage that they undoubtedly are.

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