The Hunger Games (2012)
Having not read the books, I am grateful for not having any preconceptions. Despite what is shown on screen, it is impossible for a film maker to please all of those people all of the time that already have a picture in their mind's eye about how this should look or what the characters should do, knowing them so well, as they do already. Tough call then...
Well, no such problems with this viewer. Having carefully negotiated my way around reading any Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games novels, I am, I hope, able to look at this effort with a more reserved and level head and heart. Most of the responses I had seen lauded the efforts of this project, having had their expectations surpassed and their fears for a well-loved story thankfully dashed. This is only most, however, with the naysayers referring to a dumbing down of sorts in order to reach a larger audience and potentially, a less demanding demographic. It is safe to say that if you had to be an adult to get into theatres to see this, then those same theatres would not be half as full as they had been on the opening weekend.
And the reason for this is simple. It is not as violent as it wants to be, nor as violent as some of the audience wanted it to be. The film has a PG13 rating and it does push this certification with some of the fight scenes, but rarely does it really warrant the attentions of a middle-aged man with little or no interest in the romance that inevitably comes with a mass appeal movie most definitely fit for teenagers.
The acting by the leads is admirable, but not outstanding. As for the rest of the lucky couple of dozen that are thrust into the wilderness with nothing but almost certain to death to look forward to, they barely get a look in and, if you're not a fan of the franchise, you will be pushed to have the time or inclination to even know all of their names before they are inevitably picked off.
Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland are all good support for the young things taking centre stage, but that is all they are afforded, so those of you looking for acting chops will be mostly left hungry.
The script is sparse and, apparently, fitfully true to the source material. Again, for us grown ups that like a clever, tight script, the film again is found wanting. The charges thrown at the film of 'a new twilight' is not really that far from the truth. The stories are intermittently similar, but here we have no vampires or werewolves and Hunger is sporting a believable female lead in the form of Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss.
In short, it's an entertaining piece of cinema that will, after the Beatlemania screaming has died down, be seen for what it is. Mass appeal for the biggest audience the makers could pander to. It is far from classic, no matter what you may have heard, but no slouch either. At over two hours, it could have been done and dusted twenty or even thirty minutes earlier, given the very slow nature of the storytelling and long moments of unrequired reflection.
I can't recommend this to everyone but I'm guessing this will tick all of the boxes for those which it is intended. The rest of us, will have to move on. Expect more of these, regardless of the box office results. This is Hollywood's big push now, so you're going to get more of it, like it or not.
Finally, a big shout for Lenny Kravitz. I had an "oh look who it is!" moment when I saw him. Two thumbs up, Lenny.