Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hunger Games Eating the Box Office

One of the year's most anticipated movies delivers controversial material served with a full menu of great performances. 


ARTH VADER (AV): This one was an odd one for me, Pontificator. While two of my teenagers and my girlfriend (along with countless legions of understandably loyal fans) raved about this movie adaptation of TV writer-turned-novelist Suzanne Collin's famed series of arena-of-teenage-death, I come from the unfortunate perspective of having not read this great series. Therefore my comments here (on Continuity) will be limited. Suffice it to say that I understand this movie did the book justice, but even at a run-time of better than 2 hours, the all-too-familiar "the book was better" comment comes into play. Yet, with a $78 million dollar opening weekend, this movie is definitely resonating with audiences and fans the world over!
THe PONTIFICATOR (TP): Indeed Vader... it resonated with me as well, but in a disturbing way. The movie stayed very close to the book except for a couple of minor changes that didn’t degrade the movie or detract from the enjoyment of the book. In the book, Katniss had more trouble finding water than she did in the film, and Haymitch was drunk a lot more instead of sobering up as he did. Minor changes, not a huge departure, kept this film very much in line with the original source material. 


AV: The beautiful and super-talented, Jennifer Lawrence (known to some for her portrayal of Mystique in last year's surprisingly well-done X-Men:First Class) stole the show. Lawrence's portrayal of the reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen was near-flawless. If anything, the film's pacing did not give us apt opportunity to truly take in her performance. I was (pleasantly) stunned by the array of A-List talent this movie tossed at us including Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson. Award-winning director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Big, Tales of Desperaux) who displayed some funky experimental camera work that I was NOT a big fan of. That aside I gotta say, it's hard not to be star struck with Hunger Games. How say you, Ponitifcator?
TP: A very well directed film with excellent acting by all the cast members. It doesn’t take super big names in lead roles to make a great film, just actors dedicated to bringing out their best performance. Jennifer Lawrence gives a superb performance as Katniss Everdeen and the awkward chemistry between her and Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) only elevates their delivery. Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci deliver as expected of two very established and respected masters of their craft.


AV: While I truly cherished this movie (mostly), special effects were not really a big component. The few effects that were worth mentioning were well handled. The chariot-of-fire and the ceremony in the city were both quite impressive. While the grander views of the city were distinctly unimpressive, the effects were all a general order of good. The pacing of this movie was off for me, Pontificator. There were points I felt the film dragged while others moved at a blistering, action-movie pace, though overall, pacing was up-tempo.
TP: There were more special effects in this film than I expected, and they were all done very well. I was sold on the world that was presented as evidenced by my lingering reaction to this film. Most of the CGI didn’t appear obvious, but I found one part to be...and I believe it was by design given the nature of what was happening. The rest of it was just like getting a glimpse of the not-so-distant future technology. 


 AV: I am going to share something about this movie that I find deeply troubling, Ponty. Not since Lord of the Flies has there been such a disturbingly blatant storyline of children killing children. This story harbors the influence of a number of additional literary references, all equally repulsive. The classic American short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is the tale of blood-thirsty hunter tired of killing animal for sport so he resorts to man beings. This is the binary premise behind Hunger Games and it is ugly. The story shares a dystopian perspective that is built around a society that watches this horrific bloodshed of child-on-child aggression as a reality TV show. Why there is NO public outcry over this is so far beyond me—and the insanity behind this show being a reality TV show, mind boggling. Furthermore, the infuriating realization that those controlling the game could force desired events in the arena was somehow very uncomfortable to me as it further illustrated the preposterous nature of this "tournament." As a father with children, I can promise you, 12-year-olds have NO chance against 18-year-olds. Ridiculous.
TP: The deeper look I took didn’t have anything to do with how much comedy, drama or action there was in this film...although there was much of the latter, and a sparse bit of the former. The look I took was into the society we live in today and how it’s just a stone’s throw from the world of “Hunger Games.” Classism isn’t new and is becoming an extreme issue when thinking about the recent Occupy Movement. I was struck by the underlying apathy and decadence in the film of a society that takes pleasure and makes sport of the death of children. How far away are we from such a society should violence flourish as a last expression of the downtrodden and ultimate power is then usurped by the privileged among us? This wasn’t a horror film, but the underlying profound presentation of our flawed humanity certainly scared me.
ARTH VADER'S SPECIAL HUNGER GAMES RANT: I don't want to go too far off the deep end with this but the disturbing premise of this movie really is sickening. I realize our little fun Fanboy blog may not be the place to wax outrageous, but I will say of all the movies that have gotten flack in our specified genre here at the Boxed Office, this movie is the movie that gets a pass by the public at large? I guess if our society can stomach movies about Human Centipedes or maniacs disemboweling young people, then I guess this is where that road leads. In truth I applaud Ms. Collins for taking this reality TV show to the zenith–this is, in sorts, a cautionary tale of what course we are on as a culture if present trends continue. As ever, the human condition baffles me, and I am saddened by the public acceptance of this movie's topic, if not the movie itself. END RANT
TP: I fully agree with this rant. 


AV: Any book that does this well–this fast–and generates the kind of media buzz this movie has, will be a franchise jackpot. This is just the beginning. With two other books (Mockingjay and Catching Fire) in the series all wildly successful, there will be no stopping this new franchise juggernaut. Evidently, I need to add this series to my already bloated MUST READ list, Ponty. I will be interested to see how this saga develops both in print and onscreen.
TP: The word is, “Catching Fire” will be released on November 22, 2013. It will be the last two novels in the trilogy rolled into one movie. Even if this film wasn’t based off of a book, I’d expect another film just because this one didn’t really bring closure and left a few doors wide open.

ARTH VADER Rates The Hunger Games: No better cast can be found for a movie in this genre. Smart, action packed, excellent film work and acting along with a highly disturbing sub-text our society, “Hunger Games” is smart, foreboding and entertaining. A disturbing look into a bloodthirsty future, “Hunger Games” is enchanting and thoughtful. In a dead run to the cornucopia, I give this movie nine disturbed busted blocks.
THE PONTIFICATOR The Hunger Games: This is a superb film filled with a little bit of something for everyone. The most striking part of this movie is the impression it leaves long after the credits have stopped rolling and the theater falls silent. Anyone really paying attention to the world we live in will see so much more in this movie than just action sequences and special effects. I saw life’s ugly reflection... and it busted nine very disturbing blocks.

The Hunger Games: 9/10 Busted Blocks

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