The Hunger Games – Michelle Hates It!

The Hunger Games Movie Review










Suzanne Collins popular trilogy The Hunger Games took the book world by storm and now its about to set the movie world on fire.  Today’s teenagers read and go to the movies so it’s a match made in Hollywood blockbuster heaven. This movie can best be described simply as The Running Man for teenage set.  The Running Man is a great movie so being compared to it is not a bad thing.

As someone who has not read the books the movie does a great job of setting up its world and rules within the first few minutes. Really, a lot of movies should take note, all we need is a simple title crawl at the beginning and we’re off to the races. Apparently the world was at war, lots of death and destruction. To end the war Powers that Be launched The Hunger Games.  Instead of endless war each city (known as districts) on the planet have to offer two tributes to participate in the game to the death.  The winner gets riches beyond their wildest dreams.

The world Director Gary Ross crafted feels sterile and flat.  The color palette is a bit boring, but then this is a dystopian future so I don’t expect bright happy colors.

The world of The Hunger Games is a dark, dreary future where the rich have everything and the poor have nothing and have to fight every day to survive. Sort of like the real world. Only here, the tributes are between the age of 13 and 18 and chosen at random.

Katniss Everdeen ( Jennifer Lawrence) is forced to volunteer when her younger sister is chosen to participate. The movie is told from her viewpoint and it suffers for it. We don’t learn much about the other characters and for the first hour we never get much of a sense of what she’s thinking or feeling.  Lawrence is a star and she carries most of this movie.

Unfortunately at times it felt like she was in her own film, she had no chemistry with anyone in this, especially Josh Hutcherson who plays her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark.  I get that Peeta is scared and doesn’t think he’ll survive the games, but the way Josh plays him just doesn’t work.  I really like the rest of the cast Stanley Tucci as a commentator and Wes Bentley are great. Woody Harrelson as the mentor and Donald Sutherland as President also works really well.

Book author Suzanne Collins was very involved in the screenplay and the movie feels like watching a book, but somehow it still didn’t properly build the characters, the tone of the piece feels right and there’s enough meat here to make me want to see where this goes. But the pacing is painfully slow and spends the first hour or so setting up the games. The movie explains everything in the first three minutes; I did not need another hour of set up. Get to the games already.

The real issue with this movie is Gary Ross. He clearly does not have enough faith in the material or the world he created to simply let the audience enjoy the ride. He inserts himself into every second of this movie. Truly, I think this is one of the worst uses of Camera movement that I’ve ever seen in a professional, Hollywood movie.  I would expect this from a new Director who wants to make a name for himself, but this is a veteran who has done work (Seabiscuit, Pleasentville, Dave, etc) that I’ve liked a lot in the past. This movie he is experimenting with a completely new “modern” style. I think he’s trying to go for a “found footage” thing to give the movie a sense of “realism,” and it doesn’t work AT ALL.

Every shot and scene consists of shaky cam, fast pans and sweeps, and out of focus zoom.  Are you kidding me? Ross did not have a camera that is capable of maintaining proper focus while zooming in and out? Even in the quiet scenes the camera wobbles. This movie literally made me sick. About 70 minutes into it, I gave up and left the theater. I’m down for this ride, just not with this director or movie. As an advertising for the book it works well, as a movie it fails.

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21 thoughts on “The Hunger Games – Michelle Hates It!”

  1. If you didn’t watch the whole movie, how can you possibly think you have a right to review it?

    1. Ok, well I did watch the whole movie and I have to agree…the camera work kills this film. And that makes me sad, I so wanted to love it. I read the books long before they even mentioned that they were making a movie. There are so many things I loved about the books, however I feel that most of that was lost in this movie. So many shots were so shaky and tight (not just the fighting scenes) that you had no chance to take in the atmosphere. There was essentially no good looks of district 12 at all. Every shot was extremely close up. How is the audience supposed to connect with how extremely poor and impoverished these people are if you never see it? And I am all for the gritty look of hand held cam, but it was outlandishly overdone. Even in places that didnt call for it, the camera clunked around in an over exaggerated fashion. I kept thinking that the camera man must be hammered and possibly have a peg leg.
      I love the books and the concept, but unfortunalty the technical mistakes were the most brutal thing about this movie. The truly sad thing is, there is probably an amazing movie there, if they had just let us see it.

      1. I was prepared for the shaky camera going in to this film having read about it, but I don’t know if I would have noticed it had I not known. It was responsible for the PG-13 rating, maybe Ross “overused” it so the killing scenes wouldn’t be as jarring if the audience were already prepared for the “shakiness”.

        I was amazed at how well the story was told in under two and a half hours. In particular how the tracker jacker venom was described during Katniss’s hallucination. That was genius screenwriting that explained a very complex and vital part of the book in a few short seconds of film.

  2. You didn’t even watch half of the movie… I’m going to listen to your opinion…not

  3. I totally agree that the movie was far to shaky. It was hard to take in the full spectacle of this world when so much was zoomed in, blurred, or too shaky to focus on. I felt sick threw most of it. As much as I though the acting was wonderful and the script was well written it’s hard to enjoy a movie that makes you ill. I hope the next one is more watchable. 

  4. i really enjoyed the film but agree with the shaky camera work. i know what Ross was trying to do but it just does not work and is not needed as you could hardly tell what was going on during the action scenes.  the story, cast and acting can carry this film alone. we go to the movies to be entertained not be dizzy and have motion sickness when you walk out. as i said i liked it but could have loved it w/o the shaky cam.

  5. I will admit that I did wrestle with this review for a few days and debated whether I should even waste my time writing it but it is the biggest movie of the moment, so thought it was necessary.  Ultimately, I felt that I saw enough to do a proper review and I liked it enough to put up with being sick for an hour and 1/2 to see if the Shaky Cam would finally stop, it never did.

    I did like the movie enough to give it a 2nd chance and tried to watch it on iMax the next day and 30 minutes in the nausea returned and it was worse because I knew the story so the camera felt even more shaky to me. If a movie is literally unwatchable and makes you sick, it’s a
    fair criticism. You can’t ignore that and say “oh, the acting and story
    was good.” Movies are about the image on the screen.

    1.  Obviously many people disagree here.  Perhaps you should have given this review an incomplete review with a disclaimer of your opinion on shaky cam.  That would have been more than fair to the movie, and to your readers.  A grade suggests even though you hated the camera work, you sat through the whole thing.  If you left, how does it even get a D?  Being a movie critic implies you are an expert at this, however I leave this review with a sense I have not been informed properly.  Shame.

  6. I have to agree, the shaky cam was a huge distraction. It made sense in the arena, but not when Katniss is calmly walking through a field or through District 12. There were pivotal moments that were glossed over or made incoherent by the camera work, or left out entirely. For example, Haymitch diving off the stage is cut, you barely see the magnificent entrance of District 12 Chariot in the pre-game show, the silent vacuum of the first arena deaths cuts off the horror you should have felt at children killing each other and worst of all for myself personally, was the kitschy CG dogs (for those who have read the book, that should have been the most horrifying moment of all). And the backstory of the Mockingjay is never even touched. I wanted very much to like the movie, and while I was prepared for it to fall short of the book, I was surprised by how bitterly disappointed I felt. It had amazing individual pieces (acting, costume, score & soundtrack, story, some of the CG) but the way the whole was put together failed to showcase them properly. I agree with you wholeheartedly that it works better as an “advertisement” for the book, rather than a film in its own right.

  7.  To the “shaky cam, fast pans and sweeps, and out of focus zoom”, how else are they going to do action scenes? Brutal and bloody? That would have seen the movie get a higher rating than PG-13 and then it wouldn’t have served a significant part of its fanbase.

    Giving this movie a D, regardless if you watched it or not, makes you worthless as a movie critic. Everything you do from this point on should be taken with a grain of salt. Truly pathetic that you can call yourself a movie critic after this.

    1. Your reading comprehension is worthless. I said I left at the 70 minute mark before any of the action even happened. So everyone who saying the shaky cam was needed to blunt the PG-13 rating clearly don’t know what they were talking about. The shaky cam happened in the first 20 minutes when they were just in a field talking! Unless you think two people talking is “action.”

    2. They could show the action, running & jumping, the terror.  When they are shot they can pan away from the actual kill scenes, and don’t have to show the gore and spilled entrails–sort of like they used to do on movies and tv in the past.

  8. Totally agree with your review. But not only was the camera work shaky and out of focus, some of the scenes were so under lit, they had to crank up the gain. It was ridiculous. But why stop there? You essentially have a movie where the heroine sleeps in a tree and hides in a cave until the others do each other in. Then she wins. I was bored to tears. Imagine Brice Willis doing this in Die Hard. Dumb.

    The portrayal of this upper-class society was ridiculous. I thought I was watching the WHO’S down in WHOVILLE. I get what they were trying to do (and probably did in the books) but it was so cartoonish, it just didn’t mesh with the rest of the movie. How about some sophistication? 

    Also, what the hell is stopping these people from rebelling? The only opposing force stopping them were some dudes in riot gear. Maybe it’s different in the book, but all I could fathom is these people must not be smart enough to do anything different. Yeah, they had the space craft fly over head at the start of the movie. But this wasn’t enough to illustrate their predicament here.

    Why didn’t the kids just refuse to play or just band together? And who the hell were the other players? The only introduction we got to them were lame montage sequences. So in the end, was I really surprised Katniss won? Did I even care? Not really. Did she have ANY chemistry with Peeta? Not at all. 

    Worst movie I’ve seen in a long time. Granted, I’m sure the book takes the story in a whole other direction and that was its saving grace. But if this had been a stand alone screenplay, it would have never seen the light of day.

    1. … “but it was so cartoonish, it just didn’t mesh with the rest of the movie. How about some sophistication?” …if you had read the books you would realize that the Capitol was portrayed exactly as described. In the books Katniss describes them as “disgusting, comical…I wonder if they really know how ridiculous they look to the rest of us”. What kind of sophistication can you expect from a city that makes children brutally beat each other to death on a yearly basis as “punishment” and makes the viewing of the Games required for the entire population of Panem?  The more I read into your review, the more annoyed I am. You haven’t read the book(s) – and clearly your questions and rudimentary assessment of the film makes that blatantly obvious. I understand not everyone who sees the film will have read the first book, let alone the entire series, but if you’re going to write a review tearing the film apart you should have some kind of understanding of how the book and film connect.What is stopping them from rebelling? Starvation, punishment, the fact that the Capitol can obliterate a district in the blink of an eye if they so chose to do, like they did to District 13. But again, you didn’t read the book so you don’t know how much the Capitol really influences their lives. Creating a rebellion amongst 12 districts is no easy task – one district rebelling would be absolutely meaningless. Refuse to play? The Capitol murders you and your entire family, and then punishes your district for your refusal to play along. You may have noticed that as soon as your name is called, you are escorted by Peacekeepers to the train and taken away immediately (save for three whole minutes you spend with your family before departure) for preparation. There is no point where the Tributes would have the ability to attempt to escape. Do you think that the Capitol, who arranges the Games with such detail, haven’t thought through how to ensure that Tributes are chosen AND play every year?

  9. Michelle, I really enjoyed the movie as an adaptation, but I agree with you about the direction – it really undermined the experience.  As soon as the movie started, a little voice went, “Oh no…” in my head.  I’m sorry that you weren’t able to finish watching the film.  For what it’s worth, you weren’t the only one.  I was down in that front row between the the lower and upper tiers, and heard quite a few comments from people leaving because the camerawork was making them sick.  

  10. Whether the cameraman was drunk, had ADHD or was misdirected. Whatever the reason, I agree. The camera tricks used here are used in low budget movies to hide deficiencies in acting and or scenes. In this case it’s a waste of the talent of everyone around.
    What a pity. I did finish watching the movie, sick and all, and I enjoy it to a point. It would have been much more enjoyable if the cameraman was forced to be sober.

  11. “Unfortunately at times it felt like she was in her own film, she had no chemistry with anyone in this, especially Josh Hutcherson who plays her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark.”
    If you had read the books or had some kind of understanding of the series, you would know that intentionally, Katniss does not have sincere chemistry with Peeta. Katniss is devoid of most human emotion – therefore making her interaction with the boy in love with her, absent. She interacted with him just as she did in the book –  as a competitor, not a love interest. I will admit that they could have done a lot more with bringing their newfound faux-mance to life once the games started, because we all of the sudden see Katniss concerned with Peeta’s life and there’s no real depth or discussion about the strategy Katniss employed, nor reference to that it WAS, in fact, a strategy to “love” Peeta to stay alive during the games.
    The shaky cam was a little overdone, yes, but not entirely. As many others have stated, in order to maintain a PG-13 rating it was necessary. You can be as graphic and gory through writing as you please, but once it is brought to life visually you need to scale it back for a younger audience, which this movie is intended for. It is kids killing kids – but it didn’t need to be brutalized to convey the sense of the horror and tragedy. It was very tastefully done for the nature of the content. The shaky camera work in District 12 added great value – it truly helped convey the gritty sense of the district and allowed the audience to feel their helplessness and struggle. The camera work in the Capitol was seamless and steady – just as the living conditions are there.
    By the way, 70 minutes does not equate to an hour and a half. Good thing you’re only a trolling movie critic and not a mathematician. Next time you feel the need to write a scathing review that has no factual relevance to the film, please reconsider. I recommend watching “Dora the Explorer” or something more compatible with your intellectual standings, or lack thereof.

  12. I am a huge fan of the books.  What made the books so great was the chemistry between the characters.  That is completely non existant between (Katniss,Peeta,Gale).  Peeta is supposed to be so in love with Katniss he is willing to give up everything for her.  I couldn’t even tell that he liked her.  Katniss and Gale are supposed to be hunting for years.  They act like this is their first time in a forest with or without each other.  I liked the story, I liked the scenes the acting sucked.

  13. I would hate it with the shaky camera. The Running Man wasn’t a great movie, it was mediocre, but fun. 

  14. I thought the movie was alright but I got sick starting about 30 minutes in. I’d have left if I hadn’t read the books beforehand and wanted to see it. I don’t agree with your rating but definitely, the shaking ruined a lot of it for me.

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