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The Hunger Games and Catching Herpes are not good.  Never confuse commercial success with a movie being a quality product—there is no correlation on many occasions. These movies are not without worthwhile moments, but the direction of the book adaptations leaves those capable of complex thought (not 15-year-old girls) feeling wholly underwhelmed and unsatisfied.

Let me start with a little blasphemy for those who love The Hunger Games books: I have no interest in ever reading a single page. Go fuck yourselves. There is nothing original or unique about this retread story idea.

If you’ve somehow escaped the all-encompassing hype surrounding these books and the resulting movies, then you may not be aware that The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future after a defeated rebellion where a boy and girl (between the ages 12 and 18) are selected from the 12 districts each year for a death match with only one lone survivor.

Although Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, claims no knowledge of Battle Royale (a manga and movie), the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games plays out eerily similar to its Japanese counterpart—as far as the actual games are concerned. Some say it’s a shameless rip-off. I have a hard time mounting a credible counter-argument even though The Hunger Games’ focus on a smaller core of characters (rather than all of the combatants) establishes some differentiation.

The Hunger Games is basically Battle Royale with the violence turned way down and an idiotic, unnecessarily exquisite fashion show side story involving society’s elite interwoven into the real reason we’re all watching—kids getting killed.

What I remember most from first watching The Hunger Games was how fucking long it took for anything to actually happen. The viewer isn’t introduced to the arena until a little more than an hour into the affair before the action begins. I understand the purpose and importance of the set-up, but the dialogue was painful and the presentation was disjointed with frantic cuts and ill-conceived focal points.

Oh, and the fucking “tributes.” The other contestants in the Hunger Games are only there for you to want them to die. You’re just waiting for the inevitable. Aside from the little black girl, I challenge you to name any other child outside of District 12. Without a single interesting character, it’s hard to imagine any of those rich fucks from the movie actually watching the Hunger Games.

Tributes

Once the terrible training sequence ends and the murdering is mercifully allowed to start, the movie just glosses over a gigantic chunk of the children that are killed. Yes, the movie is PG-13 so there’s a certain creative license that must be used in order to not show young children be slashed to bits and pieces. But the issue is that no effort was made to make the audience feel the desperation and brutality of the games.

Show me how cruel these kids are forced to be to one another instead of just hearing cannon fire whenever a contestant dies. With some artistic integrity, The Hunger Games could have been a gritty, realistic portrayal of this awful future where fear is used to retain control and suppress any potential uprising.

Of course there is no emotional impact when a kid is cut down because you don’t know who they are and have no reason to care about them. Naturally, there’s a significant part of the story that’s limited since this is an adaptation of a book with more substantive backstory. But a director with balls could have still framed the film adaptation as a sharper, more piercing tale than this schmaltzy teen romance.

Sincerely, I look forward to these movies being remade a decade or so down the line when we’re, as a society, (hopefully) less hung up about trying to protect young kids from the violence of a movie marketed to young kids about young kids killing each other.

Do you realize the insanity of this all?

Alluding to the violence is just as bad as actually showing the physical act. But don’t tell that to the knowledgeable team behind this movie’s blatant marketing effort because they are evidently just brain-dead, blood-sucking insects. We need to stop using this sham of a ratings system. It is fucking up film.

Tucci

Without question, the best parts of The Hunger Games come from the characters played by Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson. Tucci’s utterly outlandish, over-the-top performance as Caesar Flickerman (one of the many cringeworthy names) was a nice, much-needed touch of flamboyant comedic relief—even if I didn’t find it very funny. But Woody Harrelson as Haymitch was the real highlight of this movie as the humorous alcoholic mentor with a jaded perspective that is completely justified given everything he’s had to suffer through. Josh Hutcherson was good enough as Peeta, and Jennifer Lawrence was perfect for the role of Katniss—the movie would really be nothing without her.

But we need to talk about Liam.

Just because Liam Hemsworth’s brother is Thor doesn’t mean Liam needs to be making movies. Blessed with a charisma-free presence, it’s hard at times to tell if Liam Hemsworth has any blood flowing through his veins or a heart in his chest. He’s an emotional black hole incapable of playing a compelling role. Thankfully, Liam’s character wasn’t a major player in the initial movie, but it will spell real trouble for the franchise if he is asked to do more than just stand there like a complete bore. A wooden plank serves the same purpose as Liam Hemsworth.

Since there’s a sequel with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson returning to action in Catching Fire, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you that both Katniss and Peeta survive the Hunger Games.

That’s where it all should have ended for me.

I didn’t need or care to know any more. But my wife is a teacher who read the first book to her students and there’s no way she wasn’t watching Jennifer Lawrence in the sequel.  If I didn’t have this forum to voice my complaints and problems with this pile of shit, I would never subject myself to this punishment and suffer through the sequel, which starts right where The Hunger Games left off…sorta.

Katniss

After an unnecessary opening where Liam Hemsworth is allowed to bore the audience to death, Katniss and Peeta are essentially held hostage since they’re forced to travel from district to district glorifying the Hunger Games. They’re essentially serving as figureheads distracting the masses from their miserable state of existence. But the uprising is boiling up in each district, which causes The Capitol to turn up the heat more with public floggings and executions.

In order to protect their own lives, Katniss and Peeta follow the playbook provided by President Snow and The Capitol. They even take it one step further by getting married to make sure their relationship is believable—but not necessarily real. After yet another charisma-free appearance from Liam Hemsworth where he’s thankfully beaten with a whip, the not-so -civil disobedience in District 12 results in President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland’s hairy, old cold corpse) and Plutarch Heavensbee (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) scheming a new twist to the 75th Annual Hunger Games by making every previous victor up for selection in the Third Quarter Quell.

Yet again, the games don’t come into play until more than an hour into the movie. And as with The Hunger Games, you aren’t allowed to know any more than superficial descriptions of the other combatants. Considering they all likely murdered several people on their way to winning their edition of the Hunger Games, the previous victors are one-note nothings who you’re eager to move on from. Aside from Johanna (played by Jenna Malone), none of the other contestants display any shred of personality or substance.

Everything is underwhelming. Although this year’s games are supposed to be special, the arena is a jungle with a salt water beach, which fails to add anything new in terms of visuals. But there are baboons!!! And blood floods!! Tidal waves too! That’s a prime example of the lack of ingenuity present in Catching Fire.

Ol’ Plutarch has really got it in for these players.

I love Philip Seymour Hoffman, but he seemed so uncomfortable and out of place. Amidst a futuristic grab bag of ridiculous outfits and neon-colored hair, Philip Seymour Hoffman was as disinterested as possible and dressed in his best smoking jacket. In comparison, Stanley Tucci looked like he just blew a unicorn in exchange for its teeth, and they colored his eyebrows blue/purple to match the piece of shag carpet stapled to his fucking head. I really hope Philip Seymour Hoffman negotiated his wardrobe into his contract.

Plutarch and Haymitch

And congratulations to him because the costume designers went haywire, which was just necessary—like a lot of things in this movie. Everyone understood the separation between classes in society. I didn’t need to be beaten over the head with the needlessly elaborate outfits juxtaposed with actual miners. How the fuck does a societal obsession with fashion align with the bleak dystopian rule present in The Capitol?

Nothing seems to go together.

Somehow, it’s now commonplace for movies based on books to split the final book into two movies. Catching Fire grinded to a halt without much of an ending so I can only imagine how boring the next cinematic chapter will be while wandering on for another two or more hours. These last two books (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) might be broken into three movies, but there’s barely enough content to make one satisfying movie. With dollar signs in their eyes, the creative force behind these movies will wring out every possible drop of value.

A lot of people seem to prefer Catching Fire to The Hunger Games. In my opinion, these are nearly identical movies—though Catching Fire benefits from a better director and improved production. But I was still bored and fidgety during the slow build of the action. Even though Catching Fire contained a slightly darker tone, I only had negative expectations for The Hunger Games so it provided a mild surprise that made me expect more from the sequel. Since Catching Fire didn’t deliver more gore or significantly raise the stakes, the audience doesn’t feel the misery of this dystopian future.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Maybe Mockingjay Part 1 or 2 will address these shortcomings and present a more compelling story.  There is a chance.  But I don’t want to stick around and suffer through this drawn-out romance tale hoping for further backstory and science-fiction elements. If you want to see how disinterested I am in the end of this franchise, then please just listen to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s monotone delivery of this miserable dialogue.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. I can’t wait to see what’s next with this franchise, and here’s to hoping that they don’t screw it up and have it all get over-blown. Time will only tell, though.

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