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Going into The Hunger Games with no prior knowledge of the story or the book, with only a really vague trailer and a rough guess of it being like a kid-friendly Battle Royale-type deal, I was hardly dying to see it. But, desperate for a popcorn movie and half-aware of some decent reviews for it I decided to check it out in the hope of finding some sort of originality, simple entertainment or maybe, just maybe, some good old fashioned Battle Royale teen cruelty.

So how did The Hunger Games "play out"?

Not bad, as it happens.

I mean, I'm amazed it's done so much better than John Carter financially since both films are just as enjoyable but I can understand the film being more accessible going in. For one thing the concept is fairly straight-forward and bears no resemblance to Flash Gordon in the slightest, and there's no sign of any intimidating use of Avatar-style CGI in what can only be described as the plot for a really epic, campy Saturday morning 80's cartoon. Don't get me wrong, John Carter was great fun but The Hunger Games feels like a safer choice for audiences right off the bat.

The film?

Hit and miss.

I mean, there's some good stuff there: a cool sci-fi plot, a strong supporting cast, an idea that feels fresh despite the existence of two Battle Royale movies, The Running Man and two Rollerball flicks. The build-up to the actual games is well done in that the wait really makes you impatient to see all these beautiful young people battle it out. There's a solid supporting cast keeping things afloat: Woody Harrelson (fun), Donald Sutherland (creepy) and Stanley Tucci (lolgasm) all doing a great job and a middle part which includes enough action, creativity and silliness to keep you entertained throughout.

The funny thing is that both John Carter and The Hunger Games are silly in pretty much similar ways: both feel like very expensive B movies that occasionally get things hilariously wrong but still manage to provide enough excitement, always keeping the action moving forwards, to ensure we don't get too weary.

So what doesn't work about The Hunger Games?

Personally, I find it hard to buy Jennifer Lawrence as an action hero, an evil mutant (X-Men: First Class) or, god forbid, a renegade graffiti artist (The Beaver). She just never rings true in those types of roles to me and I'm convinced to this day that the only reason she was believable in Winter's Bone is that it was just... a good, well-made movie all around. For me she got lucky and we might be looking at the new Renee Zelwegger...

Take that however you like.

Lawrence aside, the film isn't completely convincing when it comes to making us believe in a world in which these games would take place. I don't really see the point of them and, like with last year's In Time, the plot holes feel intentionally there to mask a crumbling logic to the whole thing. Also, some stuff that happens is just... very funny. And I'm not sure it is intentionally so.

Lines like: "It cost me a squirrel".

The fire-costume scene (sorry but the effects/backgrounds in that whole sequence are video game cut-scene standard at best).

Genetically modified wasps lol

Mini food parachutes: adorable.

Stanley Tucci lol

The CGI big dog map scene.

Purple lady.

The list goes on.

Luckily, none of that was really a problem in that they could be enjoyed on a basic loltastic level. The bland young cast, the film's gargantuan running time and that CRAZILY long and tedious funeral scene being the only shortcomings I frankly felt a bit annoyed by. On the whole, this is a fun popcorn movie if not a patch on Battle Royale, pretty much the last word on that concept to be honest. You just can't beat a cult masterpiece like that. Even with a gold eye-shadow-wearing Lenny Kravitz on your side.

The Hunger Games is a fun outing and for a teen action movie you could do a lot worse: it's got action, suspense, lols, decent characters all around and a safe concept.

Go see it, just don't expect THE unforgettable ride of your life.

(go see John Carter also, it has cowboys AND aliens!)

(just like that other movie...)


(Cowboys & Aliens)

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