Romeo and Juliet
It has to be said: if you've seen Battle Royale (itself a poor film), this will not go well with you. It's not that it's a frame-by-frame copy of the Japanese movie. If anything, it's been a long time since I saw it so I can't say if it copied shots and scenes. But it is conceptually very similar to that, the story of the Minotaur, and maybe Lord of the Flies.
In an alternate future, America (I wonder if are there other countries in the mythology?) has divvied up the territory into Districts (think of it as the States). There are twelve of them and a Capitol. The lower number District you are, the poorer your state is. In District 12, it's a very woodland rural with hunting, bows and arrows, lanterns and mining, and bartering. As a result of a quelled revolt almost a century ago, the district are asked to send Tributes every year to fight to the death. There's a whole explanation here that was the intended impression of half-veiled power-playing of the Capitol.
Getting back to District 12, we meet a girl named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). She is pretty. Not in a sexpot way, but in a very wholesome way. She looks about college age. There is, of course, no school in District 12 so she does as a good daughter does and hunt game. Her dad died in an accident, her mother is there, she has a very young sister who stays at home, has bad dreams, and can't hunt.
Obviously, the younger sister is selected. And of course, Katniss will volunteer. It's all a very depressing affair and Katniss has this sort of not-yet-boyfriend, not-yet-just-a-friend, hunk of a guy played by Liam Hemsworth. He does not have much of a role here except for the camera to go back to for his reaction when Katniss is paired up with another guy. I imagine he will get a bigger role in the sequels as he is too good looking to not be exploited for such.
The selection process scene (a lottery, basically) ends the first third of the movie and we're happy to be done with it because it was pretty lightweight, and I honestly wanted us to go to the killing and other stuff. We get a bit of drama here and there then there's now the next phase which is training and showing us how the Capital works, and how the titular deathmatch is managed.
We get some scenes with the President (Donald Sutherland), and the Gamesmaster (Wes Bentley), and the control centre. We also go aside to see Lenny Kravitz as a stylist, Elizabeth Banks continuing from her hammy (intentional) performance in the selection process scene, and Woody Harrelson as a sort of coach.
Sutherland and Bentley serve some purpose and they get their scenes. We get to see what happens, we see the administration, the bad guys, and how they think, and if they are bad people or not (up in the air). Lenny Kravitz was engaging in a very limited role. It's a cheesy role with cheesy lines, but limited enough that nothing suffers. I think I heard something about him getting a bigger role in the sequels. Banks is a role I still do not understand. I do not understand how she fits into the program, and how she exactly helps the tributes. She's described as an escort. What sort of escort is that? In a few montage scenes, there is more than one character who fits into Banks's role's description in the same scene as the tributes. Are they spies of the Capitol maybe? She does seem as the least sympathetic of the 'team'.
Harrelson is a bit better. He's a drunk whooze at the start but becomes this strong supporter who campaigns for rich people "sponsoring" Katniss (basically dropping parachutes to help her out). It's nice that his character turns, but it's a pretty whimsical, random turn of events that though sensible (it fits with the character quite well, actually), it's not very attractive or endearing or anything like that. It's nice.
Oh. Finally, we get to the actual fighting and action. There's much less of it than you would think, and it soon becomes a very very sappy affair that's all sorts of weird on my part. It's a very hammy turn of events, and I'm not sure (it does seem to be the case) that something is really developing, or if they're just hamming it up. Maybe the sequel develops this point. Maybe we get more love and conflict on that side. I only hope they can make it much less than absolute cheese-fest.
The actual fighting is predictable and okay. I'm not sure why it was chosen, but the camera work was not my thing. It's a lot of jump cuts, cutting up fights and sort of giving us flash highlights. It's sort of an extension of the wonky camera at the long exposition where the camera will seem like it's spilled on the ground while our characters are sitting down and talking. In another sequence, we were looking up at a forty-five degree angle. It was really weird for me because I couldn't see how this helped anything except to establish that this wasn't going to be a nice-looking film. At the end, where there was some showdown, the camera kept cutting and then teasing us with two seconds of an overhead shot (that established the precarious arena, the distance between the fighters, etcetera), and then back to rapid jumps again.
It was very frustrating. The movie itself, I can't say was frustrating. But was it a good movie? It was a flawed movie, with a familiar plot. It's not very special, and a bit predictable, and has some pacing issues at the start. It's okay. It didn't make me want to get the books or get excited about the upcoming sequel. Jennifer Lawrence is cute. I looked at the Wiki entry detailing the differences between the source and the adaptation. There was much more making out and much more violence and less behind-the-scenes. I don't know how adjusting would help, but if it were lengthened and this were added, it might make for more looks at the couple. I'm not sure if I would want that.
(The Hunger Games - Gary Ross)