2012, Gary Ross
(Sorry for the long absence of reviews folks. Work has been sapping me of all my mental energies of late. Hopefully I can clear my docket in short order, as I attempt to write reviews base on fuzzy memories and the remnants of whatever impression the films had on me).
I've heard a lot of trash talk surrounding The Hunger Games (most of it stemming from various participants on Doug Loves Movies, so take that for what you will), however most of the complaints I've been hearing - not gory enough, too many close-ups, slow pacing - I found to be actual strengths of the film. Gary Ross hasn't a wealth of directorial experience, but his past works, Pleasantville specifically, had a very strong sense of style that directly impacted the feel and tone of the story. It's the same here with The Hunger Games where he shows contrasting worlds of the rural poor districts in grimy, grainy greys and browns, and the wealthy cities clad in obscenely ridiculous wardrobes, hairstyles, accessories and the likes amidst a cityscape of neon that would make Vegas look modest in comparison. Ross also seems to be a fan of the 70's style of "futurism", with the (and I may get this wrong) Reapers who collect the children for the Games wearing a monochromatic track suit-sneakers-helmet combination that recalls Fahrenheit 451, Rollerball, Logans Run and THX-1138 the same. There's a decided retro-aesthetic that Ross was gunning for and largely succeeded in achieving.
Ross' frequent use of the extreme close-up, meanwhile, I found an almost essential requirement in order to invest in the characters, especially at the onset where we need to really understand how they feel about their situation. Without any real score to carry the emotional cues forward, Ross truly relied on the emoting of his actors to carry it all across. Jennifer Lawrence is as exotically alluring as she is captivating an actress. We're slowly accumulating a stockpile of strong, powerful female action heroes and Lawrence sells every minute of it. Whatever you think of the name, Katniss Everdeen is a role model for young women, and a reminder to young men how capable the fairer sex is.
The film is not without its faltering points, but overall, it's a meticulously paced story, and well- developed environment for the characters to reside in. Ross managed to make what became an "event movie" feel like an intimate, independent production. It doesn't pull punches and reign it in too far to be a kiddie movie. No, it isn't gory, but what you don't see actually has a bigger impact. It stacks up well against others in the "hunted for sports-entertainment" genre, with a lot more maturity than the Running Man, and a lot less extreme than Battle Royale. I still prefer Series 7: The Contenders, but this has it's many charms too. A second and third chapter aren't wholly necessary, but at this point they'll be welcome (unless they get too... Hollywood).