Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
Real quick. I haven’t read the novel in a long time. If I complain about something and it’s an exact 1:1 novel piece. Sorry.
So I decided to rewatch The Hunger Games.
I don’t think it’s bad. I get why people like it. I get why people don’t like it. I think it’s fine. But I think it’s flaws far outweigh its strengths.
The filmmaking is very sloppy. Director Gary Ross just doesn’t know how to properly adapt the material and give all the necessary development.
A lot of the film goes very underdeveloped, even a lot of crucial moments like Katniss and Rues relationship. Aswell as a lot of the capital stuff.
The film would have benefited from like 20 more minutes. Flesh out a bit of the less developed moments.
But I don’t think that would have mattered because of the GOD AWFUL CINEMATOGRAPHY AND EDITING.
Jesus Christ it’s the worst part of this movie. Cinematographer Tom Stern decided to shoot on film for this movie. Which would have looked & been awesome if he hadn’t also decided to use a TERRIBLE SHAKY CAM SHOT for every intense and action packed scene. He also uses an awful lot of handheld shots mixed with still shots and it looks so atrocious and distracting.
I don’t even hate Shaky Camera work. The Bourne films really work with their camera shake. But this film becomes practically unwatchable during the action scenes.
I get why they chose to use it. I really do. It helps make scenes more intense usually. But here, it makes scenes feel more cluttered and nauseous.
During the first few seconds of the Hunger Games event. 5 players die and you really can’t tell who they are or anything because the camera is moving an absurd amount.
And during the final confrontation at the end, it’s so confusing to watch. My girlfriend leaned over to me and was like “what’s even happening” cause they just refuse to cut wide for some reason.
The editing doesn’t help the shaky camera work either. The 3 editors all decide to use super quick cuts so it’s like being flash banged with shaky footage.
Really makes the world of Panam seem a lot less detailed and unique. A lot of the sets and designs go under the radar due to the work by Stern and the editing team.
Enough of that. Let’s talk about the cast work.
Jennifer Lawerence is really good. She really plays Katniss well here. Aside from some bad takes and line readings (not her fault), she does good.
This was the first “Jennifer Lawerence” Jennifer Lawerence role. After this movies, other movies like “X-Men” started writing her characters as if she was Katniss. I feel that really tainted her career. But you can take that as you will.
Josh Hucherson has a few good moments but feels a tad stale at times. I like him as Peeta (always have) but his big character here is just “be calm one second, then start angry screaming a second later”.
It happens a bunch of times and it’s distracting.
He does play the dramatic scenes well tho.
Liam Hemsworth (the worst Hemsworth brother) is here for a short minute also. He’s supposed to be the set up for the coming love triangle. He plays Gale. We see him a lot in the beginning. Then we cut back to him a bunch during the games. He doesn’t do much so I can’t really judge him harshly. His reading of “CatNip” at the beginning is a big weird tho.
The real standouts of this movie seem to be the side roles. Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, & Stanley Tucci all bring their A-Games. They have some of the best (and funniest moments)
But did I mention the TERRIBLE FUCKING EDITING AND CINEMATOGRAPHY.
Oh I did?
My bad. It’s bad.
The plot here is still solid. Taking a lot of ideas from Kinji Fukasaku “Battle Royale” (a far superior film), this movie really does handle its intensity well. The whole “kids killing kids” thing is so fucked up, it plays well on screen (and in text). The Script really keeps moving. I again, would have liked it to slow down a bit more. Flesh things out. But I can’t change it. Been nearly 10 years now.
Wish we knew more about the other tributes in the movie; but they limit it to 5 we really get to know, 12 are instantly killed, and the rest have 1 or 2 lines then die.
Despite all this hate and anger coming from me, I’m excited to watch catching fire. I remember it being way better.
I’ll give it a heart. If not for the things I really did like, than for its sweet lil ending. Katniss and Peeta said fuck the 1%.
TLDR : the director said “Let’s make a visually interesting movie about a dystopian future with cool set design & characters, then let’s not develop any of those characters & use an extreme amount of handheld shaky camera and quick cuts to hide all of the world around us for the gritty “esthetic” ”