The Hunger Games (2012)

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Is it possible to be kind of okay with a movie even while finding the very premise and execution totally preposterous? I suppose that to some extent, it is, since I didn’t hate The Hunger Games. At the same time, it felt like pretty poor science fiction to me, full of half-developed ideas that won’t bear up to much scrutiny.

I haven’t read the book, but I would like to believe that the film’s shallow context was a result merely of attempting to compress the story’s events into a running time that wouldn’t overly strain a viewer’s attention span. But I’m not sure that forgives The Hunger Games for its cynical presumptions about a future in which a civilized society allows mere children (some of them roughly 10 years old) to fight to the death as a spectator sport for the masses.

To me, this just wasn’t sold. At all. It’s a rather radical notion that the film barely bothers to explore, choosing rather to simply take it for granted.

There are many pieces of this narrative, production design, character development, and acting that I could (and sort of want to) pick apart, but I won’t do that here. I’ll close with this thought: the best science fiction premises are the ones that–no matter how far out there–immediately appeal to some sense of the viewer’s personal logic.

The film version of The Hunger Games fails here because not for a second did I ever suspend my disbelief about the games and the society that imagined such a thing. We’re given no reason to, and as a result, I really didn’t care that much. This was a problem further aggravated by an ending that really wasn’t much of an ending at all, as much as it was a stopping place.

It sounds as though I objected to everything about the film, but that isn’t entirely true. Even at two and a half hours, I still felt reasonably entertained (at least while I watched it–somehow less so ever since). It all has a likeable sheen about it that should play to its target demographic, and on the whole, it isn’t boring. It’s just not a very good story, perhaps. I think my friend Donald may have nailed it when he called it science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction.