Being a high schooler in 2012 is possibly one of the most tiring things a human being can do. And when I say tiring, I don’t mean because of the work, because the homework is never as difficult as they say. It’s tiring because every damn week there’s a new trend that everyone is pressured into keeping up with. As the months proceed, I feel more and more behind the times because I can’t get into things until they’re not popular anymore. Call me what you want, but I seriously have no desire to flock to a line at 5 PM and wait for 7 hours to see a movie that I may or may not like.
Planking, coning, memes, Harry Potter, Glee, The Hunger Games, hipsters, auto-correct fails, Tumblr, Twitter, StumbleUpon, rage face, GIFs, Temple Run, StarKid, One Direction, remakes, 80s revival, skinny jeans, Urban Outfitters, frameless sunglasses, wayfarers, iPads, suspenders, bowties, Skype, screenshots, cats and cocaine in the same picture, dubstep, owling, swag, Odd Future, parkour, genre bending, cute Asian babies, being a liberal, tea, independent coffee shops, mustaches, general facial hair, European lifestyles, being a fake vegan, Words with Friends, Google, trolling, Ryan Gosling, Spotify, being clever, being sarcastic, being an asshole, messy hair, high waisted pants, desert boots, headbands, rain, rainbows, photobombing, henna, links, black people, Kony, hand jewelry, henna tattoos, coconut water, being first, Lana Del Rey, Adele, Dev, small venues, “Tosh.O”, homelessness, irony, sleeve tattoos, hair, vintage anything, thrifting, Goodwill, sweaters, Jason Segel, braids, bikes, lipstick, pixie cuts, Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother”, “New Girl”, “Portlandia”, “Game of Thrones”, puns, bad jokes, anti-jokes, dimples, being cute, puppies, kitties, “Tosh.O”, “Awkward”, “Workaholics”, Paul Rudd, “Key and Peele”, Netflix, Hulu, anything but YouTube, viral videos, CGI, 3D, velvet, skirts, leggings, jeggings, and yes, even Pokemon, are a few of the many, many things that the kids are doing these days. In fact, by the time I post this, a few of these things might even be irrelevant.
See, I’m not necessarily opposed to all of these popular things, because to be honest I’m a fan of most of these things. I just fear the children of our generation and how easily they can flee from one item of popular culture. I remember just two years ago when “die-hard” Twilight fans would literally get into fist fights about Jacob vs. Edward. Now, they couldn’t care less about what the hell Taylor Lautner is up to. But for aspiring actors and artists and musicians, isn’t that terrifying? Aren’t you scared that unless you’re able to stay as relevant as the youth is demanding, you’ll be cast away in the sea of other former Grammy winners and franchise stars? I mean for God’s sake, anytime I mention Justin Bieber to somebody, they say, “Justin Bieber? You’re joking right? It’s about One Direction, now.” I remember a time when anytime I said something remotely negative about the Biebs, I would get smacked in the freaking face.
As a teenager, I respect the fact that teens are looking for a new piece of entertainment to hold on to. We get bored quickly, I get it. But as an aspiring filmmaker and musician, I’m terrified that if I ever create something remotely popular, a mere three months after I’ll be referred to as “the guy who made that one good song” or “the guy who made that one good movie”. And I’m not trying to be dramatic or anything like that, but if you’re a teenager and reading this, think about it. Do you still love Twilight like you may have when it first came out?
I blame this on the rapidly shrinking attention spans of teens. When I was around 5, I remember patiently waiting twenty minutes for a video or a computer game to load, and I got super excited when it was finally loaded. Now, unless a webpage loads in like 12 seconds, I start freaking out about how slow the internet is. So yes, I admit that I have adopted the impatience as the rest of my generation, but what can be expected of a world where things as enticing as text messages, instant messages, micro blogging, and video sharing are just a click and scroll away!
Even my parents have become completely consumed with all the new technological appliances surrounding them. I’m the only person left in my family who doesn’t have an iPhone, and whether for work purposes or not, the thing I hear most in my house now is “Hey, Joey, can I use your iPad?” I find myself sending more texts and emails for them while they’re driving than I do for myself. Not a complaint, just an observation. Sorry to put you on the spot, mom.
All I’m saying is, I think we need to slow down just a little bit. We’re ingesting all this information, and we don’t know what to do with all of it. It’s a reality that becomes truer and more prevalent with every iOS update. My advice? If you’re going to fry your mind staring at a computer screen for eight to ten hours a day, at least do what I do and go outside while you’re doing it. Because if you don’t, you’ll probably just end up overusing technology and your life will become eerily similar to that of the characters in Up. Or, they could go the exact opposite way, and we could have a second holocaust, much like what happens in The Hunger Games. It’s really up for debate at this point.
The Hunger Games, based on the bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a skilled hunter and matriarchal figure to her younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields). In this futuristic dystopia, food is given to those who enter their name into a contest called “The Hunger Games”. Every year, there’s a Reaping Day where two names, one boy and one girl, from each of the twelve districts is handpicked by Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), one of the faces of the Hunger Games. The twelve districts are named as such due to class, and district twelve, the poorest of them all, is home to the Everdeen family.
During the Reaping, against all odds, Primrose is selected, despite her name only being in the bowl once. Out of fear, Katniss volunteers herself as tribute, or, as a contestant in the games. Both delighted and surprised, Trinket proceeds to pick a boy, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a farmer boy who’s had a crush on Katniss for years. The two are then taken to the Capitol, who now controls the twelve districts after they waged war about a century earlier.
Their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) guides them as they train for the games, while they are dolled up for national television on a program hosted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), who looks strangely like the evil Inspector Gadget from the Matthew Broderick version. All of this is in preparation for the big day. For the Hunger Games.
When I first saw the trailers for The Hunger Games, I groaned in displeasure as I saw what looked to be the next Twilight. After seeing the film, a part of me is right, and another part of me is wrong. On a scale of Eragon to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games places a little bit above The Twilight Saga: Eclipse but lower than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In human being language, that basically means that it’s pretty good, but not great. With a great performance by Woody Harrelson, and a decent one by Jennifer Lawrence, as well as some fantastic set pieces that don’t suffer from too much CGI, The Hunger Games definitely isn’t the worst movie you could see this weekend.
In fact, it’s definitely the most exciting, but a lot more could have been done to create quality entertainment. For one, hire a new director for God’s sake. Not since Catherine Hardwicke’s clunky directing in the first Twilight film have I seen such unnecessarily shaky and displeasing camerawork. I swear, watching Katniss walk through a forest was the equivalent of a three year old child who happened to get hold of a camcorder. It truly was awful, and in attempt to be edgy, it just ends up looking stupid. I hoped and prayed that once the action started, that crap would stop. But no, it didn’t, it got worse. Even my friend who I saw the movie with said to me, “Dude is your head starting hurt from all the shakiness or is it just me?”
Another thing that might have enhanced the whole movie was to appeal to people who aren’t familiar with the source material. As a big budget blockbuster, you have to appeal to mass audiences, emphasis on the mass. Not everyone who’s going to see this movie has read the original books, so it’s important that as a filmmaker you introduce these new terms and characters and plot points at a comfortable pace for everybody. It’s the same thing that my teachers always say, “Pretend like you’re writing this essay for somebody who has no idea what you’re writing about.” It just gives the audience more of a reason to care about what’s going on in the movie.
My final complaint is the PG-13 rating. I get it, you wanted to make a lot of money. You wanted to start a franchise. You wanted everyone to go and see this movie. But with the shaky cam, and the beautifully designed sets, why not just slash the budget in half, cut the caterers, and take the R-Rating. It would have enhanced the film’s second half, and it probably would have made everything even more intense. Not that the action doesn’t already push the envelope, because it really does, but I came to this movie to see people getting cut up and sliced open. And if I don’t get that, what stops me and thousands of other people from just going and re-watching Battle Royale, since it’s essentially the exact same premise.
As far as the positives, there are plenty as well. Once the games actually start, the intensity level rises to a million and it doesn’t let go for the entire 90 minutes that we’re following the characters through the games. At 144 minutes, The Hunger Games sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. What it does feel like, though, is a prelude to something bigger. Something even more exciting and even more dramatic than this first installment in what is sure to be the biggest franchise since the Boy Who Lived hit the silver screen.
I know, I know, I’m being a little tough on this movie. But that’s only because I want this franchise to be successful. I really do. There were a lot of redeeming qualities that I wished had been used to their fullest extent. Instead, I feel like we’re only getting a half-assed product. With that being said, half assing something this epic is still better than all the crappy horror flicks released this year combined. The Hunger Games is really just a film meant to be seen with a group, in IMAX, in a big theater, with your friends. It’s an experience that really only takes full effect with a giant screen and two of your funniest friends cracking jokes at all the unintentional hilarity that occurs. And while this is all fun and dandy now, when it comes time to look back on this franchise, will it be seen as one that really changed the way we look at films, and the way we look at big budget flicks? Probably not.
If you ask me, the whole movie is just a metaphor for the holocaust. The way they line them up, make them dress up in plainclothes, the way they glamorize everything, the propaganda. It all makes sense if you look at it from a historical perspective. The thing that really got me going on that was the scene in the very beginning where they show a short PSA from the Capitol on how important the Hunger Games were to the survival of the economy and their people. Basically, spewing all this crap in a failed attempt to get people to not panic so much. But author Suzanne Collins says the whole thing is based on Greek Mythology, so I guess I’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Still, go see the movie. Love it, enjoy it, revel in all of its glory. I admit that there’s a little kid in me that got excited when things got tense, but as a critic I have a duty to tell you what the film really boils down to. A series of missed opportunities that still amounts to a halfway decent action flick. So, have a happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.