Knee-jerk review: "The Hunger Games"

1. We liked the book. We also liked the movie. And we'll defend either with extreme prejudice.
2. True, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence is more woman than girl. But she brings the sort of dramatic gravitas that poor sourpuss Kristen Stewart can't ever really muster in Twilight.
3. And did you see what just happened? We already succumbed to the culture's rather sexist need to compare The Hunger Games with Twilight. Because all young-adult fiction geared to tween girls is the same, right?
4. So let's go with it. But whereas Twilight, at its heart, is about a girl who wants to be with the Bad Boy, The Hunger Games has much bigger thematic aspirations involving class and media and politics. In other words, we don't think Bella Swan would be the type to foster rebellion. (There are also those who say that Bella's pursuit of Edward involves Mormon issues about the dangers of sex, but that starts to get a little too Womens Studies for us.)
5. Our admiration for Woody Harrelson continues to grow. He is amazing. We recommend The Messenger.
6. There's no denying the "99%" element in the plot where the wealthy elite dine on delicacies, wear ridiculously fancy clothes, and do what they can to pretend that the working masses don't have it so bad. And may not be aware that they're about to face some real retribution, French Revolution-style.
7. We wonder why the producers couldn't have spent another $1 million or so to fix the awful special effects of the parade sequence. It's really bad. Like, SyFy bad. What should have been a triumphant moment of awe is instead rather silly and goofy-looking. This won't happen with the next movie, not with $262 million and counting pouring into the Lionsgate coffers.
8. "I volunteer as tribute." Powerful moment.
9. We love how the movie's boffo success at the box office surprised so many. Plenty of studios bigger than Lionsgate passed on the chance to make it, while too-cool-for-school bloggers loved to snark about the growing buzz. If you read the books, however, you had a sense of how big it could be. We suspect The Hunger Games will eventually pass Twilight and wind up second only to the Harry Potter franchise. This shows how out of touch Hollywood can be when it comes to grass-roots pop culture. "The Hunger Games" book gained popularity not because it was a comic book or some overhyped TV show fueled by millions in marketing dollars. Something called word-of-mouth made it catch fire, with able assists from Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer, both early fans of the book. If you read it, you got it. If you only read the logline "Kids fight to the death on live TV" then maybe you roll your eyes. In a way, this same thing happened with Twilight, which is how little indie studio Summit snapped up the rights and made a mint. Hollywood doesn't know what to do with outliers like this, properties that don't come from the A-listers.
10. Much was also made about the film's PG-13 rating. "How can they show the brutality of murder without an R?" Relax, people. The movie is plenty violent. The kid-on-kid bloodbath that begins the games is uncomfortable to watch. Plus, why would the producers be so dumb as to adapt a young-adult book and then earn a rating that cuts out young adults?
11. The arrow through the apple. Awesome. "Thank you for your consideration."
12. We're also sick of hearing it compared to Battle Royale and The Running Man. It's the sort of lazy, smug comment that invariably comes from someone unfamiliar with the details of The Hunger Games. For the record, Battle Royale is a deliciously crazy, over-the-top movie and The Running Man is a very dated, very lame 1980s satire. Read instead the Stephen King book.
13. Trackerjackers and mockingjays.
14. Still not big fans of the giant dog animals at the end, but we do appreciate that the movie omitted one dog-related detail from the book that was probably its most ridiculous element.
15. Proof that casting is king. What a strange story. But Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci... they can sell anything.
16. Poor Seneca Crane. He didn't contain it, did he?
17. Should we incorporate Katniss' three-finger kiss salute in our everyday life? That's not nerdy, is it?
18. Probably just shy of being a great movie, but definitely a very good movie. Worth your $8.

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