"Of course it's the Hunger Games, Woody Harrelson's got the munchies."
So, tonight's Too Late Review is of The Hunger Games, which was one of the movies that was the most highly anticipated of 2012. (See, I can be semi-recent!) As a bonus, tonight's entertainment was accompanied by the Rifftrax treatment of this film. Warning, spoiler space IS below.
In the beginning, there was Artemis. Oh, wait, wrong mythology. In the beginning, there is Katniss. She's already a crack shot with a bow, failing on a headshot to a deer but managing to nab a pigeon before the Empire of Panem's huge dirigible comes flying overhead. We get to meet Gale, her mother, and Primrose through the next couple scenes, and then comes the Reaping.
The Reaping is really a big national lottery for contestants to play "The Hunger Games", a reality show that has nothing, really, on The Challenge. As the literal sacrifices submit to nationwide DNA sequencing and likely fingerprinting (one of the few good ideas that this show produced, if that's what was in the book), they all stand in the town square in their Sunday best to see if their names get picked out of a fishbowl. If they do, they get to participate in this reality show, where the winner is the one that remains alive. Subsequently, you find out that the fishbowls can allow for choices ranging from eight-year-old girls to twenty-something men, which makes for really awesome battles n' stuff. (This was *all the kids* from the *entire district*? There'll be like a population of about 500 people in a couple short decades. This is NOT how to grow your labor force.)
Anyway, Katniss' younger sister Primrose is pulled from the fishbowl on her very first chance. That's when we find out that they actually do allow for volunteers, and that "Katniss is the first" from District Twelve. Really? In seventy-four years, there's not been one psychopathic teenage boy that was told that if he volunteered he'd get food AND the chance to kill other people? Afterward, Peeta ('cause, see, he makes bread. Peeta... bread... whoo) gets chosen as well, but as near as I could tell I hadn't even seen him up through now.
They clamber aboard the Shinkansen where they meet up with Foppish Lizzie Banks and Woody Harrelson, method acting because... well, I really imagine Woody acts just like this in real life, so I suppose it's not really acting. Woody's now Peeta and Katniss' mentor because at some point in the past he won the Hunger Games, as near as I can tell. He's pretty clearly self-medicating, though the movie thankfully skips his backstory for the time being.
When the get to the capital.... ehh, it was boring until they found Lenny Kravitz hanging out being a fashion designer. Kravitz manages to get Katniss and Peeta into a couple spare X-Men black jumpsuits (or perhaps the one Scarlett wore for The Avengers after hosing the Jeremy Renner stench from it). The movie CGIs in some false flames behind them, while the crowd oohs and ahhs. As if they hadn't tried this fashion before... it looked like Whoville exploded in there as it was.
The contestants are whisked around for interviews with Katniss busting out the false flames again, this time next to flammable furniture as well as what looked like a highly flammable television presenter. I couldn't quite figure out if the movie intended for the viewers to think that those were real or an effect of the clothes themselves. Afterward, the contestants all have to impress a bunch of nattering rubes. The contestants had a bunch of training dummies set up in front of them, and the chatty bunch were up above on a sort of balcony-type apparatus. The very instant that it was shown that there were no windows, you could tell what was going to happen next... Katniss, the bird-killer, would definitely wow them by shooting a target in amongst all the people. When the stereotypical pig with apple showed up... it was almost like staring deeply into a screenwriter's soul. See, I was almost wishing that there was a dude with a cigarette, almost like the "Whip It" video, but with arrows instead of a whip.
As Woody keeps harping to Katniss about sponsors, before you know it... or, really, sixty-five minutes into the movie... they actually get ready to *have* The Hunger Games. Everyone's flown out to the Killin' Woods, they all man a Jetsons tube, and finally we get to see them cull the cast. Within the Games themselves, about half the contestants die within ten minutes. Then the Games completely lose all that momentum as all the contestants either band together in alliances of convenience or go completely to ground to hide from everyone.
So, with that being said, what does everyone DO during this time? If this thing is in a kill-dome as they intimated, where do the wild animals for them to cook come in from? Is this all being carried live, or is this shown highly edited on tape delay? So, about ten minutes into the Hunger Games part of The Hunger Games, people with highly advanced computers create fireballs to shoot at everyone, and Katniss ends up getting hit. After about two seconds of sucking on her lip to pretend-hurt and developing a less than half-assed limp, she gets found by the main alliance of do-baddies and gets treed just as surely as Santa Claus did.
In the meantime, there's cameras everywhere and Woody finally decides to get undrunk enough to want to help Katniss. (Didn't she have sponsors though?) He manages to get One-Day Majic Burn Salve parachuted directly to her tree. After Katniss' thigh heals, for some reason the eight-year-old girl who got chosen from one of the other districts is in a nearby birch. What are the odds? (And why the HELL did she show up right next to the camp of do-baddies?) The girl points out the Death Wasps <TM> on a higher limb and Katniss cuts them down, getting stung in the process. The do-baddies are routed and the ones left alive run.
Katniss hallucinates another flashback (they're everywhere in this film) and comes back to hear the eight-year-old tell her that she's been out for two days (?!?!). This prompts that question above... if the Hunger Games are televised live, they must SUCK, and I can't imagine how the play-by-play guy and the color announcer fill all that dead time. Additionally, I reject that they'd let her lie there for two days instead of sending more fireballs, AND I reject that the girl managed to hide herself AND a comatose Katniss from the do-baddies for such a long time too, especially since there weren't that many people left.
Katniss and the girl hatch a cockamamie plan to blow up the supply depot that the do-baddies are guarding and Katniss allows the girl to decoy everyone with a series of bonfires. If you knew there were explosives around the supplies, why not just try to decoy the do-baddies into running into the minefield? Absent that, why not just try to activate the minefield while the do-baddies were nearby, so they'd get just as shaken from the explosion as you got? (Did you know, by the way, that when one mine goes off that they ALL go off at the same time? After all, why bother trying to demine a field anymore because if you hit one, they all explode shortly afterward?)
After the girl gets speared in the gut and Katniss shoots the spearer dead, she ends up next to another stream and manages to find Peeta... how is a mystery, just like it's a mystery how he managed to find both camouflage netting and a good enough mirror to do a full makeup job on his face to blend in perfectly with the rock right next to him. It turns out that he got injured something fierce too... and Katniss manages to find the best cave in the whole forest, right next to the water, where a pair of lovebirds can snuggle while everyone up top fights for supremacy. But she ends up leaving anyway to get more magic salve for Peeta's leg, almost dying in the process.
Toward the end, Woody Harrelson's changing as many of the rules as he can while Katniss and Peeta run away from bulldog panthers that the computers can create. So, WHOA. If your computers can create bulldog panthers that end up taking out Ivan Drago's illegitimate son at the end with their very real teeth, why can they not mine in District Twelve, do the farming everywhere, etc.? Only by reading the Wikipedia article do I get the idea that these mutated animals are real, just released in strategic points in the forest. That begs another question, why didn't this country just do human experimenting with their mutation skills to get workers that they needed? It's not as if they have that many more scruples. Once Drago Ivanovich gets eated up by the bulldog panthers, the bulldog panthers saunter off peaceably, and Katniss and Peeta are left to commit double suicide. The games get called with two winners, everyone goes home, the end.
--spoiler space over, review below--
Whew. The Hunger Games won, and my suspension of disbelief has been speared through, knifed, burned, and left for dead. I know that the movie does not equal the book, but I can unquestionably say that The Hunger Games series of books is not one that I will be reading anytime soon based on... well, this. I try my hardest to try to pull a message, thoughts, or anything else from what I see and hear in movies and anime... and while I can see the author saying, "See? This is what happens when you get too callous!", it's just... well, non-effectual. There's just too many holes for me to get lost in. I need a tighter narrative, one where things aren't getting telegraphed and where I'm not getting sidetracked wondering why the holy hell the do-baddies didn't set a watch for Katniss while she was up the tree, nor why they didn't attempt to just smoke her out (or burn the tree), or so many other unexplained things.
My rating for this movie is a dismal 1.4. If the screenwriters are this lazy in many regards, I'm not going to go out of my way to do their work for them. I suppose someone could accuse me of missing spots due to the Rifftrax, but I was not exactly emotionally invested in this movie regardless.
The rifftrax, though, was good. Mike, Bill, and Tom did a good job of filling in the dead time with riffs, and they had more than a couple good zingers. It's not my all-time favorite Rifftrax, but I would get the movie based solely on being able to see the Rifftrax again.
My rating for the Rifftrax version of the movie is 2.7