The Hunger Games is one of those films where its overall quality is affected most by not major gaping problems, but many, many small ones which degrade the film into decency at best. While it boasts an interesting premise (albeit an unoriginal one) the movie ultimately fails to deliver to its potential.
The film takes place in a dystopian, futuristic, fallen America where the land is divided into 12 districts and one capitol which rules over the districts, and because of an earlier revolt they make each district submit two children to compete in a fight to the death called, The Hunger Games, each year. The film follows Katniss Everdeen as she volunteers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games and shows the workings of this game and the implications of it. Despite this interesting enough premise however the film degrades it (as did the book) by adding in needless romance plots (note the word needles, I am fine with a romance plot as long as it serves a purpose to make the story better, this romance plot only made the story worse) and love triangles merely to satisfy the teenage girls who thrive off of this and call it 'literature' or 'good film-making'. If you take away the boggling, unbelievable romance plot though you actually have a good story (over decent) with the possibility of being something special. It's to bad however that the Hunger Games never realizes its potential and doesn't dwell on the themes that could be brought up with it and instead focuses on overdone themes such as a rising defiance to tyranny, when it could have tried to grasp darker and more meaningful themes on how far a human is capable to go in order to stay alive and such.
My next gripe about this film is that while the acting was there it never went beyond being just there. The lead performances weren't bad (they weren't overly good) but what really brought the movie down on an acting level was the smaller characters, and you may be like, "They're smaller characters you can't complain!" But my argument is that every actor (no matter their role) should put on a performance as if they were the lead, many of the performances are either half-done, lazily done, or just from people who can't act, and yes most of them are smaller roles but all the small things add up and it detracts from the believability of the film. But I will say it did help that Jennifer Lawrence did a fine job (although this is honestly her weakest film so far in my opinion) but one good lead actress alone doesn't make up for bad ensemble, and that's exactly one thing this movie lacks, strong ensemble.
Another thing that really bugs me about this film is the set and costume design, while some characters (basically the lead characters, Katniss, Effie, Haymitch) had their costumes done well, all of the extras, and most of the minor characters were costumed very poorly and it looked like a bad Halloween costume party. The people at the capitol did not have the over-the-top bombastic look (or attitude) to them, they looked like ordinary people who came out of a cheap costume party, and it affected the movie. Sure, bad costumes isn't a deal breaker but it's another small thing that detracts from this movie, and like I said what gets this movie is all of the little problems (and the one major plot problem of the detracting romance).
Like I said, small things add up and one more little thing to add to the pile is the bad cinematography and shaky cam. I once heard a professor say, "If you can pause the film at any given random moment and get a good picture, that is what is good cinematography" and if you put Hunger Games to the test it honestly doesn't work. The camera is shaking for pretty much the entire movie, the pictures often get blurred to the point where you can't see the action going on, and it overall creates bad and lackluster pictures. At the rare moments where the camera isn't shaking and causing the pictures to blur the pictures aren't even that great, just decent. There are a couple decent shots throughout the movie, but a couple decent shots does not make the cinematography anywhere near good.
While I'm on the topic of visuals I honestly need to talk about the next small issue I had with this movie and that is that when they used CGI the CGI wasn't good. The most evident case of this is with the mutt dogs near the end, the dogs were poorly done and also in my opinion a poor plot device in the first place, they never served a real purpose other than killing one of the more likable characters off so Katniss didn't have to (which is a lazy and safe way, it would have been much more interesting had Katniss had to actually face off with the guy from District 11), I guess the point was keeping the leads likable, but the point of the whole premise is that these kids have to kill each other, it sets up a premise to explore deep themes but never approaches them, instead it runs away so it can become a Young Adult cliche and play it safe marketing wise.
Now for what I honestly disliked most about the movie and that is the ending, the ending was a cop out. The romance was a cop out. It is placed in there to keep a poor romance plot alive so it can keep the teenage girls happy, and that is poor literature. The movie continually tries to pretend that it's edgy literature with a dark premise but it is ultimately just another young adult book that happened to break out, there is no edge to the film because it is dulled down by continuous cop outs and refusal to approach the themes that this premise should inevitably give.
Calling the Hunger Games one of the best movies of 2012 is blasphemy, it most obviously isn't, calling the Hunger Games one of the best movies of all time simply portrays you for what you are, a young teenager with little knowledge of what makes good literature and what makes good film. The movie was at best decent the first time I saw it (I gave it a 6/10 the first time) and after re-watching so I could write an actual review for it I caught more and more problems with the film, it is plagued with small problems (just as the book was). While the Hunger Games will certainly be satisfactory to its target demographic of teenage girls it and is a slight quality boost from most young adult films, it ultimately falls into mediocrity due to an over-bloated, needles romance plot, bad cinematography, and refusal to approach the themes that the premise should imply. Boosted only by a good (but one the weaker) performance by Jennifer Lawrence the Hunger Games can only achieve decency at best but is ultimately mediocre.
4.5/10 Sticks of Bamboo