‘The Hunger Games’ – On Target?

In about three weeks, ‘The Hunger Games’ will unspool at a local megaplex near you. There will be lots of media attention and Jennifer Lawrence will get more coverage than she ever conceived possible. The flaks will have her jumping through hoops as the distributor, Lionsgate, will attempt to create a new franchise a la Harry Potter. Embedded in this blog is the latest video to ‘tease’ us unto wanting to see the film.

The clip, all 39 seconds of it, shows the steely resolve, attitude and expertise of the protagonist. It is effective, but what I saw was something else.

I saw the set design, color scheme and costumes. What I saw made me question whether of not ‘The Hunger Games’ will achieve its goal. That is, to be a mega-hit and rack up ungodly amounts of money.

What I saw was a minimalist set, stark, bold colors and costumes that will date themselves after their 15 minutes of fame.

Let’s start with the final shot. The man looking at our protagonist in disbelief has a facial arrangement that can only be described as baroque. Earlier in the clip, you’ll glimpse a man with a similar extravagant mustache. Now toss in Ms Lawrence’s tight fitting apparel that tries to be futuristic, but will probably date as well as leg warmers. The impact of her clothes and the art direction left an impression of a film that doesn’t quite have its themes cohesively structured. Themes underlie all films. The more cohesive they are, the better the film is. Music for each character, colors that reflect the tensions within the film and other such devices add to the films impact. Good films are nicely layered. Not so good films omit these ideas.

Continuing, the scenes highlighting Ms Lawrence are in muted greys with shadows and light intermingling. This works to describe her as conflicted and emergent. Good. The stark red wall behind the buffet table says that the people who are ‘watching’ her performance are distracted and out for blood. OK, but there is a disconnect or thematic conflict between the costumes and the set. The costumes, or more particularly, the facial hair say ornate. The set says basic, elemental. The audience may not perceive this conflict, but it will seep into their viewing experience. It will make them somewhat uneasy. Perhaps that is the objective, but I doubt it.

Oh yeah, shooting the apple out of the pig’s mouth? That is a blatant and cliched visual comment. Hardly original. Is that the best they could come up with? Again it suggests something less than strong visual imagery.

OK, this is one scene and only 39 seconds. It does show Jennifer Lawrence’s character as one with talent and subversive resolve. The clip will excite the fans and perhaps other film goers, but unless there are more layers, more carefully construed layers, ‘The Hunger Games’ will not achieve the status of the cash cow called Harry Potter, films that were nuanced in every aspect of its design. Films that drew the watcher into a unique universe.

So far, the appetizers for ‘The Hunger Games’ are ‘pigs in a blanket’ when I am craving bruschetta.


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