Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Hunger Games

Nälkäpeli / The Hunger Games (Swedish title). US © 2012 Lions Gate Films, Inc. PC: Lionsgate / Color Force. P: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik. D: Gary Ross. SC: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray - based on the novel (2008) by Suzanne Collins, translated into Finnish by Helene Bützow / WSOY (2010). DP: Tom Stern. PD: Philip Messina. AD: John Collins. Set dec: Larry Dias. Cost: Judianna Makovsky. Makeup: Nikoletta Skarlatos. Hair: Clare M. Corsick. SFX: Vince Acree. VFX: huge staffs at Pixomondo, Rhythm & Hues Studios, Hybride Technologies, Rising Sun Pictures, HALON, Proof, Inc., Digiscope, Clearcut FX. Muttation Character Design: Legacy Effects. PostVis Services: Proof, Inc. 3D Scanning: Gentle Giant Studios. Lidar Services: Lidar VFX. AN: Dino Athanasiou. M: James Newton-Howard. S: Lon Bender. ED: Stephen Mirrione, Juliette Welfling, Christopher S. Capp. Casting: Debra Zane. Loc: North Carolina. C: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Toby Jones (Claudius Templesmith), Alexander Ludwig (Cato), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface), Leven Rambin (Glimmer), Paula Malcomson (Mrs. Everdeen), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh), Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Jack Quaid (Marvel). 142 min. Released by Nordisk Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 11, Helsinki, 19 May 2012.

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Ultra Prime, Angenieux Optimo and Canon Lenses, Arricam ST, Zeiss Ultra Prime, Angenieux Optimo and Canon Lenses, Arriflex 235, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses. - Laboratory: Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA. - Film length: 3.900 m - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak) (Fuji Eterna Vivid 250D 8546, Eterna Vivid 500T 8547). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

A blockbuster movie based on a best-selling novel. There are antecedents in movies (and literature) such as La decima vittima, Blade Runner, and The Running Man, and in a broader sense, Death Watch. Death as entertainment in the reality television of the future is a subgenre of science fiction, and The Hunger Games is a strong new entry.

The Hunger Games also belongs to the dystopian Metropolis tradition of science fiction movies. There is a small ruling elite that lives in luxury, and a huge majority weakened by starvation. 

The elite disciplines the oppressed districts via a reality tv show where randomly chosen gladiators from the districts are required to fight each other in a forest arena, and the winner is allowed to survive.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) comes from the poorest district, a coal-mining one. Jennifer Lawrence, who made a strong impression in Winter's Bone, creates a new kind of action heroine with both feminine and masculine traits. She is a real hunter but equally important is her highly developed sense of compassion. She refuses to become brutalized.

The manipulation of the games is decadent. There is camera surveillance everywhere, the nature is artificial, there are genetically engineered creatures, at the control board trees and animals can be made to emerge, and the rules of the game may be changed anytime.

The Hunger Games is a black satire of reality television, of the culture of humiliation, rampant greed, and the decadence of the overpaid elite. It is a vision of an utterly cynical world, a world not worth living in.

The score by James Newton-Howard is unusual and interesting.

The visual design of the Capitol of the nation of the future called Panem (as in "panem et circenses") is original, a kind of futuristic Rococo.

Although the movie has been shot on 35 mm photochemical film, there is a heavy digital video look due to the digital post-production. There is an emphasis on close-ups, extreme close-ups, and handheld camerawork, and the nature is often in soft focus, all this maybe to conceal the low definition in the visual quality. Maybe for the same reason the cutting is often so rapid that there is no time to examine the landscape in a long shot. In the killing scenes the cutting is lightning fast, impressionistic and almost abstract, maybe to avoid gore and sustain the PG-13 rating (instead of R).

These restrictions the director Gary Ross turns into an artistic vision. Although The Hunger Games is a blockbuster movie it has also aspects of an arthouse approach.

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