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The Hunger Games – A good film let down by shaky cam and poor effects

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As you are no doubt aware The Hunger Games is in cinemas from today. Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins it has a huge fan-base and I went to see the film last night with a group of other Liverpool based film bloggers (hello to you all).

Before I go any further let me say that I read The Hunger Games last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it over a couple of nights and it made me excited about seeing the film. A few spoilers ahead.

You probably know the basic plot by now – far in the future America has been divided into 13 districts ruled by the Capitol. After an uprising by District 13 they begin The Hunger Games. Each year a boy and girl are chosen as Tributes to take part in the Games where they must fight to the death until one is left standing. The story follows Katniss Everdeen from District 12 as she competes in the Hunger Games.

There is a lot of potential for a good film in the book. The Hunger Games itself is similar to Battle Royale in that kids are thrown in the wilderness and told to kill each other, but the Collins’ book does go into the reasons for the Games, the future technology of the Capitol and we see into the mindset of Katniss.

Unfortunately the movie adaptation by Gary Ross just misses the mark. It follows the main beats of the story and has most of the characters all of whom are played brilliantly especially Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch.

Why doesn’t it work on the big screen?

The main reason is that terrible affliction that many good movies have suffered from in recent years, Shaky Cam.

The film is destroyed by it. In almost every scene the camera is constantly moving. Whether it is Katniss hunting in the woods, people sitting in a room, the Tributes fighting each other or just standing still the camera hardly ever stops.

As the action amps up then so does the shaky cam. When the Hunger Games begin and the Tributes begin fighting you have no idea who is doing what to who. It is just a stupid decision that damages the film and story. I know it will have been done in part to help get a 12A rating, but there could have been better ways to hide the violence.

In the book they don’t focus on the violence and much of it happens off page as it where so why not do the same in the film.

Instead they have gone for a lazy option which cheapens the film and makes it difficult to know just what the hell is going on.

The final scene on the Cornucopia in particular is a total mess due to the shaky cam as the two men involved have similar coloured hair making it impossible to tell who is winning as they fight.

The one, all to brief, overhead shot pulls back from the action making it easier to see what is happening. Just as you feel relief from this it is back to the shakes.

Most of the film is also shot extremely close up to the actors which also adds to the confusion. You are not sure where people are in relation to each other, where they are and what they are doing. The poor editing on the film also adds to the mess.

I have no idea why they had cool sets full of extras in great costumes only to shoot everything close up meaning you don’t see it all

This is usually the ploy of a low budget movie to hide the fact they only had a few people and no sets. It just seems ludicrous to do this.

It is not just the camera work that causes harm. The special effects such as the scenes of the Capitol and the hovercrafts are cheap and nasty. Not the kind of thing you would see in a big budget movie.

The scene when Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) ride on the chariot in the Tribute parade should have taken your breath away as you see them bathed in fire. Instead it looks as if they have hastily pasted on some low quality fire footage from a low budget video game circa 1999. Just a mess and so disappointing.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

It just makes me angry that they took an okay story, made a decent film out of it and then ruined it with sloppy camera work, editing and effects.

The cast, fans of the book and the movie going public deserve better.

You can also check out Mark’s review of the film.