Is The Hunger Games "the best American science-fiction film since The Matrix," as James Rocchi writes at Box Office Magazine? Not quite, and I've heard that blurb referenced in the past 24 hours as reason for someone's unmet expectations. That's not Rocchi's fault. He's welcome to his opinion and comparison, but it's part of a familiar issue, the early wave of explosive hype for a movie that can only disappoint. Even those of us who end up mostly liking the adaptation are unfortunately still unsatisfied.
And there are so many things I do really like about The Hunger Games, such as Jennifer Lawrence's performance, the un-scored reaping scene, Stanley Tucci doing his best blue-haired Richard Dawson and most of all the avoidance of gratuitous violence, not in order to garner a PG-13 rating but because to exploit the kid killings and glamorize it a la Battle Royale would be totally against the anti-games point of the story. I'm conflicted about some of the visual and narrative choices, and I think the pre-games half is much more interesting than the rushed-through second half, but overall I was entertained.
The masses, however, might wish for more action, more blood, which is one of the ironies of a story like this, since it is thematically against much of what people want out of it. They also, thanks to the nearly perfect Rotten Tomatoes score and initial buzz, could have too much hope. And as we learn from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the movie, too much hope is dangerous. Fortunately some of the remarks coming from critics who saw the film yesterday are leveling the acclaim, which is still positive just not overly ecstatic.
What are people saying about The Hunger Games? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:
I genuinely LOVE The Hunger Games. Get rid of any bias you have, and SEE IT! It's not Twilight, it is a thousand times better. SO good. - @firstshowing
HUNGER GAMES is fantastic. Cannot wait to see it again and re-read the books! - @TheKace
Hunger Games is one of those rare movies that is smarter than the audience it was made for. Up your shippers! Shakey cam will be rejected by people not used to a steady hand leading their gaze and those over fed on 3D films. But the shakey cam is a choice and it's used to the fullest extent it can be once that choice was made. Shakey Cam does for Katniss what prose does for Katniss: put's audience in her boots, makes her likable, tells the story. - @Da7e
The shaky-cam in THE HUNGER GAMES is out of control & renders the film almost unwatchable. it makes THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT look like Ozu. Is it too soon to reboot? cause Andrea Arnold would knock this out of the park. Lawrence *rocks* but film is safe, senseless, and incoherently shot. agitprop is wasted on the young. Though i think [the film] is a nauseating and illogical mess, i'd be totally cool with Jennifer Lawrence getting an Oscar nom. - @davidehrlich
The Hunger Games: directed with immediacy and emotion by Gary Ross. He knows the right moments to keep it quiet and definitely pulls it off. - @thefilmstage
Yes! Hunger Games! Now THAT'S how you adapt a beloved book into an actual movie-- sorry, Harry Potter. - @kateyrich
Wow.. just wow. Potter are better movies across the board and hands down. - @EDouglasWW
The Hunger Games movie is better than The Hunger Games book. It took everything I hated about the book and fixed it. - @mikeryan
If that's the good version, promise me you'll never let me read the books. - @mattsinger
I have all the same problems w/ THE HUNGER GAMES movie that I do the book, which mainly all stem from an inconsistent vision for the future. - @PeterSHall
I say "it's good but end was weak" and they go "yeah, book was like that," so I say "unfaithful book to film adaptations are the way to go." - @russfischer
The Hunger Games, or as its other name, The Last American Reality Show, was good. Suspenseful, emotional. Real crowd-pleaser. Did need more Running Man references, though. But hey, they can't all be perfect. - @erikdavis
Hunger Games wasn't revelatory sci-fi for me, but the first 5 of the 8 day running time are pretty solid. Reaping is a punch to gut. - @misterpatches
Clock tells me Hunger Games wasn't actually 8 days long. - @misterpatches
Hunger Games is solid, but by no means the revelation I'd heard it was. - @EricVespe
Well-made pic but not too compelling. Fans should like. Monster debut for sure, but repeat biz iffy. - @giteshpandya
Hunger Games returns from across the US. LA 1 - Positive. Austin - Negative. Soon we'll get NY followed by LA 2. It's like Election night. - @germainlussier
How'd you come up with Austin - negative? Everyone who matters seemed to like it. - @rejects
To be fair, I'm what they call "mixed-positive." - @EricVespe
Mixed-positive here, too. - @russfischer
Ditto. - @williambgoss
I'm in the mixed-positive boat. Finding more and more issues as the minutes distance me away from it, but like it overall. Think I heard one out-and-out "didn't like," but didn't feel anyone was blown away. - @JeremyKKirk
I thought Hunger Games was quite good and at times great. Clever script, Lawrence is fantastic. I was, however, disappointed that the Prawns were not selected to represent District 9 in the 74th annual Hunger Games. - @MissBrittHayes
Conversation Twitter Poll: How high are your expectations for The Hunger Games?
They WERE high. - @PeterSHall
They were middle-road, leaving me pleasantly happy. - @MBartyzel
Went from fairly low to very high with all recent reactions. - @thomasbalkcom
Initial wave of reviews raised my expectation by 150%, recent reactions have subsequently lowered it. still going to see it. - @tylermager
My expectations are roughly zero, but because my wife is a rabid fan, I'm seeing it opening night. - @mousterpiece
I keep having to force myself to forget the 'its the new Twilight' or I'd Not bother with Hunger Games. I want to watch it - @FromPage2Screen
I feel it will be at least good. But I don't know how good. - @Count3D
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.