The Hunger Games DVD and Blu-ray was released on Saturday. The film did very, very well at the box office.
Now producers and those tracking DVD sales say it may be one of the fastest selling in history and certainly the fastest selling in years.
Many retailers -- at least from the stories I've read -- sold out quickly. Fans went to midnight parties Friday at stores such as Walmart to await getting their copy.
The second in the series -- Catching Fire -- is now filming. No doubt it will be a smash, too. I'm puzzled as to why. As I remember the movie, it doesn't deserve the frenzy. That got me into my archives and to my review of the film. I re-read it. Added some new comments and present to you why I think the whole thing is way overhyped.
And I begin with writer/director Gary Ross (Pleasantville) and his cast serving up a complicated dish with very little flavor.
Here's the story. A nation's 13 poverty stricken districts surround a capitol. Those living in the capitol have rich, opulent lives. At one time, the districts rebelled against the capitol. They were defeated. As penance, a tribute was demanded. It was the selection of a male and a female from each district ages 12 to 18. They travel to the capitol where the fight to the death in the Hunger Games.
We get this information -- and just a bit more for a set-up -- in a 10-second, printed opening statement. It is assumed those that haven't read the book will figure the rest out.
You do. And you don't.
This is the blessing of a DVD. You can rewind, or stop it and ask questions. Movies just plod straight ahead, and this one is a major plodder. Eventually you either learn or figure out for yourself that the country is Panem. It used to be North America.
A cataclysm of some sort (not really named) happened (you have no idea how many) eons ago. It set up the controlling city and the 13 districts. Each district provides an important need to the capitol. In the rebellion, one of the districts was completely annihilated.
None if this really matters. Fans and non-fans don't really care. It's all about the games and the mind games revolving around the games. The capitol and the 13 districts are huge fans of the Hunger Games. A horrid host anchors the TV broadcast that hypes the Hunger Games, and there is a series of events that leads up to the much-anticipated bloodbath.
A good comparison: the Hunger Games are that civilization's overly commercialized version of the Super Bowl.
The film anchored Jennifer Lawrence as a star. She's a great young actress who couldn't miss. Lawrence is Katniss. She substitutes for her 12-year old sister when the little girl is chosen. That provides Katniss near-legend status when she arrives at the capitol to prepare for the Games. Katniss' fame grows when, the night before the contest begins, her district's male counterpart, Josh Hutcherson's Peeta announces he's in love with her.
Now we're in territory that makes me wonder why so many people are gaga over this movie. There is zero chemistry between the two characters and none between the two actors.
The film's only chemistry is between Lawrence (Winter's Bone) and old pro co-star Woody Harrelson, who plays the team's alcoholic trainer and the man who won the 54th annual Hunger Games. They work very well together.
The charismatic Lawrence dominates the movie. Though she is the film's star, Lawrence is under used. She has little to do but look stoic, prepared and determined. Every once in awhile, the script lets her cut loose, but mostly the character is restrained.
Hutcherson (The Kids are All Right) -- on the other hand -- has the personality of a block of wood. He's boring. I didn't read the books, so I can't judge and to give him a break because he's a fine young actor. Perhaps his character is supposed to be boring.
If that's the case, he more than succeeds.
Supporting characters played by Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland either add no energy to the project, or -- in the case of Tucci -- too much energy.
Of the supporting actors only Elizabeth Banks sets a balanced plate as one of Games' muckity mucks. Whenever tensions rise, she glibly tosses off funny lines about getting some food or dessert.
Banks also seems to be the only person in the production having fun.
Too bad. The Hunger Games could have used some fun. Not that kid killing is all that fun, but fun for the viewer. Some entertainment, more action early on, and better dialogue. This is especially true for the festivities leading up to the games and the training of the two main characters.
They drag down and drag out the film's first hour.
Then, the gruesome battle begins. It drags out the second hour. You get to know very little about the combatants, so when they are killed in their order of importance to the plot, and in a variety of not-so-creative ways, it's not all that bothersome, or interesting. The only feeling you have for any of the characters is sympathy for the ill-prepared kids from other districts who are little more than sacrificial lambs led to the slaughter.
The Hunger Games is an intriguing -- and maybe even close to original -- story weighed down by a plot that is starving for tension. By the time the combat starts, it's even hard to root for the film's two heroes. You never worry about them, their safety, or wonder whether or not they'll win.
Judging by the lines of fans awaiting Saturday's DVD sales, fans of the The Hunger Games were impressed with the meal. Those who haven't seen it may like it, too. And they'll like it better than those seeing it in theaters because they can stop and ask questions.
The Hunger Games got a decent rating. It is certainly better than average. However, when the credits rolled I found myself wondering if -- or how -- I missed the main course.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz, donald Sutherland
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. The DVD is on sale everywhere.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.