Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

Still from 'The Hunger Games'

I knew nothing about The Hunger Games, except for some dim awareness that it was ragingly popular with the tweens, and that it had some kind of sci-fi, post-apocalyptic setting. It was the sci-fi premise, and boredom, that prompted me to put it on my watch list — which I did with some trepidation after the regrettable decision to watch “Twilight”, another pre-teen fave (I made it about 20 minutes into that horrible fluff before bailing out).

But The Hunger Games surprised me. Its plot devices are a bit hackneyed and familiar (e.g. Mad Max, The Running Man, “The Most Dangerous Game”, to name but a few). To wit: a post-war society turns to a ritualized fight-to-the-death, fantastically broadcast to the cheering and ignorant masses. Bread and circuses redux — we’ve seen it before.

But what made The Hunger Games stand out was its weird and adventurous production design, especially the costumes and make-up of the ruling classes. It envisions a future in which the rich and powerful signal their status with impossibly garish and baroque designs and colors — as was the custom in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when men wore elaborate wigs and heels. In contrast, the working classes are depicted wearing dustbowl-drab garments straight outta Dorothy Gale or Dorothea Lange. And as with Dorothy in OZ, part of the heroine’s journey in The Hunger Games involves a Project Runway-style makeover.

I especially like the costume design of the “Reaper” (shown in the photo on the left). I wasn’t sure whether she was a drag queen or not until she spoke.

Also: thumbs up to Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci for solidly creepy performances — they gave some serious flesh to this odd otherworld.

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