Review: The Hunger Games

Directed by: Gary Ross.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland.

Rating:   Running Time: 142 minutes.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, America has now become a country split into 12 districts that are ruled by the city of Capitol. Each year, as a reminder to the districts of their place after previous attempts at an uprising, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen from each district to compete in the hunger games, a televised contest where each of the 24 entrants must fight to the death until only one remains victorious.

In district 12, primarily a coal production district where everyone lives in poverty, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) cares for her mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Primrose (Willow Shields), hunting in a forbidden zone outside of the district border, and trading what she can for food to keep them fed. When the envoy comes from Capitol to pick the entrants for the 74th Hunger Games in a process know as ‘The Reaping’, Primrose’s name is picked and Katniss volunteers to go in her place. Along with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) – the boy picked as the other contestant from district 12 – Katniss boards the train to Capitol, where they will be trained in combat, ready for the contest only two weeks later.

Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, the first of three books (which Lionsgate are rumoured to be intending to spread across a total of four movies), there’s a reason this has been likened to the recent and still ongoing Twilight series, with a strong female central character, and the makings of a love triangle, there are things that the two have in common.

But that is where the similarities end, The Hunger Games has more going for it, chief of all that Twilight’s audience is predominatly female whereas The Hunger Games appeals equaly to both sexes, in no small part to it’s subject about social revolution being it’s central focus over the love triangle aspects. The notion of combatants battling to the death is not new, with such previous movies as Battle Royale and The Running Man in particular coming to mind whilst watching, though never enough that The Hunger Games feels like just a re-tread of those that came before it.

There’s also the fact that a movie covering such a subject has managed to do so at a 12A rating, and still be as violent and graphic as it is (although it was edited by the BBFC to remove roughly 7 seconds of footage and digitally remove blood splatter, the majority of the movie’s violence remains intact), instilling a sense of tension in some scenes so strong that I would definitely not recommend parents to allow anyone under that age to see the movie without seeing for themselves first, this is most assuredly one of those movies where 12 means 12.

Director Gary Ross has assembled a varied cast, with Jennifer Lawrence in particular at the core of the movie, being a strong memorable lead as the heroine Katniss, a smart young woman who finds herself completely overwhelmed by the situation yet still manages to keep her wits around her. The scene where she is about to be loaded into a tube to the arena is outstanding, where you can see Katniss is terrified through her trembling hands and her panicked look. Lawrence is supported by great performances from Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch – their trainer and previous Hunger Games champion, the always brilliant Stanley Tucci as tv host Caesar Flickerman, a surprising turn from singer Lenny Kravitz, an unrecognisable Elizabeth Banks, and several small yet crucial roles from the likes of Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, and last but not least, Donald Sutherland.

I’ve not read the book yet (I have had it and it’s sequels for some time and intended to read it before the movie was out – fail), so can’t comment on how faithful the adaptation is, but one thing that the movie is light on is the social commentary about where reality television is taking us, there is a real missed oppertunity for some satire which would have really driven the subject home. Looking back at some of the movies which did this well – Robocop, The Running Man, Starship Troopers (ignoring the gore factor), it’s a shame there isn’t more of this in the movie, as it would have added a nice counter-point to the arena sequences.

The movie could have also gained from a little more work defining the technology of the Capitol, as there are moments where people work, controlling large holographic displays (similar to something seen in James Cameron’s Avatar) to manipulate events within the arena, and this could have just done with a little more refining. There’s also some particularly shakey camera work in some parts where instead of handicam it really would have been better to have the camera locked off for a much steadier image. This is more noticable in the first part of the movie, but becomes less noticable towards the movie’s end, but it is still there.

I’m still interested in reading it and the sequels to see where it goes, with any luck i’ll get aroud to reading the next one before it is made into a book, taking $152 million in it’s opening weekend in the U.S. alone, the remaining three movies as originally intended by the movie’s producers will surely be on their way, here’s hoping they can keep up the good work.

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Posted on March 26, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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