The Hunger Games

Now that Harry Potter is over and the Twilight saga is nearly at an end, Hollywood has been desperate to find the next big franchise to adapt. And they’ve found it in Suzanne Collin’s trilogy of books, beginning with The Hunger Games. It’s set in a dystopian future in a land called Panem which is divided into numbered districts, all of which are stricken by poverty, starvation and overruled by an unforgiving authority. Every year children between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected to take part in the gruesome Hunger Games: a fight to the death between 24 contestants (2 children from each of the 12 districts) from which only one of them will survive and be crowned the winner.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old from District 12, hunts for food to keep her, her Mum and her little sister Primrose (Willow Shields) alive. But when Primrose is the next child randomly selected to take part in the games, Katniss offers to take her place, saving her sister’s life and sacrificing her own. What follows is Katniss and the other contestant from her district, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), being initiated into the glam world of the Capitol where they train with the other contestants and appear on lurid TV chat shows, while all the time they have to face the fact that their final fight for survival draws ever closer.

Everything about The Hunger Games is perfectly realised: the story, the direction, the design, the performances… It all makes for a very entertaining film that you’ll want to see more than once. The confident direction from Gary Ross (who previously directed Pleasantville and, erm, Seabiscuit) is excellent and once the games finally start he uses the right mix of tension and action with breaks of emotion. One thing I was worried about was the recent news of cuts to the violence in the film and having it released as a 12A certificate. Dumbing down the brutal killings would have been a very bad move. But the gore is still quite strong in The Hunger Games, not to mention horrific and sudden at times, which is what it needs to be to show the true horror of the situation these kids are in.

The plot is a clever reflection on high society ruling over the working classes: the games are a way of showing the poor who is in charge. And the use of Reality TV is a chilling comment on the RTV we are so used to seeing today: the contestants as they are moulded into someone the public want them to be, the unethical idea of filming everything, even the idea of the contestants trying to get sponsors (rich people who can give them extra help in the games, boosting their chances of survival). Although I’ve now made The Hunger Games sound like a very issue heavy film, it’s still an extremely enjoyable watch and the inclusion of these subjects only shows the strength of Suzanne Collin’s amazingly detailed book and her, Gary Ross’s and Billy Ray’s script.

Jennifer Lawrence makes the perfect Katniss. After seeing her in X-Men: First Class, I thought she might have been too old to play a 16-year-old (seeing as how she seems so grown up in X-Men). But she still has that look and determination of youth about her and she makes Katniss the right mix of bravery and smarts with also a hint of sadness and vulnerability at moments when the true nature of what she’s involved in hits her.

The supporting cast are all great too whether it be kooky OTT Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as slimy, TV chat show host Caesar Flickerman (he even manages to pull off the blue haired bouffant look), Josh Hutcherson as Peeta the other contestant who Kat doesn’t know if she can trust, Liam Hemsworth as Kat’s helpful friend Gale back in the district, or Lenny Kravitz as Kat’s stylist and kindly mentor Cinna. But the best is Woody Harrelson as a previous District 12 contestant who won before and who is there to (reluctantly) give the two kid’s advice. He’s brings a bit of much-needed comedy to the proceedings at times, but he also plays it serious and sincere when he needs too.

The design in The Hunger Games is truly incredible too: the unforgiving districts are bare, dusty and drab, the Capitol has vast futuristic-looking buildings, and the simulated arena for the games is a huge forest placed inside a big constructed hanger/warehouse. The costumes are also great and bring to mind something out of The Fifth Element – they’re kooky and vibrantly coloured in the rich Capitol, contrasting with the plain, drabness of the districts.

As you can probably tell I loved The Hunger Games. It has taken a story which has been used in a few other films before (Battle Royale, The Running Man) and shaped it into something new and interesting to reflect today’s society. It’s fast-paced, emotional, full of tension, and horrifying at times. And once it gets to the games it makes for a brilliant and truly gripping watch. I’m dying to see it again and to read the books. And it’s definitely the new franchise to keep a very close eye on.


~ by square-eyed-geek on April 8, 2012.

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