The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Lenni Kravitz, Woody Harrelson
Cinematic Release: 23rd March 2012
Budget: $78 million
Box Office: $214,250,000 (so far!)
Whether it is popular fiction or great literature, the inevitable incongruities of a cinematic book adaptation are always much in debate. Whether, Hunger Games falls into the former or latter category we cannot say (not having read the book by Suzanne Collins) but the story’s translation to celluloid is a matter on which we can pass comment and so, with due warning given to those who care that spoilers will ensue, let the review begin!
To summarise The Hunger Games starts off in a small back-water town, a limb of a much larger nation situated far from the capital city. We find our protagonist Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) as the sole provider for her family in a failing economy, both hunter and gatherer. Once a year, all children aged between 12 and 18 years old of the district (District 12 as it goes) are gathered up for selection, where one boy and girl are chosen as a ‘tribute’ to represent their district in the annual Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are a barbaric competition where the 24 tributes must fight to survive in gruelling conditions until only one of them is left standing. In order to save her younger sister Primrose, our heroine nominates herself as the female tribute and leaves her home to head for the capital. Here she meets mentors, trainers, game officials and sponsors all desperately wanting the attention of the 24 competitors as the spectacle of the tournament rallies on for days before the children are whisked off to their arena. During her time in the city Katniss has a chance to watch her competition, Rue the youngest competitor in the games from District 11, the Careers from District 1 and 2 and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from her own district who claims he has a crush on her.
Finally the games begin and the 24 are thrust into a makeshift forest, monitored by officials and tracked by cameras hidden everywhere. Within minutes the bloodbath begins as the children scramble for the mountain of supplies and weapons stacked high in the centre of the clearing.
Ok, we’ll stop here because it’s not our job to ruin the movie for you! Instead we’ll deal with our experience of The Hunger Games.
Firstly, there is something that needs to be addressed, the elephant in the room… BATTLE ROYALE.
Yes there are similarities to the cult classic, children forced to play in a game where only one can live, abandoned with weapons and supplies, the themes of revolution and innocence lost but the comparison can stop there. The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are about as similar in how they treat these similarities as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.
The love triangle dynamic is not a new trope of storytelling, Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Yet with the success of the Twilight Saga, one cannot help but hear voices of the Hollywood producers chiming in agreement that they could corner the market with the feisty heroine with two respective lovers but it would be negligent to confuse the similarity of The Hunger Games relationship as inflections of the love triangle found in Twilight Saga. That is not to say that there isn’t a: will they- won’t they-what is she going to do feel whilst watching The Hunger Games but crucially this triangle is instrumental in depicting the major conceit of the film: freedom and power.
For many it will be there first major induction into the debate about issue that affect the world, let’s face it the films are aimed at a young market and not us hardened young adults.
From the press coverage of the Tributes and the competition itself obvious questions are raise about image- management and reality T.V. and ultimately the issue of integrity in the modern, multi-media broadcasting. Indeed the title Tribute implies an honour that belies the hideous truth of the events.
For those that that want a visual delight then this will do the job no hassle. The initial washed out mise-en-scene is contrast strongly with a thriving metropolis that has the charm of retro sci-fi and eighties inspired costume. Added to that there, is no small amount of fast pace action and tension… oh and a generous use of dynamite (not easy in modern cinema!). The film is littered with an amazing veteran cast featuring Donald Sutherland, Lenni Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci all of whom deliver sterling performances. They are however not the real stars of the movie and while lacking experience the younger actors have outdone themselves with particular praise needed for Jennifer Lawrence who captures and holds onto the limelight careful not to let it slip from her at any stage.
The one major complaint that can be found with The Hunger Games is the length and the hurriedness with which the last few scenes of the movie are paced. Rushed upon you, the award ceremony and heroes return home are mixed with a sense of fear, tension and unease all coupled with snarls from Donald Sutherland.
This is however a triumphant leap from pages to the big screen and we’ve certainly had our appetites wetted, so while we take the trip to our local bookshop, it’s your chance to check out The Hunger Games in cinema today and remember…
“May the odds be ever in your favour”
Words by Jack Dempsey & Editor