The Hunger Games
The film has a great deal of appeal.
Based on the successful Sci-Fi novels by Suzanne Collins and directed by Gary Ross who previously gave us “Seabiscuit”(2003) and the even more noteworthy “Pleasantville”(1998).
With a large budget and a great cast, showcasing some of the best up and coming acting talents, including the breath taking Jennifer Lawrence, who previously blew audiences away with her Oscar nominated performance in “Winter’s Bone” (2010). It also has some of Hollywood’s great seasoned heavy hitting actors, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Donald Southerland to name a few.
The story plays off in a dystopian future society, where a country (presumably America) is broken down into twelve poverty stricken states. Controlled by a highly advanced wealthy capitol. As homage and in memory of their failed coup attempts, each of these states has to produce, via a lottery system a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in a battle to the death called “The Hunger Games”. Each year a draw is done amongst all the applicable teenagers and the “tributes” are selected. The winner of these 24 youths, not only gets to live but has celebrity status and brings honer to her or his states. This elaborate system, amazingly functions as a control method over the masses, with a mix of fear, entertainment and the promise of hope.
Katniss Everdeen depicted by Jennifer Lawrence, is the eldest of two girls, their presumably absentee father and a mother who seems to succumb to depression, left the burden of their survival on her shoulders. A poacher by necessity, when her younger sisters is draw as tribute for the games, she volunteers in her stead and so enters The Hunger Games as a strong candidate to win from sector twelve.
The Hunger Games offers a quality experience, blending action drama and suspense with a relevant contemporary question, regarding the advent of reality television, entertainment and the effect of the media as a control system.
There is a scene where Katniss is interviewed by Ceasar Flickerman, depicted by Stanley Tucci, in the build up to the games, which hints at an interesting theme of the necessity for deceit within modern society. Later the thread is picked up again in the game when Katniss kisses Peeta her fellow candidate from her district, depicted by Josh Hutcherson, in order to play to the crowd to get medicine for his leg.
A surprisingly good performance is also given by Lenny Kravitz, showing his acting talent as the sensitive Cinna who attempts to make Katniss as desirable a candidate as possible.
The concept is not a new one, in fact it has been done most notably in Kinji Fukasaku’s “Batoru Rowaiaru” (Battle Royale(2000)) and to a lessor degree Paul Michael Glaser’s “The Running Man” (1987). It would also not be a stretch to say that Michael Radford’s 1984 (1984) served as a core reference to this film.
However this does not take away from the film, it serves as a vision of a terrible state controlled future, with a believable and easily sympathised protagonist. Even though there is a brilliant Pulp Fiction reference joke of being Battle Royale with cheese, the film does offer us a respite from the soul gagging soppy redundant teenage angst of the Twilight series and a quicker more earnest suspense than the Harry Potter films.
One of the few cinematographic complaints I do have about the film, is the occasional use of the popular fast motion handheld fight scenes, Popularised by Franka Potenta’s “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004). Where no one knows what they are looking at, much less who is winning. This is specifically apparent during a struggle between Marvel depicted by Jack Quaid and Peeta.
Then why, as an avid Sci-Fi fan boy, am I not ranting and raving about it and giving it the highest accolades I can. After all, here we have a strong female protagonist in a Sci-Fi world making her way through a last man (or woman) standing death game. To spite the character names, I should be shouting its title from the rooftops.
Well as a stand alone product, the film suffers from one incurable disease, it is incomplete. The Hunger Games left me feeling peckish.
There is no growth in terms of the main character or none worth mentioning, nor does the world she inhibit change. So after all that, she just dodges a bullet. The system stays in place and she comes out, maybe a bit wiser in surviving it, but not stronger or motivated to change it. As an audience we spent 142 minutes watching something almost happen. It says nothing and does nothing emotionally because of that.
There is a scene after all the other competitors have died where Katniss and Peeta threaten suicide, with poisonous berries, rather than fight to the death. Caesar tells them that they are off the hook and they can both be the winner of that year. If they had eaten the berries and this resulted in a revolt against the oppressive Capitol, the film would have been complete and a critical success. As it stands it is more a case of epididymal hypertension.
Admittedly it is an adaptation and the first part of a three part series. However I paid for a film, not an introduction to two others that are still to be made. Compared to Peter Jackson’s “The Lord Of The Rings:The Fellowship Of The Rings”(2001) arguably one of the most difficult adaptations of a novel trilogy. Or Niels Arden Oplev’s “Män som hatar kvinno” (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo(2003)). The Hunger Games is stunted and leaves us feeling empty.
I am not going to rate this film as a stand alone feature, as I believe this would be a disservice to an otherwise well crafted product. Until I have seen all three films I will withhold my rating. It is worth watching, but know that this is but the first in a set of three.