Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is adapted from the first of a successful trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins, who has a writing credit on this film. The plot revolves around a young girl, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who lives in a poor, outlying ‘District’ of Panem, a post-apocalyptic version of North America. Panem is run by a rich ‘Capitol’ surrounded by 12 oppressed Districts wherefrom, every year, one boy and one girl aged between 12 and 18 from each District are chosen to represent them in ‘The Hunger Games’, a televised tournament that pits the 24 children against each other in a battle to the death until only one remains.

You can only assume that some horrible atrocity would befall the District that refused to offer up two contestants (or ‘tributes’), because why else would a whole community condemn two of their children to death each year? But this is never clearly explained during the film. Katniss volunteers to enter the games to save her younger sister who was originally chosen to participate and she is swiftly put on a train to the Capitol with a boy from her community, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

When they arrive in the city they are assigned a team of stylists and PR types to make them more appealing to prospective sponsors, thereby increasing their chance of survival. In this case Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz, all of whom tread the fine line between sympathy and exploitation in a way which leaves you wondering quite how an apparently civilised society would stand for such a brutal tournament. In fact, Harrelson provides yet another brilliant turn in a role that could have been mishandled by someone with less talent and Kravitz is a revelation begging the question: why hasn’t he been cast in more movies?

The star performance in this film amongst many, it has to be said, is Jennifer Lawrence who has a captivating screen presence and a real intensity in her eyes as a teenager struggling to come to terms with the situation she has been thrust into while trying not to lower herself to the demands of the game’s producers and viewers.

What with all the strange character names and unexplained back story the plot seems to be a little cumbersome in places but, luckily, the acting keeps you engaged in the characters, even if you can’t get your head around their situation. The set and costume design is also second to none, especially in the exaggerated opulence of the Capitol and its extravagant citizens. They really create a stark contrast between the ruling and lower classes.

This being said, most of the action takes place in a wood and this, again, creates a feeling of separation between the participants and the viewers, possibly a method of morally distancing themselves from the Games. Some of the best shots of the film are here in the woods during the Games where the natural beauty of the scenery contrasts with what is happening among the trees.

Though I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about upon watching the film I did enjoy it and this is helped by the fact that it has a wonderful cast who play their parts brilliantly, and is shot and directed by someone who really seems to care about the story (director Gary Ross has written and directed some really feel good family films like Lassie, Big and Seabiscuit amongst others). The more I wrote about it the more I realised I really liked it, it seems more engaging on more levels than most blockbusters you’ll see this year.

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4 Responses to “Review: The Hunger Games”

  1. What, indeed, is the fuss all about? Nice review.

    • I’m not really sure, though I think it might have somethiung to do with the fact that you see what you want to see in the film. The more days that pass since I saw it (and it’s been a week now) the more I realise that I really liked it.

      As much as it seems to be aimed at the ‘Twilight’ audience (tween girls) what you might find, and I did, is that you’re confronted with a really disturbing film where children are killing children for entertainment, kind of the most extreme reality TV show. Whereas the younger audience will find the central characters really accessible and easy to familiarise with. I could go on, but think futuristic ‘Lord of the Flies’… Go watch it 🙂 .

      Thanks for reading. I’m going to read your review of Cabin in the Woods next…though not if there are spoilers!

      • Well-put. HUNGER definitely attracts the tween crowd and they’re hungry for trilogies and series, so HUNGER is hip and will remain so for some time. No spoilers in the CABIN review. Thanks for reading. What are you seeing next?

      • I need to go and see Cabin In The Woods, but I think Avengers Assemble premieres tomorrow, so that might supercede that…at least ’til the weekend. What about you?

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