‘The Hunger Games’ is unusual, a 12a film based off a hit series of books, in which teenagers fight to the death, with the sole survivor, the ‘winner’ of said ‘Hunger Games’. This description, plus the amount of hype surrounding it, due to the aforementioned series of books, of which I have read none, and it’s incredible $150million opening last weekend, enticed me to see it. And coming in at just under 2 and a half hours, it’s a bulky film, but a good enough watch, for sure.
The storyline is this: our heroine Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to compete as tribute for her younger sister, in the bloodthirsty ‘Hunger Games’, which sees a boy and a girl, aged 12-18 from each of the 12 districts that make up ‘Panem’, the remains of the United States, fight it out to the death for TV, to entertain the masses that reside in the Capitol. Phew! This small outline of the plot, is an indicator towards the quality of the story, and is one of the film’s real strengths.
The idea of teenagers killing each other may have been done before in Japanese cult hit ‘Battle Royale’, but the entire build-up, the intricate detail within Districts and the dystopia setting in which it is all set, allows the ‘Hunger Games’ to differ itself from ‘Royale’, enough. This futuristic setting, is enhanced when the residents of the Capitol have bizarre fashions and really get into the bloodthirsty nature of the Games. Interviews and training precede them, allowing the tributes to gain sponsorship and ‘get-to-know’ their audience.
It’s a twisted take on the reality TV shows we know and love nowadays, and is a hint about the way we may well be going. Other distressing images include uprisings in Districts, only too reminiscent of the real riotings of London, just last year. This also may be a crucial hint as to where the next two sequels go in the franchise, as I honestly have no idea what is next!
Acting is superb, with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, portraying a strong female, who’d never be seen in ‘Twilight’, and has set goals, which she is aching to achieve (returning to her mother and sister). I felt Lawrence was perfect, she was in shock and awe when she first arrived at the Capitol for the pre-Games interviews, and training, and grew as the film progressed, showing a great acting range. Co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are able supports, but in the sequels (if they survive?!) they are certainly going to have to step up to Lawrence’s level to continue the solid start this first chapter has made.
The supporting cast is excellent, a mixture of the experienced (Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci) and the young (Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz), allow the film to introduce several flamboyant, and most importantly, interesting characters. Harrelson provides the brief humourous respites, as mentor Haymitch, and is also a solid screen presence, Tucci stars as the commentator of the Games, updating us, the viewers, of the latest goings-on in the Games, acting as cheesy and ‘showbiz’ as you’d expect. Banks surprises as Effie Trinket, District 12’s ‘PR’ woman, looking VERY different to any of her previous roles, and Kravitz is the film’s bright spark, making the conversion from musician to actor with relative ease.
Personally, I enjoyed the build-up to the Games, where we got to see these various supporting cast members, and the training/interviews, more so than the actual Games, which didn’t really live up to my expectations. There was a lot of filler time spent in the ‘arena’, and not enough pure action to satisfy myself fully. I still enjoyed these sequences, but just thought they could have been presented better, and perhaps condensed the overall running time of the film to around the 2 hour mark. The ‘shaky-cam’ filmed sequences weren’t an issue for me, and added a sense of realism of being there in the arena with the tributes, it also helped crank up the tension of these scenes. The ending was slightly flat, and could’ve done with a bit more ‘bite’ and edge to it, but I suppose this was how the book’s were, and if the film differed in anyway it would fail.
So, overall, I enjoyed the ‘Hunger Games’, more than I expected infact. It’s story and acting were strong, but it just lacked the sort of action and ‘bite’, that would’ve made it a truly great film.