A fight to the death in which only one can survive. Check out our review of The Hunger Games after the jump.
Based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is centred around Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a tomboy who lives in the poorest district in the nation of Panem. In Panem’s history there was an even known as “the uprising”, where the districts rebelled against Capitol and attempted to overthrow it. As payment for this past and as a reminder of “the Capitol’s kindness”, each of the 12 districts must supply one girl and one boy between the ages of 12-18 as a “tribute” to Capitol. These children then must participate in a battle to the death, which only one of them can survive.
When her 12-year-old sister is randomly chosen as a tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place. We then follow Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as they travel to the wealthy Capitol and prepare for the games. The games are more than just teen slaughter – we see the tributes paraded around for the Capitol like horses before a race, and they also all must participate in a segment on a popular talk show hosted by the vibrant Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). After all the fanfare and preparation, they are transported into the arena and the games begin.
Although the reason given for the games is “payment” and “recognition”, it is little more than Capitol welding its power and forcing the districts to “perform” for their sick amusement. The games themselves are for the most part tense, action-packed, and at times touching. As it is a film that is aimed at ages 12 upwards it doesn’t contain the level of gore you might expect (or hope for) when 24 people have to kill each other. Shaky cam disguises a lot of the action and we don’t see much of the killing in detail. However, you still know what’s happening, and the score combined with the characters’ reactions means that the scenes are just as intense as seeing the whole thing clearly. There is a lot implied in the action, but it works for the most part and makes the film more acceptable for younger viewers (and the squeamish!).
The world of Panem and the games arena created within the film is rich and multi-layered. From the impoverished District 12 to the penthouse suite in the Capitol, there has been no detail spared. The make-up and costumes of the Capitol residents are particularly spectacular – brightly coloured hair, lavish cloaks and stunning dresses – making them an absolute visual delight and a perfect representation of the wealth and excess of the Capitol. Fans of the novel will be particularly delighted at seeing Katniss and Peeta’s beautiful costumes come alive with fire. The games room where the game masters control the games was also very impressively designed.
Jennifer Lawrence beat out several big-name actresses for her role, and it’s clear why. She is Katniss in every single way. Her performance is quite incredible – she manges to be strong yet vulnerable, feminine yet tough, and you’re completely invested in her outcome the whole way through. It’s great to see a strong female character in film – Katniss is a well-rounded character and one who is an admirable role model for younger women. The supporting cast are also excellent – particularly Woody Harrelson as the drunk mentor Haymitch, and Stanley Tucci as the TV host Caesar. Just a warning for Liam Hemsworth fans – Gale does not get a lot of screen-time in the film. He is good when he’s there but it isn’t for long.
For a film that is 142 minutes long it is paced extremely well. The games are set up well and for the most part the action within the games moves at a reasonable pace. There are some periods of silence that might have been used better (perhaps with more commentary from Caesar), but for the most part the time is used well. The biggest downfall of the film is the failure to set up the central romance better. It feels very sudden and is not fleshed out very well. If the feelings and motivations of the characters had been shown in more depth, it would have been easier to get behind.
Overall, The Hunger Games is a very enjoyable film. The world of Panem is beautifully constructed, the action is tense, and the performances really bring the characters to life. We look forward to the next instalment!
Director: Gary Ross
Writer(s): Gary Ross, Billy Ray (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci
Runtime: 142 minutes
Release date(s): Australia and New Zealand: March 22nd 2012