The Hunger Games is based on the popular book series from Suzanne Collins. It has garnered a heap of praise and has amassed a huge following. But is the same kind of praise applicable to this adaptation of the first book in the series or is it just riding a wave of hype?
It is set in a future dystopian North America that is divided into districts. Each year two “tributes”, one male and female teen, from each district is selected and must compete in a deathmatch, until only one person is left to be crowned champion. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) & Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) are the tributes selected from district 12. Peeta is chosen from the lottery but Katniss volunteers in place of her younger sister.
Immediately one can draw comparisons with Running Man or Battle Royale with elements from both present. The event itself is seen as somewhat of an amusement spectacle by the masses, having been morally warped so that winning the event represents pride for the champion’s district. But whereas Battle Royale accepts the madness of the situation and can deliver the anarchic tone needed, ‘The Hunger Games’ just feels like a light tread upon that same ground; all too ready to skip over its true gruesomeness for that universal teen 12A rating.
It is rigid in its adaptation, the director seemingly being complacent to thinly flesh out characters, in the knowledge that the film’s following will be able to fill in the gaps having prior knowledge of the books.
Liam Hemsworth’s character is Gale Hawthorne non-essential , but for a very weak love triangle plot point that is supposed to throw some kind of conflict with Katniss. Being poorly established from the beginning it leads to very little tension, with Katniss having to make the decision to fake love with no conflict. It also doesn’t help stay in the movie when a shot of emaciated teens who look like they are struggling, akin to a concentration camp, is offset by an out of paced Hemsworth who towers over everyone looking fresh.
The relationship between Katniss & Peeta plays out linearly, whereas I imaged there to be back and forth between the two in this struggle to survive, there is little guessing required. Their background story flashbacks just throw up more question marks than answers, again this is something which is probably fleshed out by the book.
Pivotal moments such as the death of a young character had me genuinely thinking that I had gone cold hearted, 10 minutes onscreen time of a friendship is not enough to establish the kind of bond to have a tug at the heartstrings (more time was spent on the bond between Katniss and her stylist). Still cold hearted you say? I say she was complicit in a murder.
Irrespective of age, what about all the others who die?
But, what does manage to pick the entire film up is that Jennifer Lawrence is enthralling as Katniss and steals the show. Her strong female character proves a solid backbone for the film and is one who you can get behind and root for, even when splattered with blood. She is another class to every other actor or actress in this film.
Hunger Games is a fairly average effort to translate the books to screen, it unfortunately has to sacrifice its brutality and possibly more in depth character development for camp spectacle and lingering scenery shots. But regardless of all this it is likely to be box office gold.
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