Last Year and this year seems to be the year a lot of long running popular book to film franchises are about to or ended: Harry Potter, those pesky emo teen vampires Twilight Saga and the Dark Knight (yes its a comic book). They all have one thing in common they are franchises created for young/teen audiences but are loved worldwide fanatically by all ages but as many gaps appear film studios are anxiously searching for the next big thing . Some have been signed, tried, failed. In March this year it looks like Lionsgate Films had a breakthrough which is a little shaky but solid step in the right direction, Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, a dystopian thriller which is read for it’s big home release launching a new heroine, Katniss Everdean.
Set in a post-nuclear America which is now divided into 12 (isolated) districts ruled by the iron fist of the wealthy Capitol City who every year force 1 male 1 female aged between 12-18 to participate in annual The Hunger Games. The games are shown as entertainment to the citizens of Capitol City , a televised death match which the winner is the last person standing (the districts are forced to watch). In district 12 we meet our 16year old female candidate Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence)who volunteers to take the place of her terrified 12 year old sister Prim. With Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) the male candidate Katniss is transported to Capitol City whom she comes under the wing her drunken tribute Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) who has survived the games himself now sharing his wit and experience. If Katniss wants to go home and be reunited with her family she must embrace the advice, face choices she’s never faced before or face death on the arena of The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games is another example of a book come film I’ve never read the books before I’ve seen the film. It’s a rule I’ve used regularly and one I’ll keep using to keep that sense of mystery, suspense with this film I have found it fairly easy to follow and appreciate what I’ve been watching. When it comes to a film’s inspiration some filmmaker don’t like to show off or just keep that inspiration to a minimum , with The Hunger Games they embrace that inspiration and not scared to show it off. Films that show off totalitarian rule, social insecurity, films like Rollerball, Sydney Lumet‘s Network, even Battle Royale, the Running Man you could also go back further bring some of the classical social writers such as George Orwell (Oppression), Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World. If you look at The Hunger Games and it’s outlook on today’s society the tv pop culture that today’s society is exposed too, the culture which has been embraced by the film’s targeted audience especially.
Like the tv shows The Hunger Games has so much power, control over the population (especially teen), it’s become essential viewing. Its a daily ritual TV controls our lives and we seen endless numbers of young people get ridiculed, embarrassed, confidence ripped from them in their search for that 15 minutes of fame, The Hunger Games is like X-Factor. However every few hundred people we see there is always an extraordinary talent unearthed in this film it’s Katniss Everdean. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is the games Simon Cowell, terrifying, manipulative, powerful who doesn’t like been shown up by those lower than him and even when he’s not on screen he has such a powerful grip everything, even the mention of his name brings fear , both men mould their vision into our minds controlling what we think we must see and do.
Once again Jennifer Lawrence proves her worth as the lead and I as I said earlier I’ve never read The Hunger Games Books but referring to my notes and talking to those who have read the books she does deliver a controlled which really shows off the strength’s, her talents but most of all her vulnerabilities. Really she is a strong young woman thanks to having to grow up faster due to her father been killed, but with the film’s spotlight on Katniss starting the ladder of success Haymitch is what she could become . Played by Woody Harrelson who delivers a good strong consistent performance as the washed out has been former winner come mentor, he’s been there, done that, got the book and the t-shirt and is now drying out your local off-license. As times his performance reminds me of parts of his part in The Messenger a character after many years suffering from mental scars, The Hunger Games own Ziggy Stardust but that’s his truce face when called upon to he will deliver his wisdom and knowledge with a subtle but firm approach. The Hunger Games is a film which does have many strong support performances with Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinkett, Lennie Kravitz (Cinna) who prove with talent like Katniss you need good (but at times questionable) PR and styler if your to become the winner of the games.
Gary Ross might be to some an unusual choice of director regardless what you think of him for this film but he delivers does work. it’s compelling, engaging and he really does give a good account of the environment the film is set in, he even uses the shaky camera technique made famous by Paul Greengrass. Ross, however, doesn’t use the camera technique in excessively keeping the use to a minimum giving the film a raw natural feel to it which you see throughout with the cam style really coming to effect at the moment the games start, conjuring up, fear, confusing, disorientation as reality hits the tributes. The world The Hunger Games is set in is brutal, oppressive and the violence we do see in the film its presented in a non-gratuitous way so that those younger teens can enjoy the film too.
With the exception of CGI which looked over stretched at times, plus the odd pacing problem The Hunger Games is by no means the perfect adaptation but it’s not far off. The film will captivate fans of the book as well as entice new fans to seek for more. Don’t let anyone fool you this film has it’s fair share of darker moments but never hides from those violent moments either, just enough to leave food for thought. Any similarities between The Hunger Games and Twilight Saga are really only with the size of each franchises fanbase with Suzanne Collins books offering a friendlier wider appeal. I was n’t expecting a Oscar winning film just a film setting the scene for the future films, Ross gives us good time to appreciate the characters but most of all to remind us The Hunger Games is all about Katniss Everdeen a much needed new heroine in film & television for young girls to admire, we maybe told it’s a man’s world but Katniss shows the world she’s capable of surviving in it with very little hassle because she has a revolution to start.
Sci-fi, thriller |USA, 2012 | 12 | DVD, Blu-Ray | 3rd September 2012 (UK) |Lionsgate Films | Dir:Gary Ross |Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Alexander Ludwig