The first thing you should know is that while this film is billed as next Harry Potter or Twilight in the teen movie market, and it will be very successful in that sense, it offers so much more to a much wider audience. It’s the kind of movie that almost everyone will find something to enjoy and something to think about. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Suzzane Collins, it has the potential for sequels and I think it deserves them.
Set in a dystopian future, The Hunger Games brings ancient Rome into a modern Science Fiction setting. Every year the districts of Panem offer up in tribute one male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in a reality television show. It serves as entertainment for the upper class inhabitants of the Capitol and a reminder of the cost of rebellion to the countries twelve Districts.
Explaining the plot can come across as absurd, and it’s really not original with several older films covering similar subject matter. But this film manages to weave our modern and very real obsession with celebrity and reality TV with a dash of teen romance and social commentary to make it very relevant, and very appealing. It’s quite a triumph on behalf of story that it manages to make you forget the premise is really a quite out there.
Katniss Everdine (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteer’s herself for the Games at a public Reaping when her 12 year old sister is chosen by random draw. It’s quite a disturbing opening sequence, the simple idea that a 12 year old girl will be pitted against 18 year old boys in a fight to the death is unsettling let alone the manner in which that face is ignored. Katniss is sent to the Capitol with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) where they are groomed and trained for the Games.
The coldness of the reality of being sexed up, sold, and paraded as a piece of meat for slaughter is what makes most of this film gripping to watch. The tributes must sell themselves to get sponsors who can provide them with life saving food and medicine while inside the arena, failure to gather such sponsors means almost certain death. It’s unsettling because it mirrors the way in which our own celebrities and politicians appear to sell themselves to us.
Unfortunately when the tributes make it into the arena the slick social commentary and thoughtful film making make way for something a little too Hollywood, a little too immature. It feels a bit rushed, unfocused, and at times contrived. The ultimate ending of the Games isn’t as strong as the rest of the film which is a bit of a disappointment. I can’t help but wish that the film spent more time paying respect to its violence and deeper implications than what is really a shallow love plot.
Lawrence as Katniss is very impressive, she brings depth to what could have been a shallow character. She’s has the right build for the role too, she’s very attractive but she’s not a wafer thin supermodel. I might be walking a delicate line here but I think the body image on display here is far more positive than if they had cast someone else. Unfortunately the rest of the cast either don’t get enough screen time to shine, or are actually quite weak. Elizabeth Banks as Effie deserves special mention, but the likes of Donal Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and even Lenny Kravitz really only bring credibility to their roles.
It’s a problem with the film overall, that it doesn’t give us time to come to terms with many if it’s characters which are too many to mention. It also doesn’t give us time to dwell on many of the implications of the story, instead favouring a bit of shallow teen romance or the like. In one scene where the tributes train for the Games you lose all sense of the depth of the story and it is instead replaced with action movie cliché’s complete with motivational music and Rocky like montages.
The Hunger Games is far from a perfect movie, but it has a lot to offer. It can be enjoyed for what it is, or its greater meaning and implications can be discussed at length. A trip to the cinema for this film would be most rewarding.