The Hunger Games – Killing time

One of the biggest movies of the year has been yet another adaptation, with Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel The Hunger Games getting the blockbuster treatment.

In a post-apocalyptic North America, one boy and girl from each of the outer regions of a rich city are drawn to fight each other until only one remains, in a gladiator-style arena bloodbath ruckus. Once drawn from this annual lottery of death, the children and teenagers take part in glitzy ceremonies, presentations and training as a prelude to the ultimate death match, which is watched with glee by the rich city-dwellers.

Bow and arrow enthusiast Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and sister in region 12, and when her sister is drawn to take part in the Hunger Games she volunteers to take her place. She not only has to leave her family, but also her best friend Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth, Thor’s younger brother).

The plus point is that she’s actually pretty good at hunting things with legs.

She is joined by fellow district 12 teen Peeta, who happens to be in love with her, and whilst she is more likely to win, he is better at understanding the game. He knows that you need the audience to like you, and, more importantly, the sponsors, who will send supplies into the arena for fighters they like.

Lawrence is excellent in her role, convincing as a responsible, strong-willed teen who needs to learn how to please the crowd, and Harrelson’s massive drunkard trainer is a good watch. The ageless Elizabeth Banks is brilliantly cast as the visually baffling chaperone Effie Trinket; she is underused but great fun and a vibrant presence. Stanley Tucci’s TV presenter is another inspired piece of casting, and in general the performances are all very impressive.

However, whilst The Hunger Games deserves credit for its cast, it is also far too long and overhyped. There is little in the way of innovative storytelling or technical work, and the director’s attempts to stick in some shaky-cam to convey tension, or confusion, or whatever he was going for, come off as just expensive-looking amateur video. This is an action story aimed at teens, and there is no shame in that so there is no need to pretend it’s anything else.

Essentially, this is a Twilight-ised version of The Running Man, and those saying “ooh, how clever, a reality show where the audience watches people fight to the death” have probably missed the eight million films in existence which already do the same thing.

Meanwhile, those who think this is a complex tale steeped in sweeping, courageous attempts to strike at the heart of relevant themes and challenge conventional storytelling are in need of a good doctor.

Presenting themes is not the same as tackling them, and, in this context, The Hunger Games is really no different to Ian Brown’s ‘protest’ song which actually just consisted of him mumbling the names of Middle Eastern countries and regions he found on a map whilst chewing his own toes. Seriously, he changes Palestine to Palestan, in order to make it rhyme with Afghanistan. Sigh.

We digress; claiming the film is a landmark in feminist action cinema, as many have done, is like saying Deep Blue Sea was the first ever shark movie. The film is no more a staunch statement about feminism, religion and politics than The Little Mermaid.

The Hunger Games is a teen action flick that is mostly very entertaining, if mostly very predictable.

We will see the following novel, Catching Fire, adapted, before the final book, Mockingjay, is unsurprisingly turned into two films. The justification for the latter probably relates to some pressing world issue, and is not just a transparent attempt to double a $600 million profit from a single story.

DVD Rental Rating: 7/10

One Response to “The Hunger Games – Killing time”

  1. sally giroud says:

    7/10?? you must be crazt, this is a 10/10 all day long! maybe you should watch it again!

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