The Hunger Games
There have been a host of teen fantasy franchises in recent years. Some, like Harry Potter and Twilight, have flown, whilst others, like Eragon and Percy Jackson, have sunk to the bottom of the metaphorical ocean, never to be seen again. Thankfully, for fans of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, this falls in the former category; merging the teenage punk-angst of the Twilight series with the visual assurance and darkness of the later Harry Potter films. It’s a potent combination and one that has been strung together to create a film that is as much a moviemaking marvel as it is a moral maze.
At the centre of the story are Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as Katniss, our heroine, and Peter (I’m sorry, Peeta), our root-for-the-useless-underdog sort of guy. Lawrence is, once again, fantastic as a girl who is so tough she borders on Jodie Foster but she also manages to bring some welcome humanity to the part and, when she smiles, the whole screen lights up. I’ve been critical of Hutcherson in the past and the best I can really say is that he’s a more likeable everyman than Shia LaBoeuf. I guess that’s not much of a compliment but his character serves a difficult role in the film, existing, seemingly, to hinder Katniss’ chances of making it out alive. Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and, in a somewhat bizarre piece of casting, Stanley Tucci all make appearances with varying degrees of sympathy, as does Donald Sutherland who seems barely interested in the film he’s part of.
Cinematographically the film makes some really brave, bold decisions. The striking use of hand-held serves the dual function of showing the unvarnished world of life in District 12 and managing to keep the scenes of total massacre to a palatable PG-13 level. The colour scheme is also painstakingly chosen, with washed out greys and blues symbolising the districts (even when their competitors come to the capitol), strikingly garish colours for the Capitol and its inhabitants, and crushed woodland blacks and greens for the games themselves. The production design is beautiful and woven seamlessly into the plot.
Where problems arise they’re familiar ones, mainly difficult plot points that aren’t exposited clearly enough for people who haven’t read the book. Sponsorship, reapings, the nature of the arena: these are all subjects that are only sketchily brought up and which I didn’t quite understand. There’s also an argument that the games, in the arena, start very quickly and then slow down immensely, but this was countered by a pit of the stomach moral sickness at what we’re witnessing onscreen. This might be a series aimed at the young teenager but there’s something profoundly shocking about what ensues once the games start. If you’re expecting an immediate Deus Ex Machina to spare the lives of the innocent, there isn’t one.
An excellent adaptation that stands on its own two feet and offers up a universe that is absorbingly detailed, profoundly twisted and full of Jennifer Lawrence. All good things.
|Title:||The Hunger Games|
|Starring:||Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland|
|Running Time:||2 and a fair bit hours|
|Certificate:||A dangerous 12a|