Horrible, horrible puns are the order of the day – the number of movie review or article titles you see involving the words “hunger” and “games” must have been exhausted by now – but the thirst for The Hunger Games information continues. In fact, it’s probably trending on Twitter right now, but I digress. If you’re starving to figure out whether The Hunger Games is worth you time, well, I have a few thoughts about that, so read on!
If you haven’t read the novels (I haven’t!) or have been hiding under a shell – The Hunger Games are based on a novel by Suzanne Collins of the same name. It features Katniss Everdeen (the amazing Jennifer Lawrence), a girl from faraway district 12 who volunteers to take part in The Hunger Games in place of her sister. The games are run by The Capitol, who quelled an uprising 75 years ago and have instituted the games as a means to punish, entertain and numb the rebellious folk. Each district (of a total of 12) have to send 2 representatives, a male and a female, into the games, where only one shall be left standing at the end and be allowed to live. Think of it as a dystopian version of The Lottery, set in the far future but with a foot firmly in the dark ages, and mix in a bit of Battle Royale and there you have it.
It’s not going to win best picture or anything, but Hunger Games was really really good, even as someone who’s not read the books. Director Gary Ross has crafted a pretty tight movie, and a lot of times his choice of shot and his use of the moving camera to create a sense of discomfort or tension was spot on. During the action when the camera would go crazier than usual, but even there was a sense of tightness and clarity (no Channel 8 kungfu nonsense). And yet all this camera mastery would not have made a great movie if not for one person – Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence carries the show as Katniss – watching her in the intro sequence when she volunteers in the stead of her sister, the sheer number of conflicting emotions crossing her face … That’s amazing acting right there. Throughout the rest of the film Katniss keeps her emotions close to her chest, but each time she lets it out it’s hard to stop watching. Josh Hutcherson holds his ground as Peeta Mellark – having last seen him on Bridge To Terabithia it’s obvious he’s grown as an actor, and my first glimpse of him left a strong impression. The rest of the cast aren’t major, but Woody Harrelson brings his usual brand of crazy and even manages steals the show.
What also works for the show is the chilling idea of a reality programme that has people dying just so others can watch. With shows like The Jersey Shore on television it’s obvious we’re not too far from the end times, and this reality show based dystopia (previously explored in shows like Battle Royale and The Running Man) really strikes deep – this is plausible. The portrayal of the dystopia is also quite wonderful – it seems like every dystopia points back to Victorian times with crazy costumes and this is no different – throw Lady Gaga among them and she would fit right in, the colour and pomp of the haves contrasting against the brown and greys of the have-nots. Costume design here is eye catching if a little derivative from Gaga, but I definitely appreciated the getup that the contestants get for the game.
I can’t emphasise this enough – the dread that you feel about the game that’s bound to happen, the countdown to the game’s opening salvo and the violence that proceeds, can be overwhelming for some. And when you see the dungeon master cheat and manipulate the world, and the helplessness sits with you and sinks in, deep.
The main stickler for me was how long the intro sequence took – while I appreciate the how a good build up can really add to a sense of dread later, when it finally ended I realised just how long it was, and wondered how much time there would be left for the game itself. Do note The Hunger Games is a good 2 hours and 22 minutes long, which means that there is space for both buildup and action, but I do think the pacing suffered a little – we could have had more gametime. It’s definitely a small niggle because they do flesh out life in the Capitol well. Another small niggle – as mentioned, the cameras have a lot of motion to them, but at 2 points in the very first intro it seems as if tripods were used. A little jarring.
Also, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is a little too much like Jacob for my liking. Pine, pine, pine.
If anything, it looks like Hollywood knows how to do adaptations of books for young adults right, as long as the source material is good (i.e. not Twilight). With Jennifer Lawrence’s amazing performance carrying the movie it’s enough to make someone who has had lack of sleep actually stay awake throughout the show and be quite mesmerised. As for fans of the book – I think while there are definite omissions that you might take umbrage at, Gary Ross did craft a good adaptation that hits the main key points. You might even shed a tear or two at certain scenes – as long as you don’t mind missing some of the subtext, which are mostly Katniss’ internalised thoughts, since, well, it’s hard to show.
A recommended viewing.