Review: The Hunger Games
The big Spring blockbuster that every ‘adolescent’ has been waiting for.
Kids fighting each other to the death; what could be better? Well, quite a few things actually. If that’s what you’re after, and you don’t mind reading subtitles and listening to Japanese for upwards of three hours, then watch Koushun Takami’s ‘Battle Royale’ (2000) – it's the mutt’s nuts.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is selected as one of twenty four tributes from twelve impoverished districts to take part in a televised, institutionalized fight to the death, in what is known as the ‘Hunger Games’. This is all for the amusement of a civilization of eccentrics who appear to have raided Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, and as penance for a war between the two factions.
The film is very well acted, with great performances from established actors such as Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz, not to mention strong shows from numerous young actors, including Lawrence herself, who pulls it off effortlessly. The production design is by far the film’s strongest asset, with truly astounding special effects, visual landscapes and costumes.
However, for me, there are a few pitfalls. As we know this isn’t an original screenplay. It is adapted from Suzanne Collins’ 2010 novel of the same name. Personally I’m not familiar with the book, but I suspect that the film is culpable for the same shortcomings of many screen adaptations of Dystopian fictions (Nineteen Eighty Four, The Handmaid’s Tale; neither was any good as a film).
What is most compelling about this genre are the elaborate governmental systems that are invented, and the political machinations that they espouse. A little too much focus is put on the aesthetics of this brave new world (see what I did there?) and, save a four minute infomercial, we don’t hear a lot about the back story to the inception of the Games. It’s missed the opportunity for social and political commentary, which, as a film aimed at young people, is a bit of a shame.
Novels don’t need classifications, but films do, unfortunately. Hunger Games, with its 12A certificate, is only allowed to have a teensy weensy bit of blood in it, which, in a film about a bloodbath battle to the death, is a little odd. Certain plot points seemed a little unconvincing as well, in particular Peeta’s Hollywood level skills in make-up and special effects, which he uses to disguise himself as a rock; he says he gained his prowess from decorating cakes in a bakery. Hmmm.
All in all, The Hunger Games is aesthetically spectacular, and very well acted. For me though, it is another attempt to cash in on the popularity of a novel that would’ve been better off safe in its own legacy. Chucking money at a good story doesn’t always improve it.