Posted August 24, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Hunger Games, The DVD


Over the coming years you’re going to be hearing a lot about the ‘Young Adult’ phenomenon.  It may have started with Harry Potter, it was certainly cemented with Twilight but with each new young adult novel released the genre will continue to grow.  It will become a mainstay genre in cinemas alongside the countless superhero movies we’re currently experiencing.  The HungerGames, based on the book by Suzanne Collins, is the latest in the cinematic adaptations set to fill the studio’s pockets with box-office dollars. It’s already one of 2012’s biggest releases and with the sequel Catching Fire already in the pipeline, this could well prove to be the cinema mainstay of the next few years.

In the near future the world has been divided into twelve districts, varying in wealth from one to twelve, all at war with each other.  To keep the districts in check The Capital, where all the well-to-do rich folk reside, deem it necessary to remind people of the great loss and hardship the world has endured.  So once a year two children from each district are randomly selected to travel to The Capital, to hone their fighting skills, before being thrown into a fight to the death with their fellow contestants.  This year Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is mortified when her young sister is drawn from the pot.  Unable to watch her die she volunteers in her place and, along with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), travels to the capital for the Games.  There she is mentored by former Games winner Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) andGame groomer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) before being thrown into the HungerGames ring, the world watching, to duke it out with the other tributes.  But can Katniss’ skills and moral code allow her to survive all that the Games Master (Wes Bentley) throws at her?

The Games is essentially a warped metaphor for high school, or perhaps teenage life.  A violent Big Brother wherein the way to survive is to get people to like you and, if possible, to join or form a nifty clique of people to have your back in a knife fight.  So prior to the contest the tributes are groomed, paraded and flaunted in any way to findsponsors, people who, during the game, will deem them worthy enough to fund bonus weapons and medical drops.

For a good two thirds of its running time The Hunger Games is an engaging adventure.  Getting to know Katniss and the world she inhabits is exciting.  It might be painted with bright colours and include a certain camp Logan’s Runquality to it but the grit of District 12, and in particular Katniss, remains.  The vibrancy of The Capital always coming off a little over the top compared to Katniss’ natural resolve.

There is of course the enforced teenage love triangle, because that’s all teenagers think of; love and sex, and not necessarily in that order.  Except here it is merely set up rather than fully pouted upon.  The problem is, as with most mainstream cinema outings, it plays it safe.  Going for the lowest common denominator as opposed to anything truly original.  The villains leer and sneer, the heroes brood and the big bads rub their hands with glee.  But the really frustrating moments come in the final act where certain rules of the games are bent to aid the narrative and jar with the rest of what has gone before.  A genesis device allows the Games Master to conjure vicious creatures to flush out the remaining tributes.  Had it stuck with the teenager on teenager action the dénouement would have been endlessly more rewarding.

The Battle Royale comparisons are unavoidable and to a degree only reasonable.  It’s hard to imagine pitting adolescents against each other in a bloody fight for survival avoiding that and Lord Of The Flies.  But, this being aimed at an audience under the age of 18, you feel that director Gary Ross’ hand has been slightly forced.  Where the books could indulge in some descriptive gore, here we must endure shaky cameras that all too often censor the more violent details.  Indeed the firing of a cannon, to signify the death of a tribute, becomes so repetitive you wonder if you’re ever going to see any real carnage.  Even if said carnage is censored for a 12A guidance rating.

Thankfully The Hunger Games has an ace in the hole.  After her Oscar nominated turn in Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence has fast become the actress du jour.  She is easily the most magnetic screen presence of her generation.  Able to conjure more charisma and pathos than Kristen Stewart has ever managed.  With The Hunger Games shecements her star quality. As Katniss, Lawrence is tough, feisty and belligerent. Repulsed by the Games and everything they stand for.  But beneath it there is a soft side, a protective side that wants to succeed if only to beat the system.  When Katniss is all dolled-up the film wanes but when she’s in her take-no-prisoners mode The Hunger Games is always an enjoyable romp.  Suffice to say that between this and Winter’s Bone, woodland creatures would do best to stay clear of this young actress.  While Josh Hutcherson runs the risk of falling into the Robert Pattinson school of all looks and little acting ability, Lawrence is well supported by the likes of Stanely Tucci, as the Games ‘Master Of Ceremonies’, with Woody Harrleson and Lenny Kravitz bringing great moments of mentoring to the hostile Katniss.

For its target audience, namely young adults, The Hunger Games is no doubt a resounding success.  A well executed adventure with plenty of flair and action to maintain interest.  For older audiences it will at times frustrate but is nonetheless a solid opening chapter to a franchise with an interesting premise.  Perhaps not quite as filling as it would like The Hunger Games more than appeases the appetite for something fresh.

 

 


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com