With a dearth of movies aimed at PG-13 audiences of
With a dearth of
movies aimed at PG-13 audiences of late, an offering like The Hunger Games has
been long overdue. Better still that Jennifer
Lawrence be cast as the story’s heroine, an actress that has strode onto
the scene via an impressive, Disney-free path. Admittedly, many of the target
demographic will be more familiar with her sexy teen mutant in last Summer’s X-Men:
First Class than her Oscar-nominated performance in Debra Granik’s gripping Winter’s Bone, but with Suzanne Collin’s global bestseller
being digested eagerly by the Twi-hard generation there is already a hungry
audience for her feisty heroine.
Fortunately for those not familiar with the novels the plot
isn’t hard to pick up at all; Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is raised in one of a
series of districts where every year a boy and girl are offered as tribute to
the Hunger Games, a televised last man standing-style tournament that sees
children forced to fight to the death for the glory of their future world’s
repressive regime. When her younger sister is chosen, Katniss volunteers in
order to save her, joining fellow contestant Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and leaving behind said sister and doting male
buddy (NOT boyfriend, played by Liam
Hemsworth) on a journey to the Capitol and her questionable fate.
The surrounding characters play between grotesque
caricatures and likeable confidents in the run up to the games; Elizabeth Banks is garish and brash as
Effie Trinket, the day-glo district representative, whilst Stanley Tucci as the blue-haired presenter of the Games and Woody Harrelson as drunken former
contestant and Lawrence’s mentor Haymitch Abernathy, are oddly sympathetic for
a pair of tools of the state that aid the coverage of an event where children
are killed off for sport.
Though there’s obviously a passing resemblance, Battle Royale this certainly ain’t.
Fans of the book may be disappointed at the dilution of its central terror and
brutality. Aside from a core few, the contenders aren’t developed much and the
scenes of violence are shot from a distance, with more left to be assumed than
seen. Lawrence is impeccable as
Everdeen, convincing as a sometimes desperate, sometimes powerful heroine. In a
scene capturing her last minutes before entering into the tournament her
reactions capture real anxiety as the seconds are ticked off. Hutcherson is agreeable also as the
blushing second contender following in the shadow of Everdeen’s appeal and
won’t look out of place on the front of tweenage schoolbooks.
The major flaw in The Hunger Games is the rushed final
chapters. Right up until the point of the last few standing the pace has been
just so, allowing time to develop some relationship with the characters and
submerge into the urgency of the chase. Then the franchise factor rears its
ugly head and what momentum has picked up so far is spun into submission,
causing what should be a conclusion of epic proportions to fall pretty flat. Of
course this is the first adaptation of a series of books but the cinematic
experience shouldn’t suffer as a result which is exactly what happens here.
Curiosity still lingers; Hemsworth’s
fleeting appearances glaring lustfully at the Games on screen are obviously for
more than sexy purposes and hint at his expanded role in later books but the
impact of what should have been an exhilarating ordeal is sacrificed as a
That said, this is a thoroughly entertaining film to watch.
The inescapable tragedy underlying the Games is captivating and it’s refreshing
to watch Lawrence as a satisfying teenage lead compared to say, a miserable
brunette who loves the undead and can only convey one emotion (and not a happy
one at that). If Ross had only
indulged in a more rewarding ending this would have kicked the blockbuster
season off to an incredibly good start. Instead however we can look forward to
a young franchise boasting a strong, wilful central character that makes you
want to grab a bow and arrow, defy a totalitarian government and join a teenage