The Hunger Games

14 Apr

Director: Gary Ross (2012)
Shut up, it is nothing like Twilight.
Pre-emptive rant out of the way I will proceed to put my cards on the table. I have indeed read The Hunger Games. The entire trilogy. And, even as a twenty something I thoroughly enjoyed them all. Well at least 2.5 of them. It may have been a dirty little secret at first and then when it was announced they were making a film, I realised I would be called upon to defend their honour or stand by and watch as they were dragged through the mud or shelved alongside the pish that is tween fiction/film franchises like the aforementioned film.  And, like our fearless protagonist, I come with bow and arrow and side braid ready to defend.
Written by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games may be a young adult book but it is one that is well written and gripping from start to finish – much like the film, despite clocking in at 140mins, even with huge sections cut out.
Set in the dytopian realm of Panem, Katniss Everdeen and her sister Prim line up for District 12’s Reaping, an annual lottery into which all the children aged over 12 are entered and one boy and one girl are selected as Tributes for the annual Hunger Games. As Tributes, they enter the arena not only fighting for their District but also for their lives in the ultimate competition where there can only be one winner and the real prize is survival. But as her sister’s name is drawn, almost like a reflex, Katniss volunteers in her place.
While it might not be a particularly new story (see also Series 7: The Contenders, Battle Royale), The Hunger Games takes it out of the ‘real world’ and transplants it into a surreal future where the Games are a punishment for humanity’s uprising – to remind them who is in control, the Capitol and the Peacekeepers.
Director Gary Ross has frankly done a fantastic job. With a battalion of fans from the books, Ross had a big job on his hands making a worthy film but as the stellar cast rolled in including Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz, the backing of such big names boded well for the final result. Stylish and entertaining from the start, the garish inhabitants of the Capitol are ravenous for their fix of violence and celebrity combined as the Tributes are paraded before them before plunged into the arena, televised 24 hours a day.
It’s a delirious world from the saturated colours and lurid falseness of the people to the terrifying side effects of the punishing arena. As sound and vision fades in and out of Katniss’ comprehension, so does our with such excellent mimicry from the camera work there was the briefest point I genuinely thought I was fainting too….Thankfully I wasn’t. And I wasn’t being attacked by Trackerjackers. Thankfully. Lawrence is superb as Katniss and though I found Josh Hutcherson a little too youthful for Peeta, her District compadre in the Games, he played well and, judging by the reaction of the teens sat next to me, was ticking boxes for younger viewers.
It’s been a while since I have seen a film adaptation done so well, from sets to characterisation, particularly with the Gameskeeper, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and the disconcertingly subdued President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who no doubt will come into his own in later films.
Even for those who haven’t read the book – or who have little interest (what you’re not adult enough to read a young adult book?) in doing so – The Hunger Games is a fantastic film that manages to avoid Hollywood kitsch and predictability, offering everything from winning directorship and screenwriting to costume design and gripping action. Yes it is soaked in media attention as the ‘next big thing’ which certainly worries me for its future, particularly with Gary Ross already out for the next installment but I urge you to ignore the hype and make up your own mind. And may the odds be ever in your favour.
(Get it? That’s a line from the movie…because yes, I am a tad obsessed. You will be too).

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