Review of 'The Hunger Games'

hunger_games.jpg The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future where once a year each district holds a draw where a young woman and a young man are selected to participate in the “Hunger Games” where they are made to fight to the death where there is only a single winner. The 12 districts are segregated, poor, communities that were established after past food riots resulted in their suppression by the army under the control of the wealthy living in the big cities. The yearly Hunger Games are watched by the entire planet with sponsorship by the elite being key to the combatant's success. In District 12's draw Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected to participate but her older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), an independent young woman who is good with a bow, volunteers in her place. Katniss alongside the other District 12 participant for the year Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are taken to the city to be mentored by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) in the importance not only of being physically fit but also savvy in the demands of the media and their sponsors. As the games begin it is soon obvious that in volunteering for the games, Katniss has captured the attention of not only the wealthy but also of the people in the districts who see her as a beacon of hope. President Snow (chillingly played by Donald Sutherland) is worried by Katniss and will stop at nothing to ensure the hope she gives the districts is squashed.

Based on the youth fiction books of the same name by Suzanne Collins, the Hunger Games is a world-wide phenomenon. The story of a girl coming from the repressed majority to question the ruling elite sparks the idea that anyone can question the status quo and become a hero. Lawrence here puts on a very serious face as Katniss, uncomfortable with the situation into which fate has thrown her. Here we see her coming to grips with the part of the world of which she knows nothing and cares for even less but which she has to adapt to in order to succeed. Our sense of morality wishes her to succeed despite the overwhelming odds. There are the obvious tropes here of the haves and the have nots which have been done to death in cinema, particularly American cinema but that does not mean this is not a good movie. Part of the fun here, for those not familiar with the stories, is figuring out what is going on in this odd world then cheering on the heroine as she conquers all.

The minimal effects are quite good, particularly the spectacular city scenes, and the violence is downplayed and kept to a minimum. This film does call to mind the much more brutal, but very similar story of Battle Royale. In The Hunger Games the conflict is between the poor and the wealthy rather than the young and the old but that is the only significant difference - The brutal arena of the young fighting themselves largely to the amusement of their overseers remain. In both we see the heroes not really wanting to kill but having to do so to defend themselves. Indeed, Katniss spends a fair amount of time here hiding in the trees…

The film lags a bit when the young combatants prepare themselves for the games and are forced to come to terms with the politics of the people around them but it certainly picks up when the games start. Of course, this is the main event and as such it does slightly disappoint as we don't see as much action as you might expect and the ending somewhat never in doubt.

Enjoyable, sure, though it is an obvious first chapter in the story that continues in the following films. Don't expect too much closure…

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2017-01-06

Directed by: Gary Ross

Studio: Lionsgate

Year: 2012

Length: 142 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Gary Ross: