Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Ok, so we’ve listened to all the hype for the last six months or so, but does the first movie adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s best-selling trilogy stack up? Actually…yes, and no.
On a very superficial level, the movie ticks all the right boxes: a modern take on mob mentality, a twisted spotlight on reality tv, a brightly dystopian dictatorship populated by eccentrically dressed caricatures, and young adults slaughtering each other for people’s amusement.
If you’re not familiar with the plot, here are the basics: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in Panem, a country that has been broken up into 12 Districts by a totalitarian state, run by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Each impoverished region lives hand to mouth on bread and scraps, while the residents of the Capitol, live off the fat of the land. Katniss lives in District 12, the furthest and poorest district from the lavish and extravagant city centre. She lives with her mother and younger sister and survives by hunting for squirrels in the forests surrounding her village. She’s also pretty handy with a bow and arrow. As punishment for a rebellion against the state 76 years back, the leaders of Panem have declared that every year, a boy and girl between the ages or 12 and 18 will be selected to take part in The Hunger Games; a competition that pits the 24 youngsters in a fight to the death, leaving only one standing with the whole thing being televised nationally. Sounds like the North Korean Olympics, then. Government troops police the districts and punish those who would dare to break the rules or cross the district boundaries.
If you’ve read the books, then the first thing you’re going to say is that the blood shed and violence has been scaled down dramatically. Mainly to impart the PG – 13 rating the producers wanted for the film. This is probably the one thing that has garnered the books such a huge following in the first place and doesn’t really say a lot about our younger generation. Or maybe it says far too much, I’m not so sure. So instead of us being shocked and stunned by acts of mindless violence between youngsters of various ages, we get an emotionally charged episode of Teen Wolf.
The emotional conflict of the film comes from the relationship between tough as nails Katniss and the boy she leaves behind to enter the competition, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). She is forced to engage in a staged relationship with the other ‘Tribute’ from District 12, Peeta Mellark, who has had a crush on Katniss like, forever, to satisfy the masses and for better TV. This isn’t really covered very deeply in the movie due in part; I’m sure, to the total lack of chemistry between Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta.
Gary Ross, who directs, tries to add pace and hide the gorier aspects of the killing by continually shaking the camera around and over editing the action to produce what should have been a nail biting, visceral take on a future society ruled by an evil dictatorship. Like I said, it ticks all the boxes but only in a by-the-numbers-for its target audience kind of way.
The weight and talent of the supporting cast is also wasted. With roles underdeveloped we never really seem to connect with any characters other than Katniss and Peeta. Lennie Kravitz also pops up in a surprisingly believable role as Cinna, Katniss’ costume designer. Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland are reduced to cartoonish clichés and Elizabeth Banks (almost unrecognisable as Effie Trinkett) plays up her part as the comic relief. The absolute standout of the movie, however, is Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence. She absolutely nails the role of Katniss Everdeen, displaying the inner and physical strength needed to play the character with absolute conviction. With fans of Twilight set to mourn the loss of the trilogy, teens and tweens alike will be looking to this series to fill the gap, and they won’t be disappointed. But aside from the hype, this first entry lands a bit flat and doesn’t really begin to scratch the surface of the issues it purports to deal with and plays more like a watered down version of The Running Man, for ladies….
Where’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in a yellow jump suit when you need him?