Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz
Running time: 142 minutes
Synopsis: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.
Adaptation from a successful novel to the big screen is never an easy process, it’s sometimes taken for granted after the triumph of HARRY POTTER that every screenplay will turn out perfectly but this isn’t always the case. However, THE HUNGER GAMES takes the Suzanne Collins saga, adds her to screenwriting team of Billy Ray (STATE OF PLAY) with Gary Ross (PLEASANTVILLE, SEABISCUIT) as third co-writer and director and is a highly affective and thought-provoking beginning.
THE HUNGER GAMES throws us into a futuristic world that was once North America but is now Panem. There are 12 districts that exist, each of them further away from a small, yet affluent, city called the Capitol that rules them all. Each year, 24 people between the ages of 12 and 18 are randomly chosen to fight to the death in the The Hunger Games. The hunger here representing their desire to win and the prize is literal survival in a story that echoes the likes of BATTLE ROYALE and THE CONDEMNED.
THE HUNGER GAMES succeeds predominantly because of presence and perfect casting of Jennifer Lawrence as lead-protagonist Katniss Everdeen. She’s a strong lead and naturally bridges the gap between vulnerable and resilient but also, thankfully, offers us a tough and smart exterior in a world she knows and fully understands. Katniss and her family come from District 12, the poorest part of Panem where the focus on day-to-day survival is paramount and hunting skills are secretly developed. Josh Hutcherson plays fellow District 12 tribute (The name given to those chosen to fight) Peeta Mellark and is a weaker link but his character is a supporting role here, much like Lenny Kravitz as Katniss’s personal stylist Cinna. Elizabeth Banks is also barely recognisable as Effie Trinket, a woman who reflects her surname being more interested in the material side of goings-on.
Woody Harrelson plays an important central role as alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy and brings a sturdy performance to the screen. He’s the mentor for Katniss and Peeta before they go into ‘The Games’ and is meant to help teach them secrets and ways to win. We’re also introduced in the Capitol to chat show host Caesar Flickerman, bought brilliantly to life by Stanley Tucci, a man who treats The Hunger Games as just a show and endeavours to bring a positive side out of the eventual blood, gore and death by getting to know the tributes live on air before the killing begins.
When we get to The Games, there’s no hiding away from the pure brutality and grizzly nature as all 24 go to war on each other in order to win. The hand-held camera work and quick editing keeps the rating down to a 12A but it’s still immensely affective. Make no mistake, you will experience the violence and you’ll be taken into Katniss’s world and her fight for survival. What’s smart about THE HUNGER GAMES is although it’s aimed at a specific audience, it doesn’t fall into the unfortunate sparkling drivel of the TWILIGHT franchise. THE HUNGER GAMES is everything that TWILIGHT isn’t and because of this, it is miles ahead as a story and full of greater possibilities. Whereas, the latter gets trapped in teenage woe and fantastical choices, THE HUNGER GAMES cuts down to the chase with the truth of the literal kill or be killed scenario and there’s no holding back on that authenticity.
There are a few grievances regarding editing and the varying camera methods but THE HUNGER GAMES is refreshing, impressively violent and hints towards being a critique on modern society and the morality of game shows and the super-rich. But, more importantly, Jennifer Lawrence in the main role of Katniss Everdeen is a strong, female lead with unflinching passion and determination. THE HUNGER GAMES is a solid effort and with a few tweaks, this is sure to develop into a very special franchise indeed.