The Hunger Games (2012)

Film review: The Hunger Games (2012), directed by Gary Ross

thehungergamesBased on the very successful Young Adult book triology by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set some time in the future. A terrible war has been waged on the United States, and what’s left is called Panem and has been divided into twelve districts, with a central city, the Capitol. In the districts live all the workers, and they’re poor and hungry, providing for the upper classes of the Capitol.

As retribution for an uprising many years ago, when District 13 was wiped out, each district now have to offer up one male and one female teenager every year, to take part in a big televised wipeout competition, The Hunger Games. Last person alive wins. The rest … well, they’re just to serve as reminders that the government owns the proletariat’s asses.

In District 12, it’s 12-year-old Primrose Everdeen’s (Willow Shields) first time in the raffle. Against the odds, she gets picked, but her 16-year-old sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First Class) volunteers in her stead. Together with the male contestant Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), Katniss goes to the colourful Capitol to receive coaching (from Elizabeth Banks and previous winner Woody Harrelson), training, get a makeover (by singer Lenny Kravitz!), do PR (with a blue-haired Stanley Tucci) and participate in the Hunger Games.

Also starring: Wes Bentley as the show’s head honcho, Toby Bones as Tucci’s silent sidekick, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s friend Gale back home (and yes, he’s Thor-Chris’s younger brother), and fellow contestants Rue (Amandla Stenberg) and Cato (Alexander Ludwig), to mention but a few.

There are so many people raving about this film, not to mention the books, so expectations were fairly high. I knew it was based on a trilogy, and that the Games is a last man standing/kill or be killed contest, but that was about it. There were times where I was wondering if they were going to drag out the Games over more than one film, and how on earth they would achieve that, but as it happened, no, the Games reach a conclusion.

A predictable conclusion, I might add. Oh look, it had a twist when only a few of the contestants were left – what a surprise! And then they twist it again, to undo the first twist – OMG!! And who wins the Games? NO WAY!!! Not like we didn’t see those things coming a mile off. It was as certain as little Prim, who was so nervous she might get picked, would get picked.

So yeah, at times it got a bit silly. And that’s without even mentioning the clothing and hairstyle fashion in the Capitol, or the miracle goo that heals deep cuts in a couple of hours, and things like that.

Acting wise, okay, although Lawrence seemed to have just the one facial expression – fortunately not the fly-chatching gawp of Kristen Stewart, which unfortunately was Hutcherson’s job a lot of the time instead. According to the book, which I’ve now finally started reading (only got it back in … September?), Katniss has learned to hide her feelings very well. Or, Collins just safeguarded her heroine from a bad actress, should it ever be filmed. Either way you like. Not saying Lawrence is bad, just … blank-faced.

Speaking of Collins, she was involved in writing the script, which is good. Should mean it stays close to the book. Although, from the 1½ chapters I’ve read so far, the film has left out a lot of details that would’ve been nice to know when actually seeing the film, but I suppose they figure book fans will already know them, and the general movie-going public won’t really care as long as there’s enough detail there to tell the story.

I think I’m looking forward more to the next two films (books), because I do love a good rebellion, and that seems to be what it’s building up to. But so far, I’m not entirely sold on it. It has a strong, female main character who can take care of herself – she’s mean with a bow and arrow! – and the plot beats Twilight in every way possible. And that’s what it tends to be compared to, or it’s called “the new Twilight“, and that worries me, because that series is far from excellent.

Still, The Hunger Games was pretty entertaining, even if I think I like the premise of it better than the actual execution. It just feels rushed, so you don’t have time to get to know the other contestants (who’s Cato, aside from “murder machine”?), and it feels as if there are things missing, and considering that’s my feeling before I’ve even read the books … well, I’m not convinced, at least not about the film.

3.5 out of 5 land mines.

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