Sunday 25 March 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

The latest teen-reading series to hit the big screen, The Hunger Games brings the futuristic dystopia of Suzanne Collins' Panem to life in edgy and gripping fashion. 

Adapting any novel is hard enough but director Gary Ross has triumphed in crafting a film that should please both the legions of die-hard fans as well as newcomers to the books.

An elegant opening sequence establishes the premise of the Hunger Games in the a quick 90 seconds and fleshes out the back story enough for non-readers of the series, such as myself, to pick it up. The premise is one that is not overly original, but it isn't one that is overused or exhausted. Divided into 12 districts, the dystopian Panem is a world of contrast between the rich and the poor, over-indulgence and abject poverty. This contrast between Katniss' threadbare home in District 12 and the exuberant Capitol, a metropolis that exerts power over the land and where the Hunger Games are held, is striking. 

Whilst parallels to the Twilight series have been made due to Collins' teen audience, The Hunger Games seems to have a lot more to say than Stephanie Meyer's vamp vs. wolf romp. Themes of class, power, life, death and youth and innocence are all prevalent here and it makes for a much more satisfying story. Katniss' fight for survival both at home and in the Games defiantly holds a lot more emotional weight and gravity.

One such scene is a stand-out; midway through the Games, the loss of a friend gets the audience's dabbing at their tear-ducts with the king-size Kleenex. The film doesn't hold back the brutality and severity of the Games with the characters fate never seeming certain. The violent action scenes are dispersed with fast, rapid and shaky camera movement in order to shy away from too much blood, the film is aimed at a teenage audience after all, but this doesn't detract from the cruel nature of the Games too much. Wes Bentley as the all-controlling Seneca (winner of this year's most lavish beard) is done well and shows the helplessness of the film's leads at times; both Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are forever having to adapt to the changes in the game.

A strong supporting cast does add a welcome sprinkle of humour however, albeit in a dark and twisting way. Stanley Tucci steals almost every scene he is in as TV Show host Caesar, but there is always the nagging scene of foreboding hanging overhead. The premise of a live televised deathmatch is all too similar to our own reality television saturated lives. Youngster Willow Shields as Primrose is also mightily impressive with the limited screen-time she is allocated.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

A thrilling and thought-provoking piece that outshines most young adult novel adaptations of the last 10 years, The Hunger Games has matched the hype that surrounded it. Whilst not perfect, it does provide a impressive launching pad for both the undoubted oncoming sequels and Jennifer Lawrence's future prospects. 

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