Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Hunger Games (2012): Review

 The Hunger Games is a 2012 film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name written by Suzanne Collins. Directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) starring Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class), Josh Hutcherson (Bridge to Terabitha, Journey to the Centre of the Earth), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, Natural Born Killers) and Donald Sutherland (Don't Look Now, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers). The film has been hugely commercially successful and had the third best opening weekend in history.

The film is set in a dystopian future where the poorest citizens are forced to compete in gladiatorial combat in a media extravaganza known as The Hunger Games. The central character is Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), a young adult from the mining-based district 12, who along with fellow local Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) ends up being ferried to the Capitol to compete in the annual games. Upon arriving in the Capitol, the pair receive their training from Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson), a former victor of the games, but soon discover the games revolve largely around politicking and gaining the support of the populace. Meanwhile the outlying districts begin to revolt as the 24 participants massacre each other in the woodland arena causing major problems for President Coriolanus Snow (Sutherland) and his advisers as the fates of our protagonists hang in the balance.

It is impossible to review The Hunger Games without mentioning the glaringly obvious influences on both the novel and the film. 1982's The Running Man was written by Richard Bachman (AKA Stephen King) and adapted into a 1987 film starring Arnold Schwartzenegger. The film featured convicts who were forced into combat as part of a game show format, the main theme of the film was media satire and the sensationalist approach to reality-based T.V. This is definitely present in the middle section of The Hunger Games as the combatants are forced to pander to their audience in an effort to gain sponsorships. The more obvious influence on the film would be the cult Japanese film Battle Royale (2000), another literary adaptation. The premise of Battle Royale being that a class of school-aged teenagers are dropped onto an island and forced to kill each other by their totalitarian government. This really takes the shine off The Hunger Games and reduces it to a rather derivative and unoriginal piece, although Suzanne Collins claims to be unaware of these other works it doesn't change the fact that most people of a certain age will have seen this concept at least twice before.

When talking about The Hunger Games age and demographics are crucial to it's success, the fact is the films target teenage audience will not be aware of previous incarnations of this story and as an update or loose remakes of those movies it actually works quite well. Since the 80s and even the year 2000, global society has changed an awful lot and reality T.V and teenage violence is possibly more relevant now than ever before. The film should also be commended for it's illusion of violence, being a 12A there is a very minimal amount of graphic violence and blood on show but the style in which it's shot manages to mask that and still come off as shocking but lose no commercial appeal. As a "family film" the movie has a surprising runtime of 142 minutes, whilst this isn't  unusual for a mainstream film I did feel the pacing suffered and the films momentum is stunted by several long and dull stretches.

It's all too easy to write off The Hunger Games as shameful rip-off of The Running Man and to a stronger degree Battle Royale, however the similarities cannot be ignored. However that won't matter to most of the teenagers who will go and see the film and as a standalone piece it's a fairly entertaining movie. I'm not a huge fan of Battle Royale but it is a really clever piece and  if you enjoy this film I would certainly recommend it

3 Stars ***

What did you think of the hunger games? Have you seen The Running Man or Battle Royale?


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