Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Hunger Games


***

The bar has been set pretty low with Twilight so the new young-adult-aimed-franchise on the block is far better than anticipated. Featuring vistas of a dystopian future this is film-making on a slightly grander scale. However, the real strength of the film is the human element.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a poor mining region, District 12, in the nation of Panem. Her younger sister is selected by lottery to take part in the titular Hunger Games. This is an annual televised event in which one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts is selected to fight to the death until only one is left. Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place and is taken to the city of Capitol where she is groomed, trained, and primed to kick some serious butt.

The build-up to the Games is tense and exciting. Anything that resembles Spartacus gets a thumbs-up from this reviewer. However, the actual Games feels rushed. Here, the writer of Big and director of Pleasantville starts to flounder. The momentary action itself is handled well but most of the set-pieces are daft and lack tension. Sometimes they are unintentionally funny. One such scenario sees a band of lean, mean killing machines unable to get Katniss down from a tree even though they armed with bows and arrows. This might be ok on the page but on the screen it looks ridiculous. In this whole section no effort is given to develop character. With the exception of one, the other opponents are crudely painted as drooling psychopaths. (Whereas the decent and true Katniss only kills in self-defence.) I’m no expert in forest warfare but I imagine something that gives away your position is a lot of shouting and screaming. This could have been a chance for some subtext commenting on noisy teenagers – a simple cautionary tale (i.e. noise = death). But no, the one making most of this racket is our fearless heroine. And she, as you can probably guess with two imminent sequels, doesn’t come out of it too badly.



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