So, here it comes. The generic movie review from superfan perspective. May the over-adulation begin!
The Hunger Games is the latest action blockbuster to be delivered to the fan-girl/boy masses, but the questions are – was it any good, and will it be the next big movie franchise?
Hunger Games the movie is based on the first in the bestselling trio of novels by American young fiction writer Suzanne Collins. The story depicts a dystopian future where the world is now known as Panam. 12 outlying districts are ruled over by the Capitol and every year each district is required to put forward a ‘tribute’ of one boy and one girl, who are put into an area and made to fight to the death. The sole winner is allowed to go free and return as a celebrity, with fame and riches, now able to avoid starvation in the districts and live out their lives in comfort. Readers follow Katniss, the district 12 tribute who volunteers in place of her younger sister. She faces the moral dilemma of perhaps having to kill the male tribute from her district, Peeta, who once saved her from starvation. Peeta is revealed to be in love with Katniss, but this potentially tragic love story is complicated by Katniss’s friend-who-could-be-more-than-a-friend from home, Gale.
I will avoid spoilers because that wouldn’t be fair to anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie or had the entire series explained by an over enthusiastic friend.
Before I address the future of the films I have to say one thing.
I absolutely LOVED it!
I adored the book series, I have been following them from the very beginning and have spent the past two years bouncing up and down in my seat with excitement at every *EXCLUSIVE* sneak peek video clip, cast list, cast rumour, plot twist and pop culture comparison. I was one of those super fans fuelling the fire beneath those silly movie execs that were on the fence about committing the series to film. After seeing the finished result – you may thank me now! And the rest of the wonderful fans, of course. 😀
So, enough of the barely contained adoration and onto the impartial (ish) analysis.
The film sports a cast of experienced and extremely talented actors including Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Melark.
Tucci has excelled in every role I have ever seen him in, from child murdering creep in The Lovely Bones to gay, high fashion assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. I challenge anyone to find a role he cannot make better and make his own. Here he plays a charismatic TV chat show host for the games.
Sutherland, well, do I really have to explain? The man is a living legend and his son (Keifer Sutherland, 24) is heading the same way. In this he plays the leader of the capitol, effectively a dictatorial old man (could there be a more current affairs appropriate time for a Hollywood super villain?) and with his soft, somewhat ambiguously accented voice, he pulls off the quiet intimidation of a powerful man well.
Josh Hutcherson has been cast as the leading man and pulls the sweet and sturdy persona of Peeta off with an ease that suggests he is barely acting the role. He will be setting girls hears a flutter with his portrayal of the love-struck and likeable Peeta, fighting in the arena without a hope for himself, but rather praying to get Katniss home to her family.
Relatively new to the game is Liam Helmsworth, playing Gale. Tall, dark, handsome and (for some reason…) dating Miley Cyrus. You may have seen him in the (excellent) mind-fuck of a movie Triangle. About all you need to know about the man for now. The Aussie plays a fairly minor role in this instalment, but in the book seems to be an ever-present factor in Katniss’s thoughts throughout the games. This presence was underused in the film, which was a little disappointing as I don’t feel it builds enough hype to the importance of his character in the next two instalments. I can only imagine it was to minimise the confusion between loveliness and maintain true to the main focus of the story, which is the fight for survival, but they may find they have made more work for themselves in the future.
Saving the best for last that leaves us with the Girl on Fire, Katniss Everdeen, played by the stunning Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence was absolutely outstanding. Having been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Winter’s Bone last year, the 21-year-old has a wealth of experience already and has developed her skills to the point where she could have carried this movie with ease, without the impressive list of co-stars. Lawrence perfectly captures Katniss’s core values of being a lethal hunter, surviving for so long in harsh district life only by containing her fear in order to provide for her family, with the vulnerability of being a 16-year-old girl thrust into the altogether more terrifying environment of the Hunger Games.
The only slight criticism I could make is that she is not exactly the Katniss I had in my head from reading the books. I saw a malnourished, pale-faced girl, possessing all the qualities Lawrence gives our heroine. But she has an answer to justify her more curvaceous, healthy figure. In an interview with GLAMOUR magazine she said “…Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow isn’t scary…”. She makes a very valid point. I accept that and, as I read that interview before seeing the film, I had that idea already imprinted in my mind. Therefore she is Katniss Everdeen, and I am glad of it.
Paying homage to an array of influences, it is unavoidable that comparisons are going to be made to other works. The idea for the story, whilst fantastic, has been done before in a variety of formats. From The Lord of the Flies we can see what happens with the breakdown of reasonable society (take note anarchists). From the likes of Battle Royale we see a similar fight to the death from children, randomly selected and set upon each other in a bit for survival. There are many other examples, Collins herself cites the inspiration for her story to have come when channel hopping between reality TV and a war documentary.
Regardless of whether it has been done before or not, the fictional setting is entirely of her own creation (forget that, yes, there have been many other fictional dystopian societies used as the settings for novels) and it completely adds the feeling of secular seclusion and total societal control that the Capitol has over each of the districts.
Overall, I loved this movie. I thought it was a great compliment to the books and that even if you haven’t read the books you can still enjoy it.
However, I do feel that you might enjoy it more if you have read them beforehand. Simply because, as with all movie adaptations, certain details have had to be glossed over for the sake of keeping the pace and the interest. With a prior knowledge of the content you can fill in the blanks yourself. I wasn’t alone when I came out of the movie and said I had a sort of inner monologue running throughout it, filling in what Katniss was thinking in certain situations, remembering little details that help justify certain characters actions and so on. It really just adds a little depth and richness to the characters.
UPDATE FROM WHEN I ORIGINALLY WROTE THIS
Yeah, so I actually wrote this about two days after the film came out because I saw it the day it opened in the UK but forgot to upload it. Since then there has been an update with regards to the filming of the sequel. They have had to begin a search for a new director because of time restraints. The studio is looking to have the movie done by next April so that interest is kept high and fans aren’t left waiting for years and years for all three to be completed. However, star Jennifer Lawrence is to begin filming for the new X-Men movie in January, limiting the time available to get the script written and all that, so the director of the first movie has dropped out. He says that he would feel he couldn’t make such a good attempt at it, given the small time frame he has been given, along with other projects he himself has committed to.