The Hunger Games

Posted March 23, 2012 by in


Total Score

3.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: science fiction, YA adaptation
Director: Gary Ross
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Length: 142 minutes
Release Date: 3/23/2012
Studio: Lionsgate, Color Force
What We Thought

While set in the future, The Hunger Games comments on our world of today.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Sometime in the future, impoverished districts are forced to send young males and females to the ruling Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games, a gladiatorial style event where teenagers are forced to survive on their own in the wilderness, while hunting one another like animals.  When Primrose Everdeen’s number comes up, her older sister Katniss—a skilled hunter, deadly with a bow and arrow—volunteers to take her place.
     En route to the Capitol, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) meets her supposed mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a bitter man who’s seen too much death in the games, and has given himself up to alcohol.  But when Katniss demonstrates her hidden talent, Haymitch takes her under his wing, and lets her in on the secrets of the Games.  What he doesn’t tell her is that other contenders have formed an alliance, and Katniss finds herself outnumbered and on the run.
     And let the games begin.  There is a real sense of danger in The Hunger Games, as Katniss’s adversaries do not share her reluctance in taking life—indeed, they enjoy it.  That is exactly why we want her to win.  She values life, and when a fellow contestant falls, she takes it upon herself to perform a burial rite amidst the chaos.  It’s a scene of surprising power, with a genuine feeling of loss.
     Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss strikes just the right balance between strength and vulnerability in her role.  She’s scared and unsure of herself, and we’re scared for her.  Yet within her is a will to survive and a compassion for others that makes her endearing.  Harrelson provides much needed comic relief as Haymitch, and his character undergoes the most change.
     While set in the future, The Hunger Games comments on our world of today.  Spectators view the contest through cameras hidden in the forest.  There’s contrived romances, and the contestants play fictitious versions of themselves.  In other words, the contest is Reality TV.  The key to winning is to attract sponsors, who intervene in the natural proceedings to supply food and medicine to players who win their approval.  And of course, the games themselves pit members of the underclass against one another for the amusement of the wealthy—as is often the case with modern sports.
     The Hunger Games is a victory, if by a close call.  The first act is shot and cut in the quick-cut shakey-cam style that’s becoming pervasive in today’s films (see Safe House for a recent example), and the shots are framed so tightly as to squeeze the subjects out of their context.  You can barely tell who’s where and next to what before the film is on to the next shot; it’s off-putting and all but unwatchable.  However, the style is abandoned midway through, and the action scenes gain considerable tension because of patient editing and comprehensible compositions.  The film relies heavily on dialog instead of visuals for exposition—to the demise of a couple of talking villains.  Furthermore, the climax is predictable and the ending is rushed; there is not quite the emotional payoff that there should be when the credits roll.  This is largely due to a romantic subplot with little weight.  We’re invested in Katniss, who provides a perspective into the world, but at the expense of most other characters, including her love interest, played by Josh Hutcherson.
     Still, I liked what Katniss stood for, and appreciated what The Hunger Games stands for; a film for teenagers with a female lead as strong as her male counterpart, if not stronger.  There is sparing use of CGI, but the film is more focused on real sets and locations, and real human beings.  While too violent for the very young, The Hunger Games should play well to a teenage crowd.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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