with Laura Weaser
The Hunger Games. Directed by Gary Ross. Out now in cinemas.
Considered as the new Twilight craze, and smashing box-office records, The Hunger Games sets the standard in teen fiction films by taking aim at more than its target audience.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is a natural fighter.
Set in the future, America is not long as we know it. Surviving the after effects of an apocalyptic war, the country – Panem – is divided into the extravagant, lavish Capitol and 12 districts gripped by poverty, drought and famine.
Every year, young members of each district randomly choose a boy and a girl to fight in the Hunger Games – a gladiator style, ‘survival of the fitness’ battle to the death which is televised for everyone’s amusement and control.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers herself when her younger sister is selected at random. Together with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), they prepare for the battle for their lives.
Ignoring debates as to how similar The Hunger Games is to cult Japanese film Battle Royale, the premise is fascinating.
Lending itself to cult post apocalyptic films such as Logan’s Run, Soylent Green and Brazil, the discomfort and unease in the superficial world of the Capitol is beautiful capture on celluloid.
Beautiful hairdos, colourful costumes, make-up piled layers thick – the Capitol is all about putting on a good show for the cameras.
Juxtaposed with the untamed, wild nature of the forest the Tributes must fight in or the bleak poverty the Districts are subjected to, it gives a real sense of unease to the feel of the film.
What is outstandingly powerful about Hunger Games is the way it mutes the violence – literally.
I read somewhere the use of no soundtrack in scenes of violence is a great filmic device and I would agree.
From the initially opening slaughter and the Tributes make a break away, to Katniss’ grief at the loss of an alliance, moments of extreme pain – both physical and mental – are muted and filmed in a flash.
While this is both practical to bring the rating down to an M, it also gives a sense of, ‘what just happened?’ leaving the viewer in a state of emotional shock, particularly at the brutal ways the Tributes dispose of each other. Much is left to your own imagination.
In fact, it was fascinating the way it made you feel. In the lead up to the battle, the Tributes and primed and prepared physically for both being on display to win favour with the crowd and also up skill to come out victorious.
It is not until Katniss – trembling, terrified, and panicked – is waiting on the podium to being The Hunger Games we realise the horror that awaits her – teenagers battling to the death, trained to kill, or entertainment and sport?
This might be a future world, but human behaviour has reverted back to Gladiatorial times.
Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding. I don’t know how Katniss reads in the book, but I hope she is as Lawrence portrays.
She is clearly a fighter, whether she is trained or not.
Protecting her mother and sister, hunting in the woods, headstrong and independent, she is much older than her 16 years.
But, when it comes to battle, alone in the forest, we see another side to Katniss, her weakness and her humanity.
Katniss at her weakest: sharing a moment with Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) before she begins The Hunger Games.
In a world of fakes and rule-changers, Katniss is the only true character.
The hyped up ‘love triangle’ between her, Peeta and her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) back at home lends comparison to Twilight by some critics, but I think there is no comparison.
Katniss is everything Bella (Twilight) is not, and the love triangle takes very much a back seat. The real focus is Katniss, it is her show and she is running it. No boys allowed.
While I am full of praise for this film and the interesting story it portrays, I do think many subtle themes of the story have been downplayed in the film to a) reach the teen audience more and b) fit everything in.
At over two and a half hours long, it is by no means a slow-paced film but with an ending that seemed like more could have been explained, perhaps sometime in the forest could have been sacrificed in exploring the deeper issues behind The Hunger Games.