THE HUNGER GAMES
With Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz
Written by Gary Ross, Billy Ray & Suzanne Collins (based on her novel)
Before seeing this, I had the preconceived notion that The Hunger Games is an amalgam of The Prize Of Peril / The Running Man / Series 7: The Contenders / Battle Royale (fused with Greek gladiator myth) for a Twilight generation. And in many ways that is the case - mainly in the sense that its theme centers around a battle to the death for an audience, and that it taps into that teen / young adult demographic.
In this future world the nation of Panem (controlled by the controlling Capitol with its surrounding 12 poor districts) halted an uprising of a 13th District, resulting in its destruction. This led to the Capitol devising a strategy to both keep the Districts in line and culling some countrywide entertainment by televising it. Known as The Hunger Games, each year a lottery picks a male and female participant from each District between the ages of 12 and 18. They're trained with mentors & image consultants, and built into characters the audience can root for – as they're sent out into a large designated area where they are to battle to the death, with only one survivor.
As in all wars, it is usually the poor who have to go and fight while the rich stay safely back home. Here it takes on a similar scenario.
Action and emotion is a key driving force, but inner strength, holding on to humanity, oppression and its defiance also play a significant roles. Then, this is hardly an exploitation flick like Turkey Shoot - but even movies like that has a moral core of regular people rising above the dominant corrupt powers.
The Hunger Game doesn't really say more than the above-mentioned comparisons when it comes to its blatant critique on society, and the final outcome is not much of a surprise, which is one of the film's shortcomings – you never really fear for Katniss' life as she tries to survive the atrocious ordeal.
Jennifer Lawrence's choice for the lead role (after making an Oscar nominated impression in Winter's Bone) was a good one, as she projects an inner depth as the underdog heroine. Fans of rocker Lenny Kravitz will be happy to see him in a supporting (but non-violent) role, with Woody Harrelson's part as the drunken mentor passable (but not mind-blowing as we remember him in classics like Natural Born Killers).
The movie's futuristic look includes the expected CGI cityscapes and vehicles, but the Capitol elite reflect a cartoon-Victorian style, blatantly contrasted by the regular folk from the Districts living a hard, drab rural life. These futuristic elements may not convince all viewers.
In a primitive time before man grew a conscience, sport consisted of killing and maiming people & animals (Spain still firmly stuck on the latter), and some would believe we are slowly returning to that mindset as sports like ultimate cage fighting has become our modern gladiator fix (with killing not yet part of the programme).
With the vile increase of mindless reality shows, the speculation is often whether this is the way this base form of TV entertainment is heading. But I must be honest, while most of these shows repulse me, I may certainly consider watching a show where it's the Kardashians vs the Hiltons, or different Real Housewives factions fighting to the death... only problem is, the winners will have an even more inflated illusion of self-importance than they already believe they possess...
3 / B
5 - Blistering
4 - Hot
3 - Smolder
2 - Room Temperature
1 - Fizzled
0 - Extinguished
A: Multi-Viewing Potential