The Hunger Games presents a stylised portrait of a future where mankind has lost its humanity and how the human spirit is able to overcome the direst of odds.
With the Harry Potter series done and the Twilight films with one left to go, all bets are on The Hunger Games to fill the void in a profitable teen focused market. What many will not expect is that The Hunger Games is actually a rather good film, one that entertains and teaches about the de-spiriting nature of classism.
Based upon the first of three novels by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in a future where the remnants of North America are split into two different factions. One is a lavish metropolis where drab architecture clashes with technicolour fashion. The other is a destitute place of poverty and grit known as “Districts”, populated by those who lost a bloody civil war that tore the country apart.
As punishment for their “treachery” each year a male and female adolescent is chosen to take part in a morbid television contest called “The Hunger Games”, where 24 contestants fight to the death. The last man or woman standing will give there district food and wealth.
Enter Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) a 16 year old who volunteers for the games. Anyone who has seen Lawrence in her Oscar winning performance for Winter’s Bone knows that this is perfect casting. Katniss hunts, she’s responsible, she’s intelligent and she is guided by a keen sense of moral virtue. She is a new heroine of the cinema, and Lawrence plays the role well.
The rest of the cast are also good. Much like the Harry Potter series, a solid group of character actors fill the various colourful roles featured throughout. Woody Harrelson cuts a sympathetic figure as a drunken mentor, Elizabeth Banks goes all out in clown makeup as an eccentric district escort, and Stanley Tucci is hilariously good as a whacked out television host complete with blue wig and bright white choppers.
What makes the film such a success is the level headed approach toward its themes and the realistic tone of its science fiction. Directing The Hunger Games is Gary Ross, who makes his return to filmmaking 9 years after the award winning Seabiscuit. While others could have gone the light touched campy route (ala Twilight), Ross strengthens The Hunger Games with good drama and high stakes as the bloody and emotional ramifications of violence is felt throughout.
The Hunger Games succeeds in making us care for these characters and their plight. This may be teen marketed fiction but it’s filled with a mature resonance about the inhumanity of classism, the corruptive nature of exploitative violence and the audacity of hope in a world which tries to rob the last remnants of spirit from a deprived people.
Sure to be a monster hit and critical darling, look for sequels to The Hunger Games to be fast tracked after its release.