“They just want a good show, that’s all they want.”
Directed by: Gary Ross
Written by: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
The Hunger Games is what happens when Battle Royale gets a Hollywood makeover. Set in a futuristic North America, namely Panem, twelve districts are forced to enter one female and male teenager into a gladiator-like fight to the death as punishment for their earlier uprising against the nation’s wealthier authoritarian population. Unlike Battle Royale, The Hunger Games is favored by its budget, Hollywood stars, and special effects, yet fails to impress in making the novel’s adaptation a compelling cinematic experience.
Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence, perfectly cast) lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister, Prim. Skilled with a bow and arrow, Katniss has fed her family with game, trading her catches for measly meals and basic necessities. When the annual Hunger Games come around, Katniss volunteers in place of her sister whose name is selected by pure bad luck. With her partner, Peeta (Hutcherson), Katniss is taken to the Capitol where she is forced to become a media star. Katniss soon learns that favoritism and popularity are as equally as important in surviving the televised Hunger Games as her instinct, bravery, and hunting skills.
While The Hunger Games gets creative with its costume design, cinematography, and CGI, the film doesn’t have a taste for compelling action. When it comes to rough and tumble fights, we are blindly thrown into shaky handheld movement coupled with a rather predictable progression of plot and action, making the whole experience somewhat… boring. The stakes may be high, but the violence and increasing body count is not exciting enough for what the story offers. An interesting element of The Hunger Games, however, is its reflection on media/television culture. Drawing on ancient ideas of brutal entertainment for the masses, The Hunger Games inserts this into a modern society that combines politics with media production, dissemination, and the manipulation of public opinion. But other than this, The Hunger Games is not exactly the most riveting watch. It feels like a balancing act between family-friendly viewing and dark concepts that relies too heavily on the popularity of the books and the shine of their stars.