Art & Culture

This may seem like a high score for a teenage sci fi movie but a) I enjoyed it a lot and b) it's my review and I'll do what I want. Hunger Games might just be the unexpected hit of 2012, and if it is, it deserves to be.

Fans of the book may not to read the next bit, but for others I'll need to recap some plot so that you know what's going on. Time: the future. Place. USA aka Panem, the remnants of post-apocalyptic America, which is ruled by the Capitol, under whose iron rule are 12 Districts. Some time in the past these districts rebelled against heir rulers, and their punishment is to send a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18  to the Hunger Games. All 24 are pitted against each other and fight to the death. The victor is the last survivor.

There's a whole lot more, but it's all in the film. The main thing to know is that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the 16 year old heroine, who volunteers herself for the games when her younger sister name is drawn. Peeta Mellark is the boy she goes with, who, it seems, has had a crush on her for ever such a long time, even though she's spent a lot of time in the woods with Gale, who is hunkier and better at hunting. But before you assume this is all very Twilight, the similarities are relatively few. While the vampire books and films are essentially pre- and post-pubescent swooning dramas about how hard it is to have to choose between two pretty boys, Hunger Games is about how you survive by your wits, your courage and your willingness to set aside selfishness in the interests of collaboration and friendship.

Hunger Games is essentially an action movie. Long parts of it consist of hunting and being hunted, killing or being killed, running through the forest, climbing trees, shooting game with a bow and arrow. No time for languid existential doubts about whether you want a vampire or a wolf to bite you. Lawrence is perfectly cast in the central role. She looks young enough, but she also looks tough enough. She's not conventionally pretty, and she's very good at conveying the sense of a troubled soul who is reluctant to trust others but whose heart is very much in the right place. The film stands or falls by her performance, and because of her it stands tall.

Woody Harrelson has fun as Haymitch Abernathy, the drunken mentor who won the games once, and other excellent actors like Staley Tucci and Donald Sutherland are part of the ruling elite. The designers have a whale of time creating the decadent world of The Capitol, where everyone is auditioning for the World's Worst Costume and the World's Worst Hairdo, at the same time. It's a long film, but never a dull one. It seems perfectly suited to our times, with its themes of justice, cruelty, oppression, honour and betrayal.

Everything suggests it will be a massive success, since the books (there are 2 more) have a massive readership. Not that you have to have read them to follow the film, though it helps. The violence is toned down to make it over younger audiences, and I hope you go and see it.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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