Sunday, 8 April 2012

REVIEW: The Hunger Games

One of cinema's most profitable successes already, this futuristic reality TV show fight-to-the-death proves kids can watch mature content, and enjoy it.

So if you were thinking this is like The Running Man crossed with Battle Royale with a pinch of Big Brother, you'd be completely correct. Though in my mind, that's a good thing. I love films like this, a simple idea that's not too far from our own love of reality TV and boiled down to the base need of survival.

The Hunger Games is set in a future that has clearly come out of a 'rebellion' and to prove that the rebels are still submissive, they have to give up a 'tribute' which is a child between 12 and 18 as part of TV show The Hunger Games. A show where there can be only one winner, and you must kill everyone else. Along the way, you are supposed to impress 'sponsors' who pay to give you stuff while you're in there and generally speaking, the producers will do what they can to make it interesting. We follow Katniss, who is a bit of a tomboy and a good hunter, her male counterpart is Peeta who is a bit pathetic and fancies Katniss. With a little help from Woody Harrelson as their mentor, they enter the games and try to survive.

The cast and general acting in the film (apart from some other contestants) was impressive and Jennifer Lawrence really does hold the film together with her wide-eyed innocence yet tough demeanour and martyrdom sensibility. I loved the art direction, the capital they travel to is a wondrous spectacle that is full of imagination, the fashion and money that clearly floats about screams sheer consumerism much like the capital of any country. The contest itself is sometimes nail-biting and you have really built up a connection with Katniss to care about her - something pivotal to the film and it's success. It's mature themes are also commendable - I've always stated that kids films need to be darker, that this is what we remember as adults and that children are smarter than we think they are. They cannot be spoon fed issues and information, they enjoy learning it for themselves and like any well-rounded adult mind, they don't want everything to be smelling of roses - it's unhealthy. They want danger, fear, and a safe embrace of the dark and though this film isn't exactly that, it's a step in the right direction.

There are a few points which do let it down. Namely, there is a lot of time spent before the games begin. I'm all for context and building up tension but I felt that a whole film had gone by and we've not even started the most interesting bit. There are some quite cheesy scenes about hope, sacrifice, love etc. that, for a kids film, is acceptable, but also makes it slightly tedious.

Some parts also don't make sense, such as when she is waiting up a tree and they refuse to try and get her until she comes down, when the dogs just appear - is this virtual reality? Clearly not. So what happened there? Why are they aiming fire at her? Surely it's better if she stays alive to fight? Also there's not much post-games and I thought this would be quite important. I understand that it's the first book of a series but, it could have had a better ending. Her male counterpart Peeta was also so whiny and pathetic that the whole time I wanted him to hurry up and die. The sponsors bit also was a bit lost on me, and it didn't make much of an impression. However, my main grievance is that this should have been at least a 15. The lack of gore, violence and blood makes it feel strange and fake. If someone was gutted by a sword, there would be blood, but there's hardly anything on screen. Not great for a fight to the death, so the whole time I felt on edge with this blood lust that was never satisfied. It doesn't feel right and is like when kids dress up as fantasy characters and pretend to fight in the woods - it therefore lacks that bite that it so needed and becomes a bunch of kids faffing about. A bit of a shame.

Overall, it was enjoyable and fun and great for kids, but I'd prefer to watch Battle Royale.

Rating: 6/10

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