Director – Gary Ross
Screenplay – Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins.
‘The Hunger Games’ (for those of you living underground) is the first novel in a trilogy of ‘Hunger Games’ books by Suzanne Collins. It is a story set sometime in the future of North America, now called Panem, where inhabitants are split into districts, and ruled by a wealthy ‘Capitol’ city. Once 13 districts, they now number only 12 after an uprising against the capitol resulted in the decimation of the thirteenth. The ‘Hunger Games’ are a brutal live action reality television show put on by the capitol in which two ‘tributes’ aged between 12-18 from each district fight until only one remains, a reminder to the districts of the suppressive control which the capitol holds over them, and a warning against future rebellion.
Without delving too deeply into the detailed back story or plot, the film plays out during the 74th Hunger Games, and follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen of district 12 (Jennifer Lawerence) on volunteering as tribute in place of her younger sister. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a classmate of Catniss’ is chosen as the male tribute from district 12. As you might expect, a film rated 12A which appeals mostly to a teenage audience, faces more than a few issues depicting a ‘Battle Royale’ arena style fight to the death. It is indeed true that scenes were cut in order to achieve this rating in the UK, (despite not needing cut for the PG13 rating in the U.S) but while gore levels may be cut, intensity, character depth and empathy certainly remains. Despite half of the 24 swiftly being taken care of once in the arena, this allows the film to develop the more detailed characters, while remaining close to the story Katiss, and to a lesser extent Peeta, at all times.
The fiendish and overwhelming atmosphere of suppression surrounding ‘The Hunger Games’ owes much to previous films such as ‘The Running Man’ and even ‘True Lies’, and the Gothic yet futuristic overtones of the Capitol only adds to the intimidating atmosphere in contrast to the districts. These are portrayed as poor communities that despite having an ‘every man for himself’ air of desperation, show increasing shades of community togetherness in the face of oppression. This film is clearly written and adapted with a sequel or two in mind, and certainly leaves a taste of unfinished business at the end. In fact, the Hunger Games themselves, while integral to the film, seem to act as a catalyst for future events, hinting at deeper plots, underlying themes, and a tipping point of uncontrollable rebellion in the air.
‘The Hunger Games’ is a truly engrossing film, which due to its array of themes will appeal to teenage obsessive and adult alike. No doubt this film will be viewed by many with political overtones and social change not far from the mind, but with a love triangle, action packed fight scenes and lets face it, teenagers killing teenagers appeal, it is sure to be a hit. If you are sick of the recent wave of teenage book adaptations appealing solely to excitable love struck girls with a fetish for Vampires, get ready for a series which truly broadens the spectrum. Get ready for something new, for there is a revolution coming.
By Matthew P. Collins