Rebecca Paul finds the blockbuster 'unsurprising and predictable but...fun, engaging, suspenseful and even shocking'.
There’s an unnecessary tendency to write about films with regards to their original novel material and construct a point-by-point critique of the differences. Such writing is, I think, disrespectful to both the readers of the books and the audiences of the film. As such I will say only two things about The Hunger Games with regards to the books. Firstly, I’ve not read them. Secondly, I probably will after seeing the film.
Teenage movies are dominating cinemas. There’s a real sense of adventure in the stories and if you are happy to forego complex plots and rather embrace the coming-of-age, nihilistic rebellion then you’ll enjoy them fine. I do.
It’s a dystopic future where one affluent district (The Capitol) dripping with technological decadence rules the roost while its twelve surrounding boroughs (Districts) live in squalor. The Capitol keeps its ailing neighbours in line by hosting an annual Hunger Games whereby a young male and female from each District are selected to compete in a battle to the death. The gloried victor returns home with food and supplies for his (or her) district. Think Enid Blyton meets Gladiator.
Watching the film, I was at times excited and when I wasn’t I felt a kind of dull nausea. Too often this other world’s people seemed impossibly barbaric; their motives absurd, their mannerisms insane and so I couldn’t fully care about what happened.
When I did, though, I enjoyed myself, and the story is fascinating. There’s a strong alliance with our heroine, Katniss, as she embraces her fate with sombre acceptance but also a tangible fury. Woody Harrelson is trainer to our young gladiators and brings his edge of lunacy with him to the part as well as some much-needed comedic relief. I could live without the clumsy love triangle which seems highly unlikely in such an environment… but that’s just me.
The Capitolians (can I call them that?) are frightening creatures, and while the film attempts to humanise some of them as they aid and assist the unwilling chariots, ultimately this was difficult to buy. The story itself is powerful and the razzmatazz often felt superfluous; flamboyant costumes at every turn and quite frankly insane technology as computer programmers pinch beasts out of mid-air and pop them into our chariots’ battleground through an invisible and sprawling four-dimensional map. In a way this detracted from the strength of our characters, and I’d have enjoyed more time spent watching them with one another. Katniss’ relationship with a younger girl is particularly moving as the pair work together to survive as long as possible in the Games.
The plot is unsurprising and predictable but along the way it is fun, engaging, suspenseful and even shocking. The film itself perhaps doesn’t adequately reflect the darkness of the story but it does offer something very watchable.
The Hunger Games in on general release.