Review: The Hunger Games / Cert: 12 / Director: Gary Ross / Screenplay: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray / Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Laim Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks / Release Date: September 3rd
Maybe because we’ve been spoilt by films like Battle Royale and The Running Man, where similar themes have been have been explored before (surprisingly, Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins claims that she had never heard of BR when writing the novel), or maybe because the violence in the book series has been reigned in, something comes across as lacking here. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the 74th Hunger Games – a tournament that takes one boy and girl from the 12 districts and pitches them into an arena to fight to the death, until only one remains to be crowned victor – we follow her training, and witness the ratings winning tricks of the trade that are pulled behind the camera. It’s a reality TV show, created to give the Districts the faintest hint of hope, even though there appears to be little of that for most.
Regardless if you’ve read the book, you know that Katniss will triumph and perhaps this is the film’s biggest weakness. By concentrating on the heroine, played well by Jennifer Lawrence, most of the other youngsters chosen to fight or die are given almost zero character development so, where you should feel dismayed at the idea of children killing other children, you end up not really caring, because you know nothing about these remaining cannon fodder. Only Katniss, fellow District 12 colleague Peeta and main antagonist Cato are really used. Hell even Katniss’ love interest Gale, who was left at home, is given more screen time than most of the fighters put together.
As the violence has been toned down there is no tangible sense of shock when the children die, and if you are going to make a film based on this kind of source material, you really shouldn’t cut corners. All it ends up being is a senseless narrative about a totalitarian society where random kids are picked to kill each other for ratings. Even that would have been interesting, had the creators not decided to use this as just a background tool and rely on Katniss and her supposed development arc. She’s already a hunter before she enters the fray, and the pseudo sister role she plays to another contestant seems forced as she has already managed to save her sister by taking her place in the tournament in the first place.
There are good moments, but the action is spread thinly and the pace seems to lag slightly so that the running time almost drags. This review may go against the grain, but if the creators had gone for at least a 15 certificate, then we could have got a more exciting and brutal story than we are provided with here.
“The World Is Watching: Making of The Hunger Games”
“Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon” featurette
“Letters from the Rose Garden” featurette
“Controlling the Games” featurette
A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell
Propaganda Film (in its entirety)
“Preparing for the Games: A Director’s Process” (Blu-ray Exclusive)