Film review: THE HUNGER GAMES, from Built For Speed

The Hunger Games is the hotly anticipated adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’ teen sci-fi trilogy.

Strangely reminiscent of Roller Ball, Series Seven and Battle Royale, the film is set in a dystopian future where a repressive American government attempts to quell war, rebellion and general public bloodlust by staging a brutal survival contest called The Hunger Games.  In the games a male and female teenager from each of the US’s 12 districts is sent into a forest to battle each other until only one survives.  All this is broadcast on TV like some ultra-violent version of Survivor.  It’s also hosted like some combination sports and variety show by a foppish looking blue-haired character called Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci).  All the while the Truman Show-like producers spice up the game by parachuting in vital supplies and projecting holograms of dangerous creatures into the forest.

Jennifer Lawrence who looks like a curvier Juliet Lewis stars as the heroin Katniss Everdeen, a compassionate girl who volunteers for the game to save her younger sister from having to compete.  She’s paired with a boy from her district played by Mysterious Island’s Josh Hutcherson.

Lawrence makes for an engaging if not thrilling heroin while Hutcherson brings all the excitement and emotional range of a Home and Away extra. Consequently, the all-important relationship between these two characters lacks any emotional kick.

Fortunately, old pros like Donald Sutherland who plays the soft-spoken but sinister president are on hand to lend the film more gravity.  There’s also amusing support from Woody Harrelson in a comedy relief role as the loopy Hunger Games veteran and Lenny Kravitz as a kind of stylist and confidante for the game’s participants.

The film is meant to be a satire of society’s brutality and the ugly voyeurism of reality TV but it really just winds up as a straightforward action film.  To that end it moves along at a decent pace and contains some tense and exciting moments although gratuitous use of wobble-cam ruins some critical fight scenes.

For those more interested in the futuristic sci-fi elements of the story there is, unfortunately, an annoying lack of information about how the world came to be in the state that it is.  There are also scenes that to go nowhere like the five second insurrection in District 12 that ends without explanation.

As a newcomer to The Hunger Games stories, I didn’t find this a particularly remarkable entrée to the series but it was good enough to keep me interested in the inevitable sequel.

Director: Gary Ross

Released: 22nd March 2012

Running time: 142 minutes

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