In The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen has to fight hard to survive. As one of 24 “tributes” forced to take part in a fight to the death in a dystopian future the odds aren’t exactly in her favour. She is from the poorest district of a country ruled by the cruel “Capitol” which is almost literally a city paved with gold and the height of technology and fashion. Her district however resembles a concentration camp, it is grey, drab and occupied by emaciated and saddened people . This is a perfect example of the direction and design of the film revealing the audience the story. Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) has shown that the people of the districts are powerless to prevent the capitol from forcing them to go along with the games by just making this simple analogy.
The Hunger Games is a triumphantly clever adaption of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular book and there is hardly an aspect to fault. Although the film strays from its source in a few ways it is clear that these changes weren’t only necessary but also improvements. In particular, the filmmakers have had the foresight to include hints at where the story will go in the sequels by inserting seeds of their plot-lines into it this early on. Not only this, but they have divided up the relentless fight for survival and given the audience respite by allowing us to see more of the process in the real world (something which the First Person narrative of the book couldn’t allow) and simultaneously allowed us to know that our protagonist is still thinking about people back at home by giving us glimpses of what they’re up to without specifically having us hear her say or (thank god) think about them.
Katniss is played to perfection by former Oscar Nominee Jennifer Lawrence. She perfectly captures the hardness, the hunter & the survivalist but also manages to encapsulate the nuances to Katniss; her character is conflicted with the in-built desire to look after and nurture people (her younger sister and friend from home are mirrored by other tributes).
The support cast is almost as good, Woody Harrelson as the gruff but charming mentor, an almost unrecognisable Elizabeth Banks as the frilly but sinister Effy Trinket & Stanley Tucci glows as Caesar; a TV presenter who interviews the tributes. None of them are over the top in their portrayals of the slightly eccentric characters thankfully, nor do they play them giving a knowing wink to the audience saying “yes we know it’s ridiculous, but go along with it” they are played with conviction and it pays off in dividends.
I have to admit that I have one bugbear though, Lionsgate were desperate to get a 12a rating in order to maximise box office success – which to be honest they have succeeded with one of the biggest weekend openings for a non-sequel ever. This meant that this sacrifices some of the book’s grittiness and violence which leaves the games feeling a little less dangerous. Still, it is a minor problem considering that the film successfully captures almost everything else.
The Hunger Games is a rare breed of films these days, not just an action film, not just a teen romance and not just a drama about society’s injustices. It is a film which will appeal to, engage and entertain everyone. It is a must see.
The Hunger Games is out now in Cinemas everywhere.