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The Hunger Games - Satisfying

Hunger Games Poster

The Hunger Games, based on first of the Suzanne Collins bestselling young adult trilogy of the same name, is an interesting film that adequately marries great characters, a worthwhile plot and good action. The film is directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) who co-wrote the script with Collins.

The Hunger Games is set in a fictional near future where North America is transformed into the dystopian land named Panem, comprising the Capital and 12 Districts. The citizens of the 12 districts live in abject poverty and are controlled by the Capital where the citizens live in excess highlighted by their gaudy, flambouyant attire. Each year 24 boys and girls are selected at random and forced to fight to the death on a televised broadcast. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is thrust into the heart of the fight for survival when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place.

The story capitalizes on modern society’s continued hunger for reality television, taking the concept to the next level as in this case all the stakes are real. The young people are pitted against each other in a game designed to rob them of their humanity. Collins highlights the excessiveness by clearly modelling Panem on Rome at the zenith of its power as well as its lust for the carnivalesque.  The allusion to Rome comes through with the names of many of the characters from the Capital who bear names such as Ceasar, Seneca, Flauvius, Octavius and Cinna and make-up and costuming beautifully capture their flambouyance.

The film is well cast and generally benefits from good performances. Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) delivers an engaging performance of the independent, somewhat prickly but fiercely protective Katniss allowing you to quickly root for the story’s heroine. Josh Hutcherson (Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Bridge to Tarbithia) as Peeta is also good while Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Elizabeth Banks as the well-named Effie Trinket threaten to steal the show. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna delivers a solid performance (but of course my Lenny radar is so horribly skewed I probably wouldn’t be able to tell if he didn’t because after all he is Lenny). The Hunger Games also benefits from skilled performances by Stanley Tucci (Ceasar) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow).

I haven’t yet had the benefit of the reading the book and maybe in the text Collins is far more successful at making pointed criticisms about power, corruption, greed and the role that television plays in this. Though Hunger Games manages to maintain its entertaining factor, the film fails to adequately explore the darker undertones that are hinted at and is a much lighter experience than the name suggests. However, on the bright side, it has none of the vapid inanity of Twilight (but then again it doesn’t have Taylor Lauten’s abs either)!