The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Action – Drama – Sci-Fi
Cert (UK) 12A
Actor and director Eoin Macken reviews Lionsgate’s latest big budget blockbuster
The Hunger Games (hereafter referred to by my social media moniker homage – HG) has a wonderfully interesting blockbuster premise, a nihilist future America run by a wealthy central dictatorship (the Capitol), with the provinces kept subservient via a lottery whereby a boy and girl must participate in its annual live action gladiatorial show which is ostensibly used as a form of social control. Celebrity Death Match has unwittingly created a monster.
As a commentary on modern society’s obsession with celebrity, and lack of empathy towards death, set against the horrors of a totalitarian government, it has great possibilities. This could have been a Lord of the Flies / 1984 / V for Vendetta film for the Twilight generation. Unfortunately, whilst a good film in itself, it doesn’t quite live up to the generated hype.
The initial set up is promising with the excellent Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and the try hard Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, taken away from their District to this celebrity culture obsessed dystopia where everybody appears to have been styled by in freewheeling Alexander McQueen. Our protagonists train and are mentored by the effortlessly tormented Woody Harrelson in an engaging set up: 24 teenagers, 23 of whom are destined to die, granted minor Big Brother style celebrity status to try and win over a colour coded public who can apparently influence their fate through sponsoring them. But it is when the action moves to the Truman Show inspired futuristic Dome that the film begins to flail.
I appreciate that murdering 23 characters in heartless succession is a difficult thing to do on screen, Natural Born Killers got frivolously banned for such excess, but there needed to a greater examination of the reality facing these murderous kids instead of the slow burning meander towards an inevitable finale. It had a great opportunity to evolve upon what Lord of the Flies explored many years ago, most especially through the underused Liam Hemsworth’s psychopath. Instead however MTV style quick cuts are used as flashes across the violence with and we are treated to an implausible burgeoning love story. Once inside the Dome we never actually see enough truthful reactions of the common people being affected by the show, such as Katniss’ mother, or her sister who is the catalyst behind her volunteering. I don’t want to give away any spoilers through specific examples but let’s just say that I’d forgive my girlfriend a quick snog if she was about to be brutally murdered by a smaller version of Thor.
Ultimately HG tries to snare the generation of Twilight lovers keen for their next fix with a ramped up intensely strong female character, which is always welcome, but shies away from answering the hard philosophical questions it poses for itself and this is to its detriment.
HG is an interesting film, enjoyably effortless escapism with lovely moments, great touches and a pace to complement the raw tension, but judging it by the hype and by it’s potential it should be more than that. If there is to be the mandatory sequel or five, based on the remaining books, I hope that they explore in more depth what they have set up because then we could have a very interesting series.