The Hunger Games

8 Sep

 

 

Director: Gary Ross

Writers: Gary Ross (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (screenplay)

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 142 minutes

 

The author Suzanne Collins claims her inspiration for the trilogy of books opening with The Hunger Games to be Greek mythology. That is evident in the gladiatorial combat forced upon the young game participants and in the divisions between rich and poor and between Capitol city folk and those living in the outlying districts (who supply the combatants and then watch the games on TV). As such President Snow sits god like at the top of Capitol city’s hierarchy. Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, understands how the annual games help maintain the totalitarian regime via entertaining, threatening and at turns dehumanizing the populace.

Suzanne Collins claims that she had not heard of Battle Royale whilst writing The Hunger Games. Really? That seems odd to me. The story of THG is incredibly close to that of the controversial Japanese book, film and comic (where a class of stranded school kids are forced to fight to the death by a totalitarian regime). Collins may or may not have been inspired by that cult classic, but she must have been influenced by William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies and by Stephen King’s The Running Man. For me The Hunger Games mashes up all of those whilst mining the zeitgeist of our modern obsession with reality TV.

The 24 combatants forced to enter the annual hunger games are selected by lottery so that each of Capitol city’s 12 districts put forward one boy and one girl. Those tributes, aged 12 – 18, are then paraded, trained and made over inside the capital before entering the arena to fight to the death. The story focuses on the female tribute from district 12, Katniss Everdeen, and her journey into and through the games. Katniss enters with Peeta Mellark, similarly young, humble and backwoods, but with less impressive survival instincts. Katniss and Peeta are underdogs, but capture the attention of the TV viewers (to the great displeasure of President Snow).

Whilst The Hunger Games was published as young adult fiction, it is not typical teenage fodder. This is very effective entertainment. Mashing up Greek mythology, dystopian sci-fi cityscapes and modern references to reality TV and politics proves to be a potent mix. The story is exciting and the film moves along quickly and with energy and suspense. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss powers the whole thing with a sensational performance. There are some weaknesses – such as the PG-13 avoidance of real bloodshed and the basic lunacy of pitting 12 year old girls versus 18 year old boys – However, this film delivers. And I for one am looking forward to the next instalment.

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