VOD film review: The Hunger Games
Did we mention Jennifer Lawrence?10
Jo Bromilow | On 20, Nov 2013
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz
It’s been called the next Twilight, but to draw a comparison between the two does a disservice to this superior teen offering. Set in a post-apocalyptic America – Panem – divided into 12 Districts, Suzanne Collins’ novels introduced us to a futuristic tale of Theseus and the Minotaur – or, as has been the catcall of critics, a Westernised Battle Royale.
As punishment for past rebellion against the ruling Capitol, one boy and girl from each district are offered annually as “tributes” to the state in a televised gladiatorial bloodbath: The Hunger Games. Kind of like Big Brother, but with more violence.
Thankfully, unlike Big Brother, this year’s crop are an easy bunch to root for – namely, our heroine, Katniss (Lawrence), a feisty, fiery female who happens to be a dab hand with a bow and arrow. Lawrence has the weight of a massive fandom on her shoulders and they hold steady as she confidently steps into the role. Josh Hutcherson displays an equally subtle confidence as her unwitting arena partner, Peeta, a mellow yet affable baker’s son, who happens to be a dab hand at making people love him.
While Katniss is a natural huntress, Peeta is a natural crowd-pleaser, and in this game of appearance and public affection, it’s a tough job picking a winner. Indeed, both tributes are awarded high rankings from the TV judges and sponsors. But the teens have help with the creation of that image: Elizabeth Banks is almost unrecognisable behind the theatrical, Burton-esque escort Effie Trinket; Woody Harrelson is on fine form as former Hunger Games victor Haymitch turned full-time drunk, part-time spin doctor; and the ever-excellent Stanley Tucci has tonnes of fun in a blue wig as the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies, Caeser Flickerman.
It’s a testament to the younger cast that they hold their own alongside such power players – the sinister “Career” Tributes from the richer districts, who spend their lives in training to win the Games, are particularly memorable, as is Katniss’ gentle ally, Rue (Amanda Stenberg). But equally impressive is the production design and behind-the-scenes work. While the book tells the story solely from Katniss’ viewpoint, director Gary Ross and the screenwriters add glimpses of the political structure the Games are trying to protect – a riot in one district following the death of its tribute is both heart-breaking and thrilling.
As a slice of social commentary, this film is bang on the money. As a tale of a volatile nation ruled by violence, yet always inches away from harnessing it to destruct their oppressors, it’s electrifying.
Tense, taught and polished – as a tribute, it scores 12 out of 12.