When my middle daughter wanted to read The Hunger Games recently, my oldest daughter suggested it may not be suitable, that there are some very mature themes, and that she may get freaked out by some of the content. This got me interested.
The premise behind The Hunger Games, when you get past all the historical mumbo-jumble that sets the stage, is a reality TV game where 24 teenagers (but lets be honest, they are still children) are trained, given their choice of weapons and placed in a vast arena in a fight to the death.
It sounds like any number of recent or classic post-apocalyptic films, where a dystopian society can only be controlled through blood lust, and to make it worse, in The Hunger Games we sacrifice our children for our annual fix.
In reality it has all the ingredients of a daring, shocking, horrifying yet thought provoking film. A film that could set the standard for post-apocalyptic story telling. The trouble is, Director Gary Ross knows that the only way to make a bucket-load of money is to appeal to the teenage demographic, who are, after-all, the fans and readers of the trilogy of books.
So instead of a dark, terrifying look at a possible future, we get a family friendly ‘slaughter of the innocents.’ With frenetic editing, all the deaths are quickly cut before they have the chance to leave even a hint of an impression on our fragile minds. What we are left with is a film of two overly long parts.
The first part is the set up, where we meet our heroine, Katniss, see the misery she lives in, and the sacrifice she makes. We’re transported to the world of the uber-rich, where Katniss and the other 23 ‘Tributes’ are wined and dined and trained to kill, all for the glory of the televised event. The highlight of this first act, is that of a drunken Woody Harrelson, a role he seems to fit quite naturally.
The Second act is the Hunger Games themselves. The initial slaughter is over far too quick, and then we seem to get lost in the forest for the rest of the film, and one by one, the Tributes are cut down, until the powers that be get bored of the slow progress (maybe Gary Ross should have taken note) and set loose some nasty beasts to hurry things along till we come to the oh so cheesy end battle, which in reality, isn’t much of one.
All throughout the film, we are tasked with cheering for Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence definitely gives her character life, and we find her easy to fall in love with, but never do we truly feel like cheering for her, and sadly we never get the chance contemplate what it means every-time the horn is blown.
Of course, I may been expecting too much from the film. I’m not it’s demographic and I have never read any of the books. My wife loved the film, as did my teenage daughters, maybe Ross did know what he was doing, but for me, The Hunger Games is a film of missed opportunity.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read