Wednesday, September 5, 2012
JohnnyTwoToes tells you why he loves this dystopian teen actioner
The Hunger Games is the first film based on the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. It is about how society has been overrun by the powerful ruling class which runs the government and the people are subjugated to the countrysides to live in districts in squalor and with very little food and not much hope. Each year a competition is created and both a boy and a girl from each district are picked out of a lottery to battle to the death, "To honor those who fell in the uprising and to the future of peace" or words to that effect.
The dystopian world that is created is a stark one. Panem is the new capitol in this post apocalyptic mess and the contestants are brought there to begin their training once they have been "picked". Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence) has volunteered saving her younger sister from being slaughtered. Katniss is a hunter and very adept at taking care of herself. She is smart, cunning and strong willed and Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect choice as Katniss. She embodies all of the characteristics that Katniss has and is a worthy opponent in the games. After the kids are trained, they are turned loose in a field of battle and the last one alive is the winner.
I suppose if you can get past the subject matter of watching kids butcher kids, the The Hunger Games will affect you. It affected me after I accepted the premise that this is a story about the future of humankind not based on any kind of true story. Still, watching kids attacking each other will bother anyone who watches this. But director Gary Ross does not over sell this part. We get it and he credits the audience with enough intelligence to understand that he makes his point.
The producers were wise to bring in the author of the books, Suzanne Collins to help write the script and it shows. Collins, along with Ross, and Billy Ray have written a thoughtful and intelligent script. The film does not revel in its violence but simply shows characters in a horrible ordeal and how each one reacts differently to it. Of course, there is a love story that is an underlying story, but it is well written and believable and is an important part of the story, as you will see and I can't say more without ruining the film.
There is an impressive cast assembled for The Hunger Games which includes, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and even a cameo by rocker Lenny Kravitz. All of them are excellent and I especially liked Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, the sponsor of the District 12 contestants as a sort of cross between Cyndi Lauper on crack and the Queen Of Diamonds from Alice In Wonderland.
I also enjoyed Woody Harrelson as her trainer, Haymitch Abernathy, a survivor of the previous games and now a heavy drinker that still remembers that severity of what these kids will face in the games. He has the right amount of balance between his humor and moroseness.
The Hunger Games is a great film because it has been well thought out, planned and written. It is a well acted film and by the film's end I cared what happened to the characters because such time was taken to make a great film. The good news is that there are two more films coming to complete the trilogy and Gary Ross will be back as director of number two, even though at first, he did not want to come back to direct the sequel. The Hunger Games will stick with you long after you watch it, at least it did for me. That is saying something. The Hunger Games -***1/2 out of 4