Bull’s-eye for Katniss & Co

2012-04-13 12:45

Film: The Hunger Games
(Nu Metro)
Director: Gary Ross
Featuring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley and Elizabeth Banks
Rating: 7/10

Author Suzanne Collins’ book is premised on a gruesome practice, The Hunger Games of the title.

Set in a dystopian future, it’s pretty much how Roman gladiatorial games might have played out if the blood-crazy Caesars had the technology that has plagued us all: reality TV.

Panem is a nation comprising the Capitol and 12 districts. Every year each of the districts must offer up two tributes – a girl and a boy between the ages of 12 and 18 – to take part in The Hunger Games. The selection process is like a lottery, but not one you’d like to win. This is all to do with a 75-year-old civil war and the practice is designed to keep the fear alive.

Once chosen, the 24 tributes are taken to the Capitol – where it looks as though plastic surgeons, hairstylists and make-up artists have all had a bad LSD trip and taken it out on the unfortunate lollipop-coloured and coiffured populace. Once there, the 24 must train for a terrible trial – a fight to the death in a terrain of the game maker’s (Wes Bentley) choice.

The process is cheered along by the mob, much the same as in Rome’s day – only with multicoloured hair and the digital age.

This is one of the cleverest parts of Collins’ story – blending the digital and physical world. This element of her work places these stories squarely in the realm of the present, of games and interactive social media, as well as 24-hour TV and the unscrupulous nature of those who make their living exploiting the hardships (I Shouldn’t Be Alive) or stupidity (The Kardashians) of others.

While a multitude of issues revolve around this story, it is a simple one, very similar to that other cash cow Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.

It’s a love triangle – or the promise of one to start with, at any rate. The heroine, blissfully one that you’d want your teenager to emulate, is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). She is a smart, resourceful, nurturing and feisty young woman who volunteers for the Games when her younger sister’s name is chosen.

Her male opposite number is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a boy who once saved her from starvation. Together they have to face certain death far away from their homes with just a drunken mentor (Woody Harrelson), an empathetic stylist (Lenny Kravitz) and a superficial chaperone (Elizabeth Banks).

The third side of the triangle is Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss’ childhood friend and the boy she hunts with back home.

He is left caring for her family, forced to watch her and Peeta cosy up on huge TV screens. The question is, is it for the cameras or is their love affair for real? You, like Gale, will have to wait and see.

The story’s inherent violence – after all, it is about 24 teenagers fighting to the death – is well handled in the film and the makers have avoided a visual blood bath. Also, the morally reprehensible nature of the Games is always there, echoed by all the characters in some way. So this is never a story that celebrates violence.

The Hunger Games is a teen film that is good viewing for any age group. It is action-packed, builds the tension well and has managed to secure a trio of young actors who are not only physically attractive, but who all have interesting characters.

I can’t wait to see what happens next to Katniss, Peeta and Gale, something I could never say about Bella, Edward and Jacob. The odds are in the favour of this franchise shattering all the records Twilight once shattered and more.

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