It’s been a WHILE since I went to the cinema, maybe the Muppets ruined it for me, damn them to hell! Ever on the cutting edge of popular culture, I finally managed to see The Hunger Games last night, about a month after everyone else. It was GOOD!
“Young Adult” is a big market, particularly for book adaptations post-Potter and post-Twilight. It’s a double-edged sword really, there’s a tried-and-tested story behind it, a good wedge of cash thrown at it by some studio, but on the other hand the intelligence of teenagers isn’t going to insult itself, so it needs to be blunt enough that the ditzy tweens will go crazy for it and send it viral (I’m so cool, I know all the 21st century slang, wazzuuuuppp).
I knew nothing about this book, and for those of you who also don’t, some background plot happened, and now an annual event is held in this country where in a boy and a girl from each of the twelve outlying (and crushingly poor) districts are selected in a deadly tombola. The prize? To participate in a fight to the DEATH with the other selected kids. This is all shown on a Big Brother-type show that the affluent capital city goes crazy for. The winner gets to not only live, but gets loads of money or something (?), and the big evil TV studio gets big ratings, and presumably other benefits. Actually the more I think about this setup, the more I think I need some blanks filling in.
I won’t say any more, though spoilers seem a bit redundant here, the plot pretty much pans out how you expect at every turn. But that’s fine really, aside from lessening what I suppose are mean to be shocking moments.
Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Catniss (not Candice as I thought for ages) was kick-ass and a well-rounded change to miserable old boot Kristen Stewart. She really felt dangerous but vulnerable. I liked not really knowing how she felt about the lead guy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), how much was genuine? Looking at her hot friend from back home, I’m hoping not much.
Peeta was a bit of a drag, to be honest. His weird alien face was troubling, and he was a bit of a wet fish. Should I have been rooting for true love? I ended up just wanting Catniss to kill everyone and win like she could have easily done, is that harsh? MAN UP, Catniss, you can do better!
The supporting cast just did their thing, the wonderful Elizabeth Banks just seemed to get dumped halfway through, and was much better when her cheery facade started to crack. How is Woody Harrelson still in work? He was alright this time, but talk about a lack of range! Still, at least it wasn’t Matthew McConaughey. Lenny Kravitz was an odd choice, he was a good character, I liked him and his moments of insight about TV, almost like “It’s OK, I’m black, I know about these quite common-sense things”.
The evil TV studio was a bit confusing, Wes Bentley trying to win a staring contest with the rest of the world, daring them to laugh at his bizarre beard. Donald Sutherland played it old-school, his final scene might as well have ended with “I’ll get you one day, muhahah!!”. Other than that, I didn’t really get their motivation aside from general oppression and evil-doing. Were they trying to kill Catniss? Steer maybe, but why kill?
The violence was carefully dealt with. Obviously kids getting killed by other kids isn’t the most marketable thing, so they managed to convey the violence well without showing a lot at all. The shaky-cam action was restricted to appropriate moments, a pitfall avoided that many films seem to fall into. There was a moment with Catniss (I won’t say when but it’ll be obvious) that really was very touching and well put-together, and really showed how well the direction was handled. Not a surprise from the director of the wonderful “Pleasantville”.
All in all, very good, I’m surprised how well it’s done without tapping into any big trends. I mean vampires and werewolves and brooding young men were really popular when Twilight came out, but Hunger Games only really had its readership base to work with. Nice to see something away from the norm doing the business. I might well read the second book as a result – probably the first actually, I know what I’m like.