Why The Hunger Games is Kinda Awesome

Not a bad film but entirely too predictable and most obviously directed at the Y.A. audience

With The Hunger Games Catching Fire released today, we at The Awesome Update decided to take a look back at the first in the now four film saga.

The Hunger Games is based on the trilogy of best-selling young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, set in a futuristic world called Panem. There are 12 districts and a capitol, and every year a ‘reaping’ is held in each district. Two members, a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by lottery to take place in the annual Hunger Games. These games are a fight to the death where the whole nation will be watching.

The premise is not a bad one; I could never get through the first chapter of the first book so I was not one of the eager fans waiting in line to see the film. The Hunger Games is both loved by adoring fans and hated with equal measure by those who cannot forgive another trilogy following the Twilight pattern, so I tried to watch the film with as neutral an approach as possible.

Katniss Everdeen is the focus of the film, played very believably by Jennifer Lawrence, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is probably the most loved actress in Hollywood. It is very easy to relate to her character, as anybody would be at a total loss in the situations she is placed in. One of her most likeable traits is the strong bond she has with her younger sister, and it is for this reason that she ends up in the Hunger Games in the first place, volunteering to take her sisters place. Katniss is more of a mother to Prim than their acutla mother is and she seems to have an underlying strength that is holding the family together. There is a connection between her and the audience, especially before she enters the arena; we relate to the heart stopping wait and the underlying fear of the possible death awaiting her. It is a very good performance, especially considering this is a blockbuster, where, let’s face it, the focus is usually the big bangs and thrills.

The first half of the film is well paced, though is basically an hour long introduction to the world and some of the characters. Part of this film is a study on the fortunate versus the less fortunate; Katniss is from district 12 where the people are trapped in unbelievable poverty. In contrast to this, those from the capitol are used to luxuries and comfort. A supposed perk of being chosen for the Hunger Games is being in the capitol for the short time they are there, though, not surprisingly, the candidates don’t see it this way. 

Their Duet was not going down well.

What is hard to swallow is the reaction to such a brutal tradition by the richer communities. It is rather similar to ancient times, when the gladiators were made to fight in arenas, though here it is the more barbaric choice of children who are made to fight to the death. There is a cruel enjoyment of the games, and it is hard to imagine such savagery being applauded; this is the complete opposite to the incredible fear felt in the districts every year. The quote of the games is “May the odds be ever in your favour”; these are taunting words considering only one of the 24 children can win, meaning 23 are knowingly going to their deaths.

One of the more memorable elements of the film are the costumes - it is difficult not to look in awe at some of the outfits on display. Again, it is a case of the class system, as those in the districts tend to be plain and almost colourless, yet in the capitol some are frankly preposterous, colourful to the extreme, very flamboyant, almost otherworldly and stay in your mind long after the film is over.

As do many of the characters; Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket is an irritating member of the capitol with a different wardrobe for pretty much every scene she is in. Stanley Tucci is delightful as the Master of Ceremonies, bringing a glossy shining performance to the film, excluding his teeth. Donald Sutherland’s President Snow has a quiet menace and heartlessness; though not featured much there are hints of his further involvement in the later instalments. There are also performances from the likes of Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Toby Jones; one thing this film was able to do was attract famous players. Surprisingly for an origin piece there is not as much depth to the characters as there could be, and Gary Ross only concentrates on those he wants the audience to notice.

This is one area I have a problem with; most characters have distinct features, be it hair or clothing, but it seems like this is a tool needed to remember them at all in the movie, as most of the time you barely even catch their names. Especially the other tributes in the Hunger Games; they are not introduced enough in the first half of the film, though this may be a deliberate tactic so the audience does not become connected to the characters when they are wiped out so quickly.

Some of the Tributes form an alliance making things that much harder for Katniss

This leads on to the biggest issue of the franchise; the premise for these films does not match the rating the film is given. The film is a 12 or a PG13 in America, yet this is a film about children fighting to the death. Because of the rating, the deaths are skimmed over, there is hardly any blood - not that I am a fan of blood - and it is simply unrealistic and quite disrespectful to the characters involved. I just don’t think you can make a film about children battling for their lives and killing each other yet is fit for children’s viewing, without hindering what could be a great film. Because of this rating it is almost missing something vital, and treating death with little importance.

There are some spectacular moments, some very moving ones and the film is not exactly unenjoyable, but equally, some aspects are plain ridiculous and others are unneeded. The fact that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) can expertly disguise himself as a tree or a rock simply because he does the icing on cakes is impossible and in no way believable. A scene where Katniss is suffering hallucinations is a filmic tool to unveil some of her past, but it is a past unwarranted and unexplained.

There is also the famous love triangle that has attracted all the young Twilight fans to this new franchise; in this first film it is very sketchy, and frankly rather unbelievable, and as an audience member I just didn’t feel invested in it. Not a bad movie by any means, but it is entirely too predictable for hard-core cinephiles. Here’s hoping the new director Francis Lawrence has fixed the issues from this film in his sequel. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released in the UK today, Thursday 21st November.

This has been Mary for The Awesome Update

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