Movie The Hunger Games (12A)
If you're yet to hear of The Hunger Games, welcome home from Mars. The first novel in Suzanne Collins' dystopian futuristic trilogy debuts its Hollywood cinematic makeover and it is safe to say that this will be one of the biggest Box Office smash hits of the year.
Due to an unsuccessful uprising, every year the Capitol of Panem holds a competition to punish and remind the remaining 12 Districts of their failed rebellion. One girl and one boy, aged 12-18, are chosen from each District to compete in the annual Hunger Games. Twenty-four people enter the televised arena and only one comes out. When little Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is picked at the reaping, her older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as Tribute in her place. Along with male Tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss heads off to the Capitol where with the help of stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) she puts on a good show to gain favour with sponsors. Once in the arena Katniss must rely on her hunting skills, stealth, speed and wits to survive. Happy Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favour.
As a loyal fan of The Hunger Games, I was happy that the movie stayed mostly faithful to its source material. Although there are subtle alterations to save time, such as Katniss giving the Mockingjay pin to Prim instead of receiving it from the mayor's daughter Madge, they can be forgiven as it didn't take anything away from the book and instead kept the movie punching at a fast pace. At one point genetically modified hounds are let loose within the arena. Those that have read the book will know that they have been created from the dead Tributes, whereas in the movie they are merely portrayed as vicious beasts - they still appear though. The Avox character (a girl who Katniss and her friend Gale fail to save prior to the Hunger Games and who ends up having her tongue ripped out and forced into a life of servitude for rebelling against the Capitol) was cut, which was a missed opportunity to support one of the reasons why Katniss decides to revolt later on. However, additional scenes that were not in the novel take place and nicely compliment Collins' writings away from Katniss' POV.
Without ruining the story, the pain and betrayal felt by one of the characters at the end seemed less harsh than what was described in the book, but the most heart-breaking death was aptly handled to which there were several shocked gasps from the audience.
Comparisons to the Twilight Saga are expected due to the movie being based on a young adult novel. It also features a love-triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta, but within The Hunger Games the romantic narrative is kept in the background. Unlike the bland Bella Swan, our heroine Katniss Everdeen doesn't have time for romance and instead plays the role of the protector. If anything, The Hunger Games shares more similarities with the Japanese movie Battle Royale - where a class of High School students are sent to a remote island to fight to the death. Unlike Battle Royale's 18-certificate due to the gratuitous death scenes, The Hunger Games is a moderate 12A after having seven-seconds of blood splashes and the sight of blood on wounds and weapons digitally removed. Don't be fooled however, The Hunger Games is still an intense watch although most of the violence is implied.
In February The Hunger Games broke the record in America for advanced ticket sales on Fandango, toppling The Twilight Saga: Eclipse from 2010. The film earned $19.7 million in midnight showings - the highest for a non-sequel film and the seventh highest midnight grossing of all time - and at the time of writing it has already recouped $214m on its $78m budget. As with WB's Harry Potter and Summit's Twilight, studio Lionsgate now has a very profitable franchise. All major players have signed on for the three films and the sequel, Catching Fire, is scheduled for release in November 2013.
In respect to the cast, Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence is everything you could have hoped for as Katniss Everdeen. When the Kentucky native first landed the role fans of the books were dubious as Katniss had dark hair and olive skin. I myself, having loved Lawrence since watching her performance in Winter's Bone, knew that by dying her blonde locks brown and tanning up would appease any critics. From wide-eyed shock and shaking with fear to tears of rage and the cool instinctual taking of someone's life, this movie belongs to the 21-year-old and buzz has already begun to circulate that she could indeed be an Oscar 2013 Best Actress contender. As with Team Edward and Team Jacob, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth had best get prepared for an onslaught of female-friendly attention. Starring as Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne respectfully, the boys gently allow Lawrence to lead although they will come into their own in the following two films. Effie Trinket, Haymitch Abernathy and Cinna are much loved characters within the books, so I must commend Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz for capturing their personas perfectly with limited onscreen time, and as President Coriolanus Snow, Donald Sutherland was eerily good as the vindictive leader of Panem.
The Hunger Games was everything and more I imagined it to be. I rarely return to the cinema to watch a movie twice, but I cannot wait for a second helping.
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