The Hunger Games
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 25th March 2012
When director Gary Ross was handed this latest young adult literary adaptation to turn into a blockbuster movie, he must have known the odds were in his favour. Eight years since his last directorial outing (racehorse story Seabiscuit), Ross not only co-wrote the script with the book’s author, Suzanne Collins, but has crafted an excellent rendition that should see its growing legion of fans deeply satisfied.
For those who haven’t read it, The Hunger Games delivers us from the swamp of angsty vampire teen fiction and throws its readers into a whole other sort of peril: a dystopian future in the North American country of Panem, where 12 districts labour all year to support the fortunate few who live in the Capitol, and whose punishment for past revolution results in the annual sacrifice of two dozen young people, who must fight to the death on reality TV.
District 12’s plucky young heroine is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, back hunting and skinning animals like she did in her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone). With fellow “Tribute” Peeta, she enters a specially created arena where mere children must shoot arrows and throw spears, using their wits or perishing in gruesome ways. Meanwhile, in the real world (such as it isn’t), vibrant media personalities and the Tributes’ own support teams watch and commentate.
As always, Lawrence is terrific while Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) is the perfect Peeta. Star-studded support includes Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland, with Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks clearly having a whale of a time.
The story’s Orwellian conceit is ideal for cinematic interpretation, and it is exciting to see the rendering of the book’s extreme poverty versus opulence and over-stylised costuming. The dizzying hand-held camerawork is initially a bit overbearing, but certainly sets the discomforting scene.
Readers will know there are two more books in the series, and ought to leave the cinema hungry for a sequel.