Title: The Hunger Games
Directed By: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci
On buses, in stores, and in libraries, you’ve seen them being read. The Hunger Games is becoming something of a phenomenon. Like Twilight, it is manufactured primarily for young adults (or YA) and does its best to deal with ‘serious’ subjects. But this is precisely where I find both of them to be disturbing and completely unnecessary. The Hunger Games, for those uninitiated, is about a post-apocalyptic future where adolescents and teenagers are pitted against each other for a battle to the death. Indeed, Battle Royale did it before, but there’s a big different between what the latter did and what The Hunger Games is doing right now. In the case of The Hunger Games, we have an author and filmmaker who are seeking to sell this pasteurized, ironed out science-fiction world, where all of the real disturbing nature of what’s actually happening has been cleaned up and removed so it can be sold easily and digested by young adults and 20-somethings alike.
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (blander than she’s ever been before), lives in complete poverty in a district ominously named District-12. She resides in a future-world named Panem, what was once North America. She does her best to take care of her mother and younger sister with the use of her terrific hunting and marksmanship with a bow—and like in all futuristic societies, there’s an overbearing, almost totalitarian regime that does their best to keep all of the districts in line and impoverished. The Capitol– the hub of the rich and well-off– host an event called The Hunger Games. It’s an annual event that brings together all of the districts, as two contestants are selected from each one. Katniss’ younger sister is chosen, but in order to save her from the games, Katniss nominates herself instead.
Director Gary Ross gives the film a gritty, handheld aesthetic that works for the most part, considering the rugged, earthy tones while in District-12. And the world is indeed very believable, especially the districts. But the problems are the cast of characters we have here. Katniss, indeed, is a strong female protagonist. However, she proves herself to be completely without personality, right alongside everyone else. A majority of the contestants in The Hunger Games event prove themselves to be faceless, nameless people merely set in place for the kill. One of the best examples is the band of one- dimensional, ‘evil’ teenagers. Cato (Alexander Ludwig) is the alpha-male leader by default. They are never given much sympathy. In fact, they are almost completely deranged. And yes, there are several others characters whose names they share with people of the Ancient Roman Empire—as if the symbolism wasn’t heavy-handed enough.
It doesn’t get much better. Katniss slowly falls for her fellow District-12 member, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who loves her dearly. This is where it starts to show its teeny-bopper roots. Unbelievable and underdeveloped, the romance works as only a gimmicky way for us to show some sympathy towards the two. It could have benefited from some extra breathing room for the characters to bond. There’s barely any time for that. The Hunger Games does flow well, though. It moves at a brisk pace despite the long running time (142 minutes). It does commit a few faults, which include numerous deus ex machina. Katniss, of course, is miraculously saved time and time again by the author/screenwriter rather than her own skills and abilities.
Okay, well, I’ll admit, I’m being very harsh towards it. It’s not a bad film—it’s well-made and the sense of foreboding and suspense are certainly there. It also shows some signs of intelligence. Katniss illustrates her warm-hearted nature by refusing to kill, and when she finally does, she expresses her anguish by attempting to wash the blood from her hands. Does this make up for the rest of the bloodshed? What about all of the other teenagers who were needlessly killed, manipulated and discarded for no reason? Katniss expresses her sadness when a loving, sweet character dies—but what about everyone else? Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins, as good as their intentions may be, created a film that exploits and relishes in the fight to the death of innocent kids. And I realized, as I looked around the theater and as the ‘games began’, that people were— ironically enough—excited about seeing the bloodshed. This can’t have been what they wanted, right?