Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games review

"May the odds be ever in your favor"

With it earning an estimated $155 million dollars in weekend sales for America and Canada alone and the film ranking as the third highest domestic opening in history, I would certainly say that the odds are certainly in 'The Hunger Games' favor to be ranked as one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.

For those of you who are not familiar with the premise of the film (frankly, I am astonished that you managed to escape it for so long) it is based on a trilogy of books, written by Suzanne Collins. 'The Hunger Games' is set in a dystopic future society in which North America (now renamed Panem) has been divided into twelve different districts, controlled by the savage 'Capitol'. Annually, each district is forced to select one boy and girl aged between twelve and eighteen years old. These twenty-four 'tributes' are then forced to fight each-other to the death in the name of ''unifying' entertainment. Heroic sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) takes her sister's place in the games. Katniss, along with the male tribute from her district, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are forced to fight other teenagers, some much stronger than them, others much more experienced, in an attempt to survive. Twenty four tributes go in. Only one comes out.

The intensity and deeply disturbing nature of the plot have separated viewers: some appreciate the blunt warning about what our society could look like in the matter of decades if our love for reality television and violence in the media continues, others miss the message entirely and assume that it is merely a movie glorifying teenagers killing teenagers. In a way, it's a bit of both. It is impossible to watch 'The Hunger Games' without criticising the games audience in one way or another. "How could they possibly cheer at the death of that innocent child?", "How can this been allowed?", "Why won't they do something?". The hypocritical nature of these questions quickly become apparent when you realise that by watching the film, you are figuratively putting yourself in the shoes of the games audience, and you are enjoying the excitement of the games. It's all part of the intelligent script-writing, something that is frankly uncommon for teenage-novel adaptions (for instance, look at 'Twilight'). The writing, editing, directing and acting truly jelled together in some of the films most stunning scenes, one in particular highlighting the innocence of the characters and the severity of their situation in such a simple manner, that cinematic beauty is achieved without a single word needing to be said. 

The main reason that amazing scenes such as the one I am referencing (sadly cannot go into details in fear of spoiling it) are able to take place is due to the flawless performance of Jennifer Lawrence. She has a natural ability to create a complex web of emotions that the audience become tangled in, seeing an incredibly brave girl feeling an intense fear, trying to maintain her individuality and sense of morality in the midst of a world full of conformity and brutal behaviour. She portrays the character so well, and the chemistry that she and Hutcherson have adds greatly to the overall enjoyment of the movie. 

The other thing that makes 'The Hunger Games' such a great watch is the breathtaking costume design and visual effects. The film-makers had such an elaborate vision and it translates beautifully on-screen. The idiosyncratic nature of the Capitol's dress sense and the disturbing modern scenery in which they are surrounded by are just as vivid as they are imaginative. Suzanne Collins should be proud of what Gary Ross and the rest of the cast and crew have managed to achieve with her books.

In fact, the only thing that really let the film down was the over-active camera movement that plagues it throughout. For the most part, it was necessary in order for the viewer to get into the mind-set of Katniss, with the majority of the shaky shots taken as a type of point of view shot, and the remainder as a way of making the vicious fight scenes abstract enough to rating that would exclude the target audience of teenagers. 

Whatever your preconceptions are, forget them, swallow your pride and buy a ticket to the spectacle that is 'The Hunger Games'. It's worth it to see the first must-see movie of the year thus far.