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In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, rutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. Written by
In a cinematic world of re-makes, re-imaginings and full-blown copies, it's inevitable to see a movie like The Hunger Games wallow in the limelight and hysteria of mainstream banality and post-Potter hunger simply because it's there. Adapted from Suzanne Collins' trilogy of teen- friendly novels, The Hunger Games looks set to follow in the well-off footsteps of Harry Potter and the soon-to-cease Twilight as the next big-money, low-brow saga for the GCSE bound masses.
This moderately engaging adaptation of Collins' first novel plays like a pre-teen spin on Battle Royale. Director Gary Ross shoots for a futurist-retro sense of uprising, endurance and wonder and in the eyes and minds of 11 year-olds, he's on target. There's plenty to behold, but little to absorb. Despite all efforts, The Hunger Games is starved of a character or scenario to really care about.
A hyped-up, cheesy and dumbed down treatise on human nature, spirit, freedom and TV culture, this is a badly-acted, action-crammed movie built on a much explored prophecy that's been residing in both literature and film for years; a nightmare dystopia in which society is slave to a tyrannical regime. But what do you know; there's a rebellion on the cards. And guess what? It's only lead by an unlikely yet inspiring hero. The Hunger Games is nothing new, then, but hold your horses; pitting 24 kids against one another in a game of death on a top-secret island is an original idea that's sure to evoke sympathy, shock and compassion. Isn't it? Well, maybe, but not if you know your films; not if you've seen Battle Royale.
A bloody slice of social satire with shock and awe to spare, Battle Royale was by no means the first to offer up a glimpse into an oppressive fictional world where people are forced to fight to the death. Sparticus, Running Man and even Gladiator all touched upon on this idea of enslaved cock-fighting for the "greater good" and fun of a bent society.
Suzanne Collins' tale may not be a rip-off of Battle Royale, but it is a blatant source. In director Ross' big screen retooling, The Hunger Games is set in a far from terrifying, post-war America whose totalitarian government get their kicks from a legislation born out of the ashes of World War III; each of the country's 12 districts are to offer up one young girl and boy every year to slog it out on live TV in a last-kid-standing tournament set on a virtual island. This; a sacrificial homage to a nation's thirst for blood and conflict. A punishment for an early, post war rebellion. A tribute to state power; The Hunger Games.
The film follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), a steadfast teen who puts her life on the line when she volunteers to replace her younger sister in the upcoming games. What follows is a predictable tale of heroism and self-sacrifice as Katniss and clunky love interest Peeta (a wooden Josh Hutcherson) are wined, dined, trained and then hurled into a giant lion's den full of determined, blood-thirsty brats who are there to win, to kill. Will Katniss and Peeta fall in love? Will they both make it out alive? If not, will one of them be the victor? Do you care?
The Hunger Games is a self-assured, self-important piece of profit-reaping cinema whose potentially bleak and barbaric set-up cannot be realised through on screen peril, atmosphere, gore and violence due to its mild target audience. Alas, there is a lot of hand-held camera-work and rapid editing to cover up the scuffles, scraps, impact and blood. It doesn't work. Over-hyped and overdone; turns out it doesn't take much to tailor a totalitarian future concept for the modern-day youths; just strip it of all depth, complexity and darkness, throw in some weapons, some fire, a bit of romance and some heartthrobs and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank.
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