The hunger Games
- Director: Gary Ross
- Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
- Run Time: 142 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing imagery – all involving teenagers
With: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland
From ‘The Hunger Games’ – ‘Apple’
From ‘The Hunger Games’ – ‘Friends’
Want a good dystopia? Well, as you can see from the reports of the millions of tickets sold before copies even hit theaters, author Suzanne Collins has a treat for you in the first cinematic installment of her young adult trilogy. . The hunger Games.
In the novels, she envisioned a society called Panem, built on the ruins of a war-torn and climate-ravaged North America, and she was effectively presented on the screen of life – a totalitarian society where the winners of the war live in a shining city on a hill and keep the losers – the 99%? – in the greatest poverty, living in 12 variously hungry and miserable neighborhoods.
The 1 percent can’t help but erase their dominance, and Collins’ central notion – allegedly inspired by channel browsing between reality shows and reporting on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – is that to make sure that the losers never forget how subjugated they were, the Capitol holds a televised ritual every year: children fight children to death.
This is called the Hunger Games, and each district must provide two “tributes” between 12 and 18 years old, a boy and a girl selected by lot to compete in a huge arena where the cameras capture each. of their feints, their blows and their agonies. .
This is the ultimate TV show: compulsory viewing for the subjugated masses – an effective way for a few totalitarians to say, “If we can kill your kids for sports, what else can we do?” – and joyful entertainment for the privileged few of the Capitol.
The first place gives the winner a life without starvation. Second place … well, there is no second place. But as everyone keeps saying, âMay the odds always be in your favorâ.
The tributes we follow are from District 12, which looks a lot like Dorothea Lange’s photos of the Appalachian Depression days. The names taken from a fishbowl during “harvest” are those of a baker’s son (Peeta Melark, played by a bland but helpful Josh Hutcherson), and a coal miner’s daughter named Primrose (Willow Shields), who is so afraid of her own shadow that she wouldn’t last two minutes in the arena. Knowing this, her older sister, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), volunteers to take her place.
Volunteers, that is to say being massacred on television in front of all of Panem – a great TV moment, wouldn’t you say? And the one that is captured on many screens on the screen so you don’t miss that point. In the novel, it’s easy to forget about TV cameras, as Katniss, 16, is the narrator, and when she dives into the arena, you dive with her – a level of engagement that most filmmakers would kill. (forgive the expression) for.
Director Gary Ross (who shares script credit with Collins and Billy Ray) wants a different kind of audience buy-in. He continues to cut blue haired TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci, creamy and clearly having fun) to emphasize what you might call goosebumps-TV-on-steroids. It is, after all, children who kill children for entertainment – American Idol with knives – and once the games start, we moviegoers will be as guilty of entertaining ourselves as the people of the Capitol: to root for Peeta and Katniss, after all, is to take root so that other children are slaughtered (albeit in violence so sliced ââand diced in the editing room that it earned a PG-13 rating).
The movie’s biggest asset is Lawrence, who makes Katniss as tough and smart as the last coal miner girl she played – in The bone of winter, where she won an Oscar nomination for doing a lot of the same things she does here. (Shooting small game in rural nature, for example, to support younger siblings and an ineffective mother.)
If you are older than the film’s target audience, this won’t be the only outside reference that comes to mind when you watch the film. There is the dressing scene to be selected to die from the news The lottery; the Wizard of Oz through the hairstyles and fashions of Dr. Seuss of the Capitol; the plot that reflects the Japanese teen movie Battle royale, and a generous portion of references to the fall of Rome, from the introductory chariot ride of tributes through the streets of the Capitol to names of figures as hissing as Cinna, Seneca and Caesar in the name of the country itself: Panem, which sounds like a shortening of Pan American but actually comes from Latin “panem et circenses”, for “bread and circuses”.
The real-world and literary sources are so vast, in fact, that when Katniss is coached for her first TV interview by a tipsy Woody Harrelson (largely wasted as a District 12 Haymitch mentor) and a handsome pansexual Lenny Kravitz (doing a substantial print with very few lines but some attractive golden eyeshadows), it may happen to you that there is a Pygmalion thing happening with her makeover. Not because someone is humming “The rain in Spain” while she is dressed to kill, but because The hunger Games – as the Potter and dusk franchises – is such a relentless aggregator of pop culture references that you think the connection must have happened with someone.
While the filmmakers made modestly interesting casting choices – the two District 11 tributes, for example, are what I guess you should call Afro-Panemian, something Collins doesn’t allude to in the novel – the film. does not. actually have a lot to say about the social issues it raises. And its literalness made me question things that I didn’t have while reading the book – say, that a society with digitally created hovercraft and carnivores is still so dependent on coal?
Always, The hunger GamesThe pace is fast, its stakes are as high as the stakes are high, and its lead lady is engaging enough that the odds – at least at the box office – are always in her favor.