Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games ★ ★ ★1/2

Odds on to be a Winner

Release Dates
Australia
22nd March 2012  USA & UK  23rd March 2012 

Other Countries Release Dates








It was almost two years ago when I first heard the words, “The Hunger Games,” followed by “You must read the book.”  So I did, like 26 million others.  I didn’t love the book.  It’s hard for a Mother to read a book like this.  Something changes in your chemistry after having children and you find yourself accidentally placing your mind in a Mother’s position at the loss or injury of a child.  It always hurts a little.  However, I did feel the book was a fascinating and horrible idea that was executed well.
In The Hunger Games we enter a world of the future, where an unexplained uprising has left America a country governed by the Capitol, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). To maintain control of the impoverished Twelve Districts, whose sole purpose is to provide for the needs of the Capitol, the government has created the spectacle of the Hunger Games. Each year, two adolescent Tributes, one male and one female, are chosen from each district via a ballot on Reaping Day, They then play in a futuristic ‘Survivor’ battle to the death, with every minute detail broadcast live across the land. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), from District 12 volunteers herself after her little sister, Primrose, is chosen.  Katniss leaves behind her one true friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and heads to the games accompanied by the other District 12 Tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
Much of the book and film is devoted to the fluff and pageantry surrounding the games.  Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) is the over-the-top show host, commentating on the contestants and the killings, as if they were attending a spelling bee; Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) is the much admired Game designer; and the Tributes are each assigned personal stylists and mentors. Our heros, unfortunately, must also make do with a drunken, depressed mentor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson).
The catchcry of the games, “May the odds be forever in your favour,” does not seem to apply to them.  But Katniss is no ordinary girl and her cunning, wit and determination to win are not to be underestimated.  Things become even more complicated when Peeta reveals he has feelings for Katniss.  But is this part of a strategy?
It is a violent concept, pitting children against children, and the violence is minimised using an extremely annoying handy-cam shake during any death sequences.  But the idea cannot be muted and it is intriguing that young adults find it so compelling.  It may say a lot about a generation or it may simply be our modern version of the Roman Coliseum games.
When the film went into production, there were about 8 million copies of the trilogy of novels in circulation; by the time production wrapped there were 12 million and now the number has exploded to over 26 million. The first novel has since spent more than 180 consecutive weeks and more than three consecutive years to date on The New York Times bestseller list. Collins went on to write two more best-selling books in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
Gary Ross, the director and co-author of the screenplay with the book’s author, Suzanne Collins, first witnessed the impact of THE HUNGER GAMES and Katniss Everdeen on his own children. “I’d heard people raving about THE HUNGER GAMES and when I asked my kids about it, they kind of exploded and started going on and on until I had to stop them from telling me the whole story,” he recalls. “Their enthusiasm was so infectious, I went upstairs, started reading, and by 1:30a.m., I said ‘I have to make this movie.’ It was that impulsive.”
Right away, Ross had an unwavering vision of what lay at the heart of THE HUNGER GAMES’ appeal. “I saw there was something really beautiful happening underneath the story. It’s obviously a viscerally exciting tale of survival within a lurid spectacle of the future. But I think what really compels people to pass the book from one person to the next is that it is at bottom about one girl, Katniss Everdeen, finding her own humanity. She begins as someone who only wants to fight for herself, for her personal survival – yet what she finds in the course of the Games is something more important than even staying alive. Her heart opens and she becomes someone who’s willing to sacrifice for something bigger."
Suzanne Collins, the book’s author, understood that the film would necessarily be its own experience, no matter how faithful to the book’s essence. “When you’re adapting a novel into a two-hour movie you can’t bring everything with you,” she notes. “Not all the characters are going to make it to the screen. For example, we gave up Madge, cut the Avox girl’s back-story, and reduced the Career pack. Then there was the question of how best to take a book told in the first person and transform it into a satisfying dramatic experience.”
Do you need to read the book to enjoy the movie?  Should you read the book after you have seen the movie?  The answer to both questions is a YES.  Katniss’s rich inner thoughts and commentary certainly make the book a different experience.  In the film, the wizardry of technology creates a convincing future world. Jennifer Lawrence’s undeniable skill makes her a worthy Katniss.  Whilst the film isn’t the best that it can be, it will still satisfy most cinema goers.
This film and the following two of the trilogy are certain to be mega-hits, whether reviewers like the film or not.  To steal a Hunger Games phrase, “The odds will be forever in their favour.”