Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson, Woody Harrelson, Emily Banks, Stanley Tucci
Synopsis: In the post-apocalyptic future, North America is divided into 13 districts. Each year 12 of these districts must offer up a male and female tribute from ages 12-18 to compete in a televised fight to the death known simply as The Hunger Games.
It’s been a minute since the last time I wrote a movie review and it’s kind of funny that I return with a non-horror film. You know my normal area of expertise. However, with an older film having a similar plot line that is adored by horror fans all over, I felt it was necessary to comment on this new story. If you are reading this you know what I’m talking about but if you haven’t looked up a few inches on your screen to see what movie I’m reviewing, I’m talking about The Hunger Games. The newest series of “tween” book to film adaptations that have got teenagers in hysteria.
The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where North America has been divided into 13 districts. Each year these districts are forced to offer up one male and one female (ages 12-18) to serve as “tribute” and compete in the annual Hunger Games. These 24 teenagers are dropped in an area near the capital and are forced to participate in a fight to the death that is televised throughout all the districts. The victor is the last one standing and is taken care of to the point that they’ll never have to worry about anything again.
For some of you that concept of having a group of teenagers fight to the death sounds eerily similar. For those of you that aren’t aware, I’m referring to the 2000 Japanese film, Battle Royale. Although not a horror film, you will hear a good number of horror buffs label this their favorite movie ever. I’ll admit the stories do sound similar on the surface but other than the “death match”, for the lack of a better term, the similarities really stop there. The mythology that leads the characters to there and the surrounding sub-plots are different. Could Suzanne Collins have been inspired by Koushun Takami, writer of the Battle Royale novel? Absolutely. But she was able to spin that basic idea into something all its own. The setup and character driven story is much more in depth than Battle Royale, which focused more on the violence. As if I had any doubts, I questioned my wife at the films conclusion about what I should be looking forward too in the next two films and what she was able to tell me, she’s a bad story teller mind you, it sounds like this series goes off into a much more complex story than Battle Royale ever did. Granted it’s clearly written for the teenagers of the world instead of its R-rated Japanese counterpart but the story is solid and will have my attention.
Knowing that this film was made for a specific target audience, I can’t complain about the lack of gore. I knew going in that we, the audience, weren’t going to be seeing most of the deaths on screen and even the films most gruesome death, which occurs at the end of film, was rather tame. Could this film have been rated R? Definitely. However the box office records that it set this opening weekend would not have happened if they went that route.
Casting for this film was pretty interesting but I think a lot of the right choices were made. Jennifer Lawrence, who was previously seen as a young Mystique in X-Men: First Class, does a phenomenal job at the daunting task of carrying the weight of the film. I don’t know anything about the book but I felt she nailed the wilderness savvy Katniss. Woody Harrelson, who is easily one my favorite actors, is once again on his A-game as the drunkard Heymitch, the teens mentor and only victor from their district. Every time he’s on screen he steals the scene. My only hesitation comes with Josh Hutchinson, who plays, Peeta, the male lead. It could have been the character itself is rather annoying but I felt that anytime the leads interacted, he greatly hindered whatever was going on. His acting isn’t terrible but Lawrence greatly outshined him every time. Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci all have pretty eccentric roles as well in the film and all were pretty much the perfect castings.
In conclusion, I was greatly impressed with this first film. I went in with a relatively low expectation. The last film that was made for this specific audience was Twilight: New Moon, and that was one of the most depressing nights of my life. I knew this was going to be better, because quite frankly nothing could be worse, but I didn’t expect anything I was going to like. My love for Battle Royale aside, this movie is good. I wouldn’t say it’s great but I enjoyed myself and didn’t feel like I wasted time or money on the experience. I’m even going to give the next film a shot to see where they run off with the story. I pretty much have the main idea figured out but I’m curious to which direction some of the subplots go. I wouldn’t say buy into the hype, but if you wanted to go see a movie this week, I’d recommend the Hunger Games. If you can check your “too cool” attitude at the door, you’ll enjoy yourself.