A recipe for success:
Take Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game and add some science fiction. Make your heroine an attractive, young teenage girl. Put weapons into the hands of kids ages 12 through 18 and have themselves battle it out killing each other. Throw in a love triangle between your heroine, one of the other contestants, and another kid back home. Stir it all up. And bake it in an oven over at Lionsgate films. Approximately $78 million later you get The Hunger Games, our newest teen angst film, but this one will appeal to both kids and adults, and men and women.
Based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross takes place in a post apocalyptic North America that consists of the Capitol and twelve surrounding districts. Years prior there was a rebellion against the Capitol by the districts and as a result, their punishment is that one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery known as the reaping to participate in the Hunger Games. The event is where each of the tributes, or participants have to fight in an arena to the death until only one of them remains the sole survivor.
As the film begins, we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a young teenage girl from the coal mining region of District 12. She volunteers to be chosen for the 74th annual games because her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) was chosen in the lottery. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a young teenage boy who once gave Katniss bread is also selected from District 12. The two are taken to the Capitol.
On the way the two are instructed by their teacher, a former Games victor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). He teaches Katniss that showmanship is as powerful as skill. During the game itself, Peeta reveals his love for Katniss. And the game continues as more and more of the contestants kill off each other.
Dialogue in the film is a bit weak. This is clearly a story that’s intended for teenagers, so it’s not written with an Academy Award in mind. But even with some weak dialogue, the storyline works and it works well enough. The film’s length is around 142 minutes and it moves at a relatively reasonable pace. The director has a good sense of when to move on from a scene and when to stay on it.
Action sequences are well done. The sequences with Lawrence and her bow and arrow are pretty cool. I truly got the impression that it was actually her firing it during the scenes. Considering the movie was made for under $100 million, the special effects are pretty well done. Although there’s a science fiction element to the story here, a lot of this story takes place in the wilderness where they are hunting each other so they filmmakers are able to save some money.
All in all this is a fun film that is appealing to a wide audience. It’s appealing to the teenage crowd because of the teenage storyline and stars. It appeals to the adults because of the story and the setting. And it’s appealing to both men and women because it has something for everyone. The sequel has already been announced, so go out and see this one.
FINAL GRADE: B +
Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres