Friday, 30 March 2012

The Hunger Games-Kino Shout! Review

The Hunger Games (2012)

Dir: Gary Ross

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harelsson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley

Verdict: 4/5

Great Films that are similar: Metropolis, The Most Dangerous Game, Battle Royale


Firstly, let's bitch about Twilight. As a matter of fact, let's bitch about young adult fiction in general. Why Not?! I mean, doesn't it sometimes appear that we live in a pop culture dystopia of teen lit/film that serve to do nothing but exploit the weaker elements of teen culture for cold, hard cash? Seriously, am I the only one who saw the frist two Twilight movies and thought "Man, this is condescending to teens!" Admittedly, I have never read a Twilight book, but it does seem to me that, vampire and werewolf alike, those kids need a good talking to. Remember the sequence (if you bothered to go see it) in Twilight: New Moon in which Bella misses Edward so much that she...just sits around brooding aimlessly?! Wow, they sure do have teenagers badly typecast, dont they. Think about it:

Look how the seasons literally change around her whiny face. The camera engulfs her as she just plain refuses to stop moping. Christ, her Dad even has to convince her to go to the movies with a friend because her depression is becoming so corrosive. Seriously, I respect clinical depression and all, but what is going on within a teenage girl must be far greater and more fascinating than shirtless boys and emotional extremes.

Teen lit, much??
So, along comes the much anticipated screen adaptation of The Hunger Games. Initially, one might have worried. The film does have all of the potential trappings: teen pin-up actors, tempestuous young romance, macabre world portrayals, the list could go on! However, within 10 minutes of the film's opening credits, right around the point at which young Katniss bags her first deer onscreen, one realizes that this is a more desirable breed of teen fiction.

The tone of The Hunger Games alludes to the likes of Battle Royale; there are even hints of Schindlers List. For those who don't know the plot already, the story centres around the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, formerly the USA. The flamboyant citizens of the capital hold prisoner the other citizens of the country in 13 districts. Every year, two teenagers from each district are selected at random to compete is a death-match tournament called the Hunger Games, a ritual televised for the sadistic and flamboyant citizens of the capital. The selected teens are thus known as "Tributes". It is a Third Reich ethos, the people of the capital consider the peasants of the districts to be a lesser breed, deserving only of a good meal and fine accommodation before they are sent to die.

Sheesh, I know what you're thinking-"this must mean some serious teen brooding!"....

Pictured-An annoying, depressed teen, moments before Tweeting "I hate God,  Capitalism is  wack"

...well, thankfully, no. You see, our protagonist Katniss is somewhat of a hero. A realistic optimist, Katniss raises her sister and keeps her household in the complete absence of parental figures. A victim of an apartheid state that views her kind as little more than vermin, Katniss doesn't so much breed as she does the following hunt, cook, sing songs of freedom, defy gender expectations, and, eventually, volunteer for a death-match in her sister's place. Yes, actress Jennifer Lawrence once again returns to the kind of dignified underling that she portrayed so beautifully in her indie film breakthrough Winter's Bone. She leads a tremendous cast of exceptionally well-developed characters that sees Josh Hutcherson play a charming love interest/rival combatant, Woody Harrelson plays a well-meaning but drunken Hunger Games veteran, and Elizabeth Banks absolutely shines as a prissy hypocrite from the capital.

Even Slash from Guns N' Roses got cast in the film:

Pictured-a man who is definitely Slash. No question.

But there is no sign of over-sentiment in The Hunger Games, either. Children die and the villainous organizers of the games go unpunished (at least in this installment). Even the central romance of the film is questionable as it may be an elaborate rouse on the part of Katniss to win "sponsors" from the viewership. Indeed, there are heroes and villains in equal measure in The Hunger Games, among the most disturbing moments of the film belong to the clique of bloodthirsty "tributes" from district 9, relishing in the morbid game and killing with other tributes with great glee. Tragic, too, is the fate of the kind tribute Rue. For me personally, though, the real treat is the mainstream return of American Beauty star Wes Bentley (the weirdo who loved the plastic bag) as Seneca, the pompous organiser of the games. Seneca lives in constant fear of Donald Sutherland's President Snow, who rules over the country with an iron fist. It is Bentley's role that communicates to us the notion that, in this  world, there is tragedy amongst the villains too.

I hate Donald Sutherland.

Be warned, director Gary Ross (the weirdo who loved Seabiscuit) keeps an at times Saving Private Ryan-esque realist handle on the violence. The film moves from flamboyant to gritty effortlessly and, thus, so do we. Ultimately, we witness what is perhaps a better testament to the teen demographic than any tale involving oily, shitless, werewolves and pasty-skinned vampyres could offer. The Hunger Games is a bit of an indulgence, but it is a good one. I officially endorse the coming sequels and anticipate them. Indeed, this is a film that I would highly recommend-to anyone.

Though you will have to get your laughs elsewhere: