• Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
Centretown News Online
Sunday, July 22, 2020
Film Review: The Hunger Games
Wednesday, 28 March 2020
By Corcoran Conn-Grant
PDF Print E-mail

Views : 457

Favoured : None

Published in : Centretown News, Our Critics

Related articles  

“A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”

The Hunger Games

Directed by Gary Ross.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) thus explains the annual Hunger Games to his gamemaker Seneca (Wes Bentley), MC of the 74th edition, even as two dozen adolescent “Tributes” prepare themselves athletically and cosmetically for participation in a gladiatorial death match, their only hope to be the sole survivor and winner.

Based on the first installment of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games depicts a post-apocalyptic North America in which 12 impoverished districts surround the capital of Panem (as in panem et circenses, the political strategy of diverting the populace with entertainment).

Every year, each district randomly selects a boy and a girl to participate in the games in a tradition combining Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” with Battle Royale by way of modern media saturation. After the youth are fed, feted, and paraded before the people of the capital, they murder each another in droves on live TV.

The spark in this case is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a delegate from District 12 who notably volunteered herself in place of her younger sister. Outshining her home-district compatriot, the earnest Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss is independent and skilled with a bow, having provided for her family since her father’s death in a coal-mine explosion left her mother semi-catatonic.

Katniss has the physical grace of athleticism, her good looks (though they belie that titular hunger), and the notoriety of having volunteered, all of which count in her favour, since anything that makes her memorable aids her survival by attracting the largesse of wealthy “sponsors,” who can transmit gifts of medicine or tools to favoured Tributes in the arena.

Her kind-hearted stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), cleverly outfits her with fiery special effects for her public appearances leading up to the games, earning her acclaim as “the girl on fire” and halfway literalizing the spark metaphor as Katniss seems partly to transcend the geographical partisanship of the games, for instance sharing an elegiac moment with the people of District 11 after the death of their tribute Rue (Amandla Stenberg).

Katniss and Peeta’s strategic mentor, dedicated inebriate Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), victor of the 50th Hunger Games, discerns an opportunity to shape the narrative of the games and grip the audience even more powerfully: the “star-crossed lovers” angle, with one doomed to die.

Even surrounded by seasoned heavyweights, lead actors Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson shine brightest as the self-sufficient survivor and her ardent comrade, handily elevating material that could have played like niche-targeted teen melodrama in the wrong hands.

Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks overplay their introductory scenes but redeem themselves as the story progresses. Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, and Wes Bentley are simply given nothing to do, while Stanley Tucci is largely wasted on an announcer role, though he shines when interacting with our heroes.

But while Katniss and Peeta sort out how much of their relationship is performance and survival instinct versus adjusting to and enjoying one another, the film loses sight of its central dystopian themes and then descends into PG-13 chaos for the lengthy climax.

The buildup, dwelling on combatants’ training and primping, is overlong to the point that The Hunger Games, 142 minutes in all, seems to want to win viewers over through sheer attrition. The actual beginning of the games, which should be the most riveting scene of all, is poorly choreographed, lazily shot, and badly scored.

“Tracker jackers,” a cutesy plot device in the form of GMO killer bees, are up there with the very worst of Harry Potter, while the gamemaster’s ability to conjure devil dogs out of thin air takes the “playing god” conceit (as in The Truman Show, The Condemned, and others) to new and inexplicable heights.

Haymitch’s drunken introduction and scenes of jovially gloating tween murderers are starkly incongruous with the overall tone of The Hunger Games, and they are matched by as many contradictions in logic throughout.

Why does nobody but Katniss use flashy effects for attention? Why are the ‘obstacles’ so uninspired after 74 years of this tradition? Why is a brief – and disturbingly racialized – riot over a dead child presented as if it is something novel after all that time? How does watching your children die instill hope?

Director Gary Ross (of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) may not have been the best candidate for the material, but in matter-of-factly presenting a capable female protagonist who navigates traditional male action-movie terrain without any gimmickry or explicit politics, The Hunger Games upholds a healthy, positive feminism devoid of trite, tit-for-tat gender reversals.

Slick and sincere in execution, The Hunger Games is nevertheless a mixed bag best taken as a showcase for the actors due to its myriad inconsistencies and an unrewarding, somewhat incomprehensible ending that neither wraps up loose ends nor teases a sequel, though Catching Fire is certain to follow.

Last update : 28-03-2020 14:07

Users' Comments  RSS feed comment

Average user rating

   (0 vote)


Add your comment
Only registered users can comment an article. Please login or register.

No comment posted

mXcomment 1.0.6 © 2007-2012 - visualclinic.fr
License Creative Commons - Some rights reserved
< Prev   Next >

Download PDF Version

April 6, 2020

Centretown Past and Present


Rediscover Centretown's streets and landmarks and learn about the history behind their names. Researched and written by Centretown News reporters, this feature also showcases both contemporary and historical images.

Do you agree with council's approval of the 96 Nepean and SoHo Italia high-rises?
Upcoming Events
July 19-August 30

The Ottawa Storytellers will be at the Bytown Museum every Thursday evening.

August 6

The Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa is hosting Colonel By Day at the Bytown Museum.


Login Form
( Username and Password is case sensitive )

Lost Password?
No account yet? Register
Web Development & Design by BIONIQ
Copyright © 2012 Centretown News Online