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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Released 23 March 2012
Director Gary Ross

Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Producer(s) Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik
Origin United States
Running Time 142 minutes
Genre Action, drama, sci-fi
Rating 12A

Satiable stuff.

To the uninitiated, the bombardment of The Hunger Games paraphernalia on everything from web-ads to bus stops, must seem puzzling and rather like Twilight deja vu. And yet Hollywood PR executives are masters of mass marketing-doing enough to pique interest but withholding just enough to arouse curiosity. Dramatic stills from the movie were strategically released at timed intervals since Christmas, whipping devoted fans into such a frothing frenzy that cynical naysayers had to take note. Despite the wide success of Suzanne Collins's trilogy in reading circles up until two months ago The Hunger Games were still something of an underground hit. It had the cache of being something a little edgier, more left of the mainstream than your typical popular book-cum-movie.

Set in a futuristic fractured post-war North America, renamed Panem (Latin for 'bread and circuses'), The Hunger Games follows life in a broken nation of twelve impoverished districts and the Capitol. Each year the subjugated districts are forced to pick by lottery two candidates who must fight to the death in a televised game show. Our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a bow slinging hunter from District 12 who volunteers in place of her kid sister Prim (Willow Shields) as a 'tribute' for the Games. She must compete against twenty-three other candidates for survival in a brutal environment of mutated wasps, fires, beasts, knives and starvation.

Unflinching and entertaining, director Gary Ross has created a far more serious and culturally relevant movie than all the advertising would have us believe. The Hunger Games packs a serious punch. Most importantly it is brutal where it needs to be. Young people dying a violent death is not a lighthearted subject matter and the impact of the movie would have been dulled had Ross watered down the more unsavoury aspects of the story. Nor I hasten to add, has Ross used gratuitous shots of butchered bodies for added shock value-the movie has a PG-13 rating after all, but where needs must, he shows the felling of a foe in a subdued and generally desensitised manner.

Lawrence is excellent as the stern but resourceful Katniss-her performance thankfully never sways into sexy action girl territory-while Josh Hutcherson as District 12's male tribute Peeta Mellark is equally adept at portraying the sensitive but brave baker boy. A supporting cast made up of the likes of Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and veteran actor Donald Sutherland means that The Hunger Games has a weightier ballast to anchor it than most movies of its ilk and yet even had there been less acting mettle, the sheer allegorical nature of Collins' tale will resonate with the increasingly Big Brother world of today.

There are of course certain aspects of the movie which will not be to everyone’s taste, especially to those fans of the books whose idea of Panem is slightly different. The hemp clothes and Steinbeck-throwbacks of District 12 are not exactly what I had in mind while the sheer garishness, the colour and vigour, of the Capitol citizens seems a little too overblown for my taste. And yet these are such minor infractions on my part as to be deemed worthless when faced with the overall effect. Ross has interpreted the book in such a fashion that while some may criticise him for laziness or lack of vision perhaps, others will rejoice that he negated the need to add his own embellishments or flourishes to a story that didn't need them.

- Louisa McElwee