Hollywood sure does love a book series, don't they? What better way to keep a franchise going for years, especially when you can split the last book into two separate movies (yeah, they're doing that). So here we have The Hunger Games, first in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It takes place in a post apocalyptic America, where the nation is split into twelve slum-like districts surrounding an affluent Capitol. In the past, the districts rose up against the Capitol, but were defeated. Now, to appease the wealthy scum bags, each district must send one boy and one girl to the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death, in which the victor achieves fame, glory, and probably PTSD.
The story follows Katniss, a girl from District 12, who volunteers herself for the games after her sister is chosen in the ballot. As a well trained archer, she seems to have a good chance in the proceedings, but she is up against some very worthy opponents, the interference of the organisers watching over her, and her belief that killing a bunch of people is not necessarily a good thing to get behind.
Yes, I've heard the cries of outrage, about how this is a shameless copy of Battle Royale. But that's not correct. It's more like a shameless mashup of Battle Royale and The Truman Show, but with a backstory thrown in that gives some great indication of things to come, and gives us more cause to root for our heroes. I haven't read the books, (I don't really intend to now that I've settled on watching the movies), but I can see how the next instalments in the series are going to be something quite different, and I'm actually looking forward to being taken in an entirely new direction.
Of course, if the movie was crappy, I probably wouldn't be looking forward to more as much, and although this series may be decried as a shameless cash cow, it's actually pulled off pretty well. There are some great recognisable faces in there, such as Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson, and Jennifer Lawrence puts in a great performance as Katniss. Each and every person seems to fit their role perfectly, making us love them or hate them depending on whose side they're on.
The scope of this movie is quite grand as well. We're taken from the run down districts to the technologically superior Capitol to the lush forest where the games take place, and each area has distinct visual difference and costume designs that are very well done. Despite all this though, it did seem like the movie was over too quickly. Maybe that's a good thing, as it's almost two and a half hours long and I was left wanting more, but it just seems a bit fast paced. Just as I was getting engrossed in one point of the story, I was whisked along to the next. During the games, especially, it felt more like a methodical kill-by-numbers than horrifying fight for survival. Still, that's one of the main problems with adapting from a novel. Sometimes there's just not enough time for everything.
The Hunger Games is a very well made movie. There are some great casting choices, some good action sequences, and you can really get sucked into the future dystopia while watching. It may feel a bit rushed, but it's definitely worth watching, and I look forward to more.
My rating: 4/5