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April 5, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

I was going to try and read The Hunger Games novel before I saw the film, but with my to-read pile approaching a height equal to myself I failed. So film first, and then if I like it the book.

I also tried to learn as little about the film as possible, but had more or less discovered the premise of the film before. And yet it surprised me from the beginning. The introductory scenes are bleak, the camera is shaky, the coal mining community in district twelve is poor and hungry. The palette in those scenes is pale and grey and the whole atmosphere was much bleaker than I expected. So when the representative from the capitol arrives in garish, punkish, colours and makeup, the contrast is stark. Some people have complained about the over the top nature of the fashion in the capitol but I thought it made the point well: they're rich, they have follies, we sympathise with the outlying districts.

The story is a combination of a couple of well worn Science Fiction ideas: a state suppressing citizens by use of a violent game (Rollerball), and reality television taken to its extremes (The Running Man (the novel)). The extra twist of nastiness is provided by the fact that the people fighting for their life are children. So with such well known and previously well executed ideas what can The Hunger Games add? Plenty. It had a prominent sense of dread and desperation, heightened by the imminent death of children. It had some excellent acting from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, who is a hero in the true sense of the word. It had a core set of ideas that had a point to make, the violence had a purpose. It was supposed to be disturbing. The comic explosions of the Avengers trailer before the film concern me more than the horrible, senseless death of the children in The Hunger Games, because it is there for a point. The state is punishing the districts for an uprising seventy four years ago. And it keeps punishing them, every year, as a reminder. As a boot heel above them.

A key scene for me is after the death of one of the children, when the people from the child's district protest violently. They've had enough. They want a fight. What will it take for the population to rise up against the oppression?

Down to the very last scene the film retains a sense of purpose and dread. It doesn't slide into cliche or Hollywood-isms. There is action and effect.

The acting is pretty decent too. Jennifer Lawrence as I've mentioned was good, but there are also great performances from Woody Harrelson, as an ex-winner drowning his sorrows, and Donald Sutherland as a wonderfully understated menacing president.

When I first saw the trailer I hadn't heard of The Hunger Games (not sure why), but thought that it looked pretty cool. It was better than that. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. I'd like the rest of the trilogy now please, although I think I'll read the books first.