The Hunger Games (2012) Directed by Gary Ross


I've never been much of a fan of reality TV. It's never attracted me mainly I suspect as the obsession and struggles with my real life provide their own entertainment. Yes, I remember watching some MTV reality show and have on occasion caught a reality fashion show and even I'm A Celebtiry Get Me Out Of Here (which is some of the grossest unentertaining rubbish I've wasted minutes of my life on). It's possible I've simply never come across that dosage of reality TV that has appealed to me or kept me interested in the personalities such exercises throw up. Saying all that, if TV engaged with something as cruel, twisted and imperialistic as The Hunger Games, I may actually tune in.

Jennifer Lawrence convinces as heroine Katniss Everdeen
This has become the latest mega-movie-franchise based on successful books aimed at a younger audience – but adults like me can easily enjoy the knowingness on display. The Hunger Games is set in a future post-apocalypse/1984 type existence with the rich living in the super hi-tech environs of The Capitol whilst the poor tend to themselves in the utilitarian districts (all 12 of them). Yes, The Hunger Games delves in a dystopian future but when one considers these current years of the refugee crises and the growth between poor and rich it doesn't seem so outlandish. This has a sci-fi tinge, but doesn't over do this with effects, we're very much in the not too distant future. To cut to the chase, the annual event of the title, The Hunger Games, sees two young people plucked from each of the districts to compete in a televised fight to the death. This has certain similarities to future based movies like Rollerball or even the Japanese slaughter marathon of Battle Royale.  But The Hunger Games achieves a lot just on characterisation and no shortage of dramatic tension. The Hunger Games at least nourishes a secret fascination we have in cruel sports – the popularity of the franchise is testament to our unspeakable relish.

The Hunger Games keeps its future visions realistic.
This series has been partially responsible for the unstoppable rise of actress Jennifer Lawrence. She's good here and ably supported by a cast of seasoned professionals (Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson). For any young people looking for inspiration, Lawrence's heroine (and almost superwoman) Katniss Everdeen is one for the ages. But again, it's the economic discipline that writer/director Gary Ross (aided by the book's author, Suzanne Collins) induces here that is such a bonus to the picture. There is no fat and very little sentimentality, Ross plays this straight. Having only watched the first part, I'm sure the world of The Hunger Games becomes more grandiose as the franchise expands. This impressed with its portrayal of survival under the cruelest conditions. The Hunger Games left me wanting more. 

Jennifer Lawrence is my favorite actor in her twenties. Well, her and Lena Dunham. They have an approach to being creative, super successful Hollywood types with the groundedness of a normal human being. What I truly admire them for is being young and speaking their minds. Even when it is not beneficial to their business talks or their reputation in la-la-land. They are self-proclaimed feminists. They can look pretty, wear ridiculously little and eat pizza at the same time. They can admit to being both insecure and certain of themselves, vulnerable yet able to fend for themselves. And they work hard at their craft.

Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham in 2013
The Oscars will be dished out this weekend. Last night I watched this roundtable with the female leads who have been nominated. Lawrence comes across well in this discussion. I could go into what I didn't enjoy about the roundtable or discuss the value and faults of the Oscar tradition here, but I am sure someone else can and will continue to do so elsewhere. All I can say is that I haven't had a chance to see Joy or Carrie yet (or other films that have been nominated) so I don't have favorites.

Lawrence in her current beautiful configuration
This is supposed to be a review of The Hunger Games, so I better say something about the film now.
I had been avoiding the movie and its follow-ups until now thinking that I am not in the target audience. I'm still certain that I am not, but I did enjoy the ride in the kind of way that I felt infatuated with Indiana Jones as a child. I wish Katniss had been around in the mid-90s. If I had seen The Hunger Games as a teenager, it would have been a pivotal inspiration. To have a young female lead like Katniss Everdeen is crucial. The transition may be slow and full of wrong turns and clashes, but strong female characters are being written and played. They get through the money machinery of the film industry, because it makes a difference for women and girls (and clearly that is something worth noting even from the perspective of the box office). Rrrriot.


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