I guess at the end of the day, you could find worse entertainment than “The Hunger Games.” Most of the concept has been nothing but hype that leads in to narrative that’s entertaining in its own right, but is nowhere near being a masterpiece. I wouldn’t even call it a great movie, when pressed. It’s been touted as violent and disturbing for a PG-13 film, but when the centerpiece of the film involving teens and preteens slaughtering one another at the start of the Hunger Games approaches, it’s all so tame. It’s off-screen blood splatter, and suggestive brutality, all softened by a dizzying shaky cam that renders it impossible to make any of the chaos coherent for the viewer.
When I was watching, I just couldn’t help but think that maybe “Battle Royale” could offer a better time. It surely offers a more interesting and bleaker look at a future world, with a vicious competition suited only for teens. It just doesn’t garner any of the in vogue stars and age appropriate MPAA grading “The Hunger Games” does. Granted, Jennifer Lawrence is gorgeous and a great actress, but everything else in the universe adapted by the books is derivative, cheesy, and lacking in real dramatic punch. Stories about civilizations forced to compete for their lives, or for food is such a common staple in fiction that it’s tough for “The Hunger Games” to re-invent the wheel. And it doesn’t seem all too anxious to try. Jennifer Lawrence is stunning as Katniss Everdeen, a skilled archer tasked with caring for her young sister in her household with her mom.
Living day by day, Katniss discovers her sister Prim has been called up to compete in the yearly Hunger Games. It’s a deadly sport where two young kids from various districts of the future civilization have to compete and fight for their lives. In the end, one victor will stand, and the one that does achieves fame, and wealth for their own brood. Much of what’s included in “The Hunger Games” doesn’t garner much dramatic weight, and often feels forced. From the mockingjays, to the deadly trackerjacks, and the mutant dogs, it’s a pretty disappointing post-apocalyptic world, one without many menaces to consider as potentially hurting our heroine. Even moments like character Peeta’s ability to camouflage by painting his face is incredibly goofy, and misses any mark on being clever or daring. That said, there are some interesting themes the narrative explores in the more subtle moments, including exploitation of the lower class, the shamelessness of television, and the grotesque apathy of the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
Katniss can only survive in the game if she achieves a wealthy sponsor for the competition which allow her supplies and gifts for survival. In order to achieve that, she must become a charming and likable celebrity. Thus Katinss strives to build a persona to woo sponsors, while struggling to stay focused on her true intent in the games. Much of the survival for Katniss is entertaining, only for the incredible resourcefulness of the heroine who rarely breaks under pressure, and adapts to the dangerous forest and competitors during the hunger games. Her relationship with a young competitor named Rue, who takes it upon herself to befriend and even help Katniss is a truly compelling sub-plot that really keeps the tension and emotional turmoil in full swing for the second half of the film. In either case, “The Hunger Games” is a mixed bag of themes, and plot devices, all of which add up to a genre film, with a great performance by Lawrence, that though not at all innovative or original, is at least a worthwhile action fantasy.