Condemned in the Capitol
In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is split into 12 districts plus the Capitol. Each year The Hunger Games is held where a male and female between the ages of 12 an 18 are randomly selected to represent each district in a battle where only the last person alive wins with the event being broadcast to the nation. When in District 12 young Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is randomly selected her sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone) volunteers to go in her place and finds herself joined by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson - The Kids Are All Right) to represent the District.
Let me start this review of "The Hunger Games" with something which really irked me as on the DVD cover is emblazoned the quote "a must see movie for all the ages". I disagree as this is certainly not a movie suitable for all ages and I question whether a movie about teenagers killing each other even when it isn't a blood thirsty movie warrants a certificate as low as a 12 which is what it received here in the UK.
Aside from that I have to say that "The Hunger Games" was a pleasant surprise especially as I was sceptical about it as I am with many new movies which end up gaining such a huge fan base of over protective fans. Here is a movie which takes a familiar concept of someone having to run the gauntlet and battle to survive but does so with thought rather than just action and with style rather than just special effects. Is it perfect? Nope, but it is an entertaining movie which is well worth seeing at least once although is also the sort of movie which makes you feel like you would want to watch it again.
Now as I said "The Hunger Games" does take a familiar idea of the competition where participants have to fight each other to survive whilst dealing with the manipulations of those in control. But where as most of these movies tend to focus on the fights and the blood splattering action of combat the focus in "The Hunger Games" is on survival as we follow Katniss and Peeta as they find themselves in the play zone and having to not only deal with the other teenagers from other districts forming alliances but also their own conflict when it comes to taking a human life. It is why "The Hunger Games" ends up more thoughtful because the story draws on elements of friendship and much more even including a romance which is not only well handled in a non cheesy manner but paves the way for further conflict especially for Katniss due to her closeness to a guy called Gale back in District 12.
Now as I mentioned I don't think "The Hunger Games" is suitable for all ages, even the 12 year olds who could watch it if they so wished as whilst it isn't always graphic in its violence it does have its moments and lets be honest features teens killing each other. Having said that the action side of things is well handled with just enough brutal violence to set the scene especially the scene where all the players find themselves in the game zone and there is a melee of death as they battle for supplies. But most of the violence is nicely crafted and is more suggestive of brutality rather than demonstrative.
What also impressed me about "The Hunger Games" is that here is a movie which with it being set in a dystopian future with a futuristic game of death it doesn't purely rely on over the top special effects to make it exciting. Oh there certainly are plenty of special effects from Katniss running through a burning forest to crazed dog like creatures but most of the special effects are more controlled and creative rather than OTT. Having said all that the visualisation of the Capitol and its self obsessed citizens is perfectly futuristic with nice use of effects to create this futuristic look.
Of course "The Hunger Games" also features Jennifer Lawrence who as of writing seems to be getting nominated for awards left right and centre and in fairness she deserves it. Her performance as Katniss is brilliant, sexy but not just about looking hot, strong but with a vulnerable side and a real touch of being human with moments of intelligence but equally moments of stupidity. Basically what I am saying is that Lawrence makes Katniss feel real as does Josh Hutcherson who as Peeta looked stocky, in fact looked like he could handle himself if he was thrown into a game of rugby. What is nice is that whilst Lawrence and Hutcherson ground their characters you then have the likes of Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland playing their characters as larger than life and that list includes Elizabeth Banks who under layers of make-up is almost unrecognizable.
What this all boils down to is that "The Hunger Games" genuinely surprised me and whilst I don't think it was a great movie it was certainly entertaining enough to make me want to watch again.