The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is the most recent in a spate of teen fantasy dramas to make their way from the pages to screen. But unlike some other films similar to this (Twighlight Saga) The Hunger Games appeal doesn’t just stop at the young adult. The violence and gore was famously edited out and lessened to ensure a 12A rating, which has left some more mature viewers feeling a little shortchanged, but nethertheless, The Hunger Games has become a worldwide hit, garnering critical acclaim from critics and audiences alike.

Katniss - the first volunteer for the Hunger Games

Katniss – the first volunteer for the Hunger Games

Firstly I feel like it’s worth mentioning the similarities between The Hunger Games and Takami’s Japanese novel, later film, Battle Royale. And even further back, The Running Man. Both of these films are good examples of this type of ‘fight to the death’ idea, so The Hunger Games isn’t revolutionary in it’s themes and ideas. Although I will say that if The Hunger Games was the right amount of gore and violence for you, you’re not going to like The Running Man or Battle Royale, the latter being a bloodbath. Battle Royale was slated for an American remake, but this idea was dashed with the release of The Hunger Games. All those involved said that accusations of copying would affect Battle Royale being taken seriously, despite it coming first, which is a shame, because Battle Royale is a superb film.

If you liked The Hunger Games, definitely check out Battle Royale, if you're not too squeamish!

If you liked The Hunger Games, definitely check out Battle Royale, if you’re not too squeamish!

The Hunger Games is set in an ‘other world’, Panem, the rich capitol who oversees, exploits and dominates 12 poorer districts. Each year a boy and a girl or ‘tributes’ are made to The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. The survive, each tribute is trained manicured, paraded around on television in a bid to secure sponsors who send them supplies in the field. This part of the film, I hugely enjoyed. I loved the ideas being bandied about, especially about the sponsors. I thought it was genius. And not a million miles away from the reality TV we see nowadays (which by the way, I’ve stopped watching, it’s too addictive and creates unnecessary media frenzies). It really tapped into an idea which I think afflicts young people no matter where you’re from. The idea of performing and acting in a certain way to get approval. Katniss is told to minimise exposure of her inability to make friends and her disobedience. It’s a really powerful and relatable message for young people, especially young girls. Which leads me onto Katniss’ character.

I’m probably a bit biased as I champion anything which exposes younger girls and women to powerful female figures. In a world of airbrushing, sexualised imagery and enormous pressure to fit in which has become so easily accessible, it’s fabulous to see the likes of Jennifer Lawrence going against the grain. She’s such a positive character, whilst she has flaws, she’s presented as the ideal of strength and compassion. She’s a fantastic character, and importantly, she becomes the favourite to win the hunger games. Her wanton ways are embraced and celebrated, despite becoming the bane of the lives of the organisers of the hunger games. This leads me to believe that The Hunger Games is a women’s film. Not to say that it will exclude men, on the contrary, it’s been embraced by men, but the fact it celebrates women in a non-sexualised, non-conformist way is so powerful. It’s wonderful to see such an embrace of films like this.

Katniss is the ultimate positive view of young women that we have seen on screen for a long time

Katniss is the ultimate positive view of young women that we have seen on screen for a long time

The Hunger Games has a strong first half, but a slightly weaker second half. The actual hunger games seemed a little tame and dragged a bit. I definitely think that some of the first half of the film could have been shortened to allow for more screen time for the second half. But equally, the film is only just over two hours long. It could have been a lot longer and I don’t think this would have put people off. I didn’t mind the lack of violence, it was quite nice actually to have a film about violence which doesn’t include buckets of blood and sliced up bodies. And it definitely contains enough shock moments to keep older audiences interested.

The cast is also worth mentioning. There is a stellar cast involved in this film, with a nice mixture of new and upcoming actors and established well knowns. Woody Harrelson is superb as Haymitch, Stanley Tucci as the plasticky  Caesar, the media face of the Hunger Games and Lenny Kravitz as groomer Cinna. All of them provide exceptional support to the main star of the film, Jennifer Lawrence.

Lenny Kravitz as Cinna

Lenny Kravitz as Cinna

Stanley Tucci as Caesar

Stanley Tucci as Caesar

The Hunger Games is a brilliant film, that I’d recommend to anyone, but probably more to younger women. It’s a celebration of young femininity. Some older audiences might feel the distinct lack of violence and gore, but to me this shouldn’t matter. It’s not the violence which is integral, it’s the characters and choices they make, which ultimately leaves you questioning if you could do what they must do.

(P.S – check out an article I wrote on Cinemachords about strong female kid fighters to celebrate the release of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Most Kick Ass Female Kid Fighters)

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