Comparisons will be made. You can’t have two films about photogenic teenagers in love in supernatural circumstances without drawing parallels.
With “The Hunger Games,” team Edward and team Jacob have been swapped for team Peeta and team Gale. Bella, whiny wallflower and maven of melancholia, has been upstaged by the heroic and determined Katniss.
But the biggest difference that immediately emanates from the screen is that “The Hunger Games” oozes with a fundamental element that the “Twilight” series lacks—great performances.
For those of you unfamiliar with the latest tween craze, here’s the gist: Following a civil war, North America—referred to as Panem—is divided into 12 districts, including the tyrannical rulers in the Capital.
As punishment for their rebellion, each district must offer up a teenage boy and teenage girl to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. After her younger sister Primrose is selected for the games through a lottery, Katniss volunteers for the games, protecting her sister from certain slaughter. She leaves behind her best friend Gale, and instructs him to protect her family while she is taken away with Peeta to fight to the death.
With a stellar cast including the likes of Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland, the film flies by at a staggering 142 minutes.
Elizabeth Banks provides great comic relief in her quickly timed portrayal of Effie Trinket: the ill-placed socialite representative of District 12 who prepares Katniss and Peeta for the games.
She is impervious to the pain of the lower class; viewing life and the life of others in how it will reflect upon herself.
Lenny Kravitz is endearing as Cinna, the stylist and unexpected mentor for the two young fighters, while Woody Harrelson expertly plays Haymitch, the often drunk former winner of the games who trains and prepares the District 12 team for the grueling games to come.
Director Gary Ross uses hand-held camera techniques to introduce the audience into the intimate world of Katniss Everdeen, dashingly played by Jennifer Lawrence. The shaky camera is cleverly used throughout the film and it effectively softens the brutality of the killings during the game.
|[pro-player width=’330′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoUT7q2iTbQ[/pro-player]|
Arriving at the Capital, there is a striking class disparity between the have districts and the have-not districts.
Katniss was raised in a coal-mining, have-not district, and thus is put at a disadvantage. The theme of extreme class separation seems to be common in many recent films— I was reminded of the separation of classes in the zones of the recent Justin Timberlake film “In Time.”
In “The Hunger Games,” the rich have more than enough food, clothing, and shelter, as well as medicine that cures overnight, while the poorer districts struggle each day to survive.
While Katniss’ world is opened to the possibilities of the riches outside of her district, what motivates her to fight is the thought that she must return to her home district in order to protect her sister. This self-effacing charm makes her likeable to the district crowds who root for her to win, though it also makes her hated by President Snow (Sutherland), who doesn’t want her bravery to inspire hope within poor districts.
Katniss remembers Peeta from District 12 as a selfish brute, but comes to learn that there is more to Peeta than she knew: He is kind, caring and has had a crush on her for years.
Together they struggle to survive the games, knowing only one can return home as the victor.
“The Hunger Games” entertains on so many levels. The idea of kids fighting to the death is repulsive, yet this film makes it fascinating. Visually, the film is stunning, and performances were solid.
I’m fairly confident Lionsgate will make back its $100 million investment and then some, as Suzanne Collins’ books, from which the film is adapted, have already sold over 25 million copies.
I am already anticipating the sequel, which, undoubtedly, must be in the works.
Hell, I may even pick up the book series to read in anticipation of the next film.
Go see this film. You will not be disappointed.
The Hunger Games opens today in theaters everywhere, click here for theaters and showtimes.