Jennifer Lawrence leaped to fame after her tremendous performance in the 2010 Oscar nominated film Winter’s Bone, since then Lawrence has starred in a few big budget films including X-Men: First Class and of course The Hunger Games which looks set to become the biggest role of her career as the film is based on the first of a series of novels which are hugely popular and successful among the teenage demographic.
Directed by Gary Ross the film is based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name (which I must admit I have not read) which is set in a North American dystopian future in which the repressive government, led by Lord Snow (Donald Sutherland), select two tributes (one male, one female) from the twelve districts to engage in a fight to the death in an annual event known as The Hunger Games. District 12, the poorest district, is the residence of the heroine Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), who volunteers as tribute after her twelve year old sister is randomly selected to fight in The Hunger Games. Before the event starts the contestants must be trained and evaluated so that those living in the capitol can bet on the winning contestant.
Right at the very heart of the film is a superb Jennifer Lawrence who’s performance as the brave, resourceful and resilient Katniss Everdeen acts as an anchor for the film. Katniss Everdeen is a strong central female character (of which there is a lack of in cinema) and Lawrence is completely believable in the role, Lawrence is the beating heart of the film and is the reason why the film adaptation of The Hunger Games is as good as it is. Supporting Jennifer Lawrence’s riveting performance is a fine collection of supporting performances from Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy (a former winner of The Hunger Games and now mentor) and Stanley Tucci is delightful as the camp TV host.
The issue that affects so many film adaptations of any novel is that there is so much plot to get through that a film running 140 minutes will find it impossible to cover everything in a seven to eight hour read (Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hobbit intended to solve the problem by splitting the film into two parts). The result of there being so much plot to get through is that some of the characters feel so underdeveloped that they’re not really characters at all thus relationships between characters feel rushed, perhaps it is in moments like this that reading the book beforehand is beneficial.
Arguably the major flaw of the film is the shaky camera work, while the set pieces are marvellous we do not have the opportunity to appreciate them as much as we wish as the editing is so choppy it renders the film almost incomprehensible during the action sequences. However the reason for these incomprehensible action sequences is to fit within the guidelines of the 12A (PG – 13 in America) rating as a more stable camera would display the injury impact in far greater detail, however this isn’t really a major issue as the central plot of kids killing kids (similar to Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies) remains quite disturbing. However some of the themes of the novel (poverty, oppression and effects of war) have been somewhat pushed aside for the action and hunting sequences as they do not seem to have been very well developed.
However The Hunger Games works quite well when there are moments of almost peace and quiet, the only sounds you can hear are sounds of the birds tweeting or running water, it is here when the tension rises as you aware of the dangers that our heroine must face but are unaware of their location. It is this uncomfortable feeling of paranoia and tension plus Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific performance that really makes The Hunger Games click for those who have not read the books. In addition the film has a satirical element as it comments upon reality TV, for example playing the cards right gains the contestants’ sponsors who will send supplies into the arena which could be vital in the fight for survival and also the contestants have to give what the public want (like a love story, for example).
The Hunger Games is a start of a new franchise, and judging by the opening weekend figures it is going to be successful one. The Hunger Games is a good start to the franchise but much is owned to Jennifer Lawrence’s central performance. Reading the book beforehand is not essential, but it may fill in a few blanks that arise in the film.