The young-adult fiction series The Hunger Games follows the huge success of the Twilight franchise with a film adaptation, but unlike the latter, this first installment is actually well made and entertaining. The film also happens to be the one that would transform the lovely and talented Jennifer Lawrence into a massive movie star.
A sober mixture of the insane Japanese movie Battle Royale, Jason Statham’s Death Race and the Steve Austin movie The Condemned, The Hunger Games is essentially a teen-tween story but intriguing enough to leave you mesmerized by its commitment to deliver a mature, emotional yet thrilling story. Apart from the fully dimensional lead heroine, the film features various well written characters that make up for the ludicrous story it tells.
The premise of The Hunger Games is bizarre enough to kill a few million brain cells while watching it. Based upon the first of the three books by Suzanne Collins, the film is set in a dystopian future where the world is split into two groups – a lavish metropolis and the destitute ‘Districts’. The ones from the metropolis wear brightly colored wigs and sport weird facial hair and makeup. They also enjoy a morbid reality TV show called ‘The Hunger Games’ where a bunch of contestants fight to their death, and the last man standing gets rich. The 16-year-olds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are chosen from District 12 for the games; Katniss is a skilled archer and hunts, and mentally stronger than Peeta. She’s a bit like the titular character from Hanna. And just like that movie, The Hunger Games ignores its unoriginal concept by standing out as a rewarding drama.
The film works because its cheesy bits are compensated by the excellent acting and a surprising expanse of directorial flair. Director Gary Ross, who last made Seabiscuit nine years ago employs a gritty, subdued style of storytelling. It could easily have gone the campy way like Twilight but Ross mines the drama well enough to make us care for the central characters and their predicament. Incidentally, Steven Soderbergh served as the second unit director here, and a hard boiled movie buff can easily make out his shots.
Those who aren’t already in love with Jennifer Lawrence will jump aboard the bandwagon. At 20, she became the second youngest actress to receive an Oscar nomination (for Winter’s Bone); she followed it up with an excellent turn in Like Crazy and the mainstream X Men: First Class. And she is just incredible here – coming across as an ode to the 90’s Hollywood young megastar while simultaneously flaunting a reminder of her modern indie roots. She is the anti-Kristen Stewart. The Hunger Games may be billed as an adventure, but it really is a chance to spring up alongside Lawrence and spin around a cinematic dance floor with her.
(First published in Mid Day)