Sorry John Carter, but The Hunger Games is the next big teen franchise.
Where Carter could only gain $67 million, domestically, in four weeks for its $250 million (!) dollar budget, Hunger Games tackled $150 million dollars in its opening weekend alone. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing Hunger Games Part 12 before we return to another big screen adventure on Barsoom.
So, with that, Suzanne Collins’ three-part series became America’s next Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.
In the aftermath of an unknown apocalypse, North America is now Panem and separated into a wealthy Capitol and twelve poor districts. As punishment for a rebellion created by the districts some time ago, the Capitol holds a lottery each year inside each district where one boy and one girl, ages 12-18, are selected to fight in the Hunger Games.
A huge national televised event, these “tributes” from each district must battle one another in a fight to the death where only one can survive. 16-year-old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) lives inside District 12 with her 12-year-old sister, Primrose (Willow Shields).
Despite being her first year in the lottery, Primrose is selected by the Capitol to become the female participate. In a final moment of protection, Katniss volunteers in her sister’s place to be in the Games. Katniss, along with the male selection Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are taken to the Capitol where they briefly live privileged lives for the first time before going to face their uncertain futures.
What she lacks in looking like a 16-year-old, Lawrence thankfully more than makes up for in her performance. As the lead character, she continually proves her capabilities as an actress and gives Katniss a lot of depth and subtly that would be lost by a majority of young actresses working today.
Built enough to believably be a badass, while still being able to look elegant and normal when she needs to be, Lawrence continues in the recent line — with Gina Carano in Haywire and Saoirse Ronan in Hanna — of Hollywood presenting strong and intelligent female protagonists. Hopefully, they’ll keep this trend going.
Almost all the performances in the film are strong, in fact. Everyone gives a human sense of personality, which is sometimes not found in these types of movies, adding a level of realism to be found within. The only actor that doesn’t seem to hold his own his Hutchinson, which actually drags the rest of the movie down quite a bit. As his character becomes more vital to the story, Hutchinson’s inabilities in this performance stick out more and more, and prevent vital chemistry that’s supposed to be created between two characters from happening.
Strapped to its PG-13 rating, The Hunger Games can only do so much with such a gruesome premise and still be acceptable to young adults. As a result, frequent, quick editing cuts and jarring shaky cam work will try to cover some of its violence. While the film isn’t afraid to show a least a little blood (thankfully), it definitely doesn’t reach to Battle Royale’s or even The Running Man’s level of gore.
While violence should rarely be recommended, here, with a premise that so vitally fuels itself on being grim, Hunger Games loses some edge by its restrictions. While this only becomes an issue towards the final third of the film, this is where the movie loses itself. In addition to being forcibly sheepish, the film also speeds through relationships built between characters in the Games. As a result, when the characters are in threatening or dangerous positions, the level of empathy felt for many of supporting characters is not too profound or care-worthy.
Despite these weaknesses, director Gary Ross was able to keep the film strong as a whole through his ability to keep it tense and engaging. While the overuse of shaky cam is heavily noted, it also adds a sense of grittiness that otherwise would be lost in the typical, glossy Hollywood style.
By now, The Hunger Games is a huge hit and everyone and their brother has been talking about it — some of which has been very positive and some not so much. The Hunger Games has its flaws, most of which may have been caused by its rushed production, but overall the film is a solid, sometimes tense but always entertaining first chapter in a film series that will surely be with us for at least the next few years.