Top critical review
Hungry for more? Not so sure
on 8 April 2012
With few decent releases on over Easter, my 16 year old daughter and I succumbed to the hype and went to see The Hunger Games. Not having read the books we went in cold and with hopes fairly high but left slightly non-plussed to be honest.
I found it difficult to engage with the pouty and aloof lead character Katniss, played by the too-old-for-18 Jennifer Lawrence. We were fed small scraps of information regarding her background as the film proceeded but by the end we still only knew that her father was a dead miner, she had a younger sister and was good at shooting squirrels with a bow. Her sector partner Peeta was a nice guy but a charisma free zone and there was a distinct lack of chemistry between them. It was left to Woody Harleson to provide the talent as their eccentric and maverick mentor Haymitch, but we have seen this character from him far too often for it to be novel and entertaining anymore.
The game itself was just ok to be honest but lacking in real tension despite lives at stake and survival at all costs. There were some pretty lethal blades on display but being a 12 rating, the violence was toned down and blurred out which reduced the impact of a group fight to the death. The producers must have deliberated over this as the books were written for teens but I think the average 14 year old would have been a bit bored to be honest and scenes often dragged. I certainly didn't sense much excitement in the cinema audience on our visit.
Outside of the games, things were a bit better with some excellent and far out costumery worn by the "beautiful people" in a kind of modern day Rome meets Dangerous Liaisons but it was a pity that imagination didn't stretch to the anorak-clad contestants' garb who looked like modern day kids on their Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Too much was also made of getting sponsors to like and help the competitors (in the excellent interview parody scenes) only for this thread to play no further part in the plot. Katniss and Peeta were only parachuted in a bowl of soup and some meds from Haymitch himself despite her being rated as an "eleven" in the public X-Factor style build-up. I was hoping for some skulduggery to add twists and turns to the contest but none was forthcoming sadly and the forming of teams was slightly weird in an event that could only have one winner.
Future death match games have been done better before (Running Man/Rollerball etc) and the director was obviously hampered by the 12 rating here but as this is the first in the trilogy I will be interested to see how the plot and characters develop in Catching Fire. Just not on the edge of my seat...