Some of the greatest films ever made have centered on characters living in a world destroyed and deserted, films like Road Warrior and the original Dawn of the Dead. So where does The Hunger Games stack up against other post-apocalyptic films? Disappointedly, somewhere in the middle.
The Hunger Games is about Katniss who lives in a world controlled by a totalitarian government that rules by dividing the land into districts and by controlling the people. Katniss lives in an impoverished mining area called District 12 with her mother and younger sister. Every year the government holds a lottery to select two teens from each district, one male and one female, to fight until only one is left standing and televises the event for all citizens to watch.
From the first day of The Hunger Games to the last, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat, by using a quick, shaky camera technique used in the Bourne films and other action films. This technique often comes off as confusing and it can be difficult to see what’s going on, but this film uses it well and it amplifies the action and the drama happening around Katniss. The tension that this film creates with the shaky camera and quick editing, along with a subtle music score are the film’s greatest strengths.
The overall acting in The Hunger Games is a mixed bag.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Governor Snow (Donald Sutherland), and Caesar (Stanley Tucci) are all well-acted. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is especially good. Her bravery and compassion, along with her toughness and resilience, make her the best female protagonist since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Aliens franchise. The rest of the acting, though, is mediocre at best and none of the other young actors or actresses seemed to be working hard in the film.
While the story and concept in The Hunger Games is solid and somewhat unique, the screenwriters did a poor job of explaining certain parts of the story and backstory. This could really confuse viewers who didn’t read the book and may turn some people away from liking the film. More importantly, it hurts the story and entire film when the screenwriters or director fail to explain certain elements of the story. For example, why are the people not living in the districts dressed up in funny costumes resembling clowns and circus performers? How is it that they are living “the good life” in the capitol, rather than struggling to survive in the districts?
The Hunger Games was given a PG- 13 rating. That’s pretty lenient for a film that’s about kids killing other kids. Some of the killings we see in the film are brutal and quick. It’s pretty disturbing to see a kid that is somewhere around the age of 12 or 14 get cut down by a sword and then see a little girl get impaled by a spear.
There’s lots of blood.
This film should have been rated R without question, and the PG-13 rating is clearly a move designed to get more people to see the film. This may even include young kids. I saw at least two very small kids in the theater watching this film with their families.
Overall, The Hunger Games is a very watchable film with some clear strengths, but also with some glaring weaknesses. Anyone who read the books and liked them should check out this film. If you’re looking for a gripping drama with some great action moments, then you should definitely see this movie. The series has lots of potential heading into the future.