MFR Rating: ★ ★
Maybe it’s me getting old but before seeing the film trailer a couple months ago, I had no idea of the existence of what I’ve since discovered is a hugely popular series of books: The Hunger Games. The idea certainly sounds suitably sinister. The story exists in an unnerving dystopia, where one teenage boy and girl is randomly chosen from each of the nation’s twelve districts and forced to fight to the death with only one person possibly surviving. The games takes place as a sort of voyeuristic entertainment and as punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol.
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as the film’s heroine and it’s great to see her get such a big role after making her mark in 2010’s Winter’s Bone. Again, she’s very good in this, although I can’t help but think her co-star Josh Hutcherson failed to give his character much weight. In fact a lack of weight is generally what the film suffers from. This is a fantastically twisted concept (albeit a derivative of Battle Royale), but once they’re meant to start killing each other, somehow it manages to feel more like a ‘Duke of Edinburgh Award’ outing in the woods than anything vaguely resembling the horror of the situation.
The dystopia was just so emotionally disengaging with little done to develop the place to feel real, ultimately leaving it just feeling a bit silly. A lot seems to have gone into the aesthetic of the world without developing the true terror that should have been conveyed in the tone. Almost certainly this was done with the purpose of achieving that much coveted 12a certificate, but then you’re left with something rather limp. To be fair, I quite liked the the ending (without wishing to give anything away), even if it felt incredibly abrupt considering so much of the previous two and a quarter hours felt like pulling teeth. But that being said, if you’re looking for a gladiatorial, child massacre movie which also happens to be family friendly – you could probably do worse.
The Hunger Games is out now in the UK and US. Running time 142 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank