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The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)

March 27, 2012

In the dystopian, totalitarian nation of Panem, a wealthy capital city rules over an impoverished nation of districts. As penance for a previous rebellion, every year sees each district forced to enter two adolescents to participate in The Hunger Games competition; the winner receives an extensive cash sum and a chance to live amongst the wealthy, but the event is a death match where only one can survive. Elements of the film’s narrative and allegorical concerns result in an amalgamation of the likes of The Most Dangerous Game, Lord of the Flies, The Running Man, The Truman Show, Series 7: The Contenders, and Battle Royale, but The Hunger Games successfully stands on its own as a gripping entity with an interesting world courtesy of Suzanne Collins’ source material, the first in a hugely popular series of novels.

Regarding that last work to which it may bear numerous superficial similarities, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale has one arguable strength over Gary Ross’ film in that it bears some more memorable, effective staging of its combatants’ fighting. That film, however, leans more towards dark comedy, and is otherwise an undernourished, un-engaging effort when it attempts dramatic potency that frequently falls flat. Hosting an unpleasant melodramatic tone, far too many one-dimensional characters that barely register prior to their demise, and clumsy, overt delivery of its social commentary, Battle Royale is unsatisfying in numerous ways, especially so in comparison to strengths of The Hunger Games that serve to counter that film’s flaws and limited execution. Firstly, Ross’ screenplay, co-written with Collins and Billy Ray, makes the wise choice to not try building the film around every contestant, preventing potential wallowing in inanity that Fukasaku’s effort is so frequently prone to. Present in nearly every sequence, Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss is the main focus here, in addition to fellow District 12 competitor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The character development of its select protagonists, which also include Woody Harrelson’s former Hunger Games victor Haymitch, and the emotional gratification related to their journey is one of the film’s notable highlights; Lawrence is especially great in her role, providing a little vulnerability but also an engaging, sombre determination…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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