Thursday, March 22, 2012

HUNGER GAMES - The Odds Are 23 to 1

THE HUNGER GAMES (sci-fi adventure)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Lennie Kravitz and Willow Shields
Director: Gary Ross
Screenplay: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray based on the novel by Collins
Time: 141 mins
Rating: *  *  1/2  (out of 4)

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

PREAMBLE: There're no pale vampires or hunky werewolves in this new movie franchise for 'young adults'. There're no dragons and wizards either but there're lots of kill-or-be-killed melodrama in this best-seller trilogy created by Suzanne Collins called The Hunger Games (to be followed by 'Catching Fire' and 'Mockingjay'). Of course, there is also a hint of romance and triangle love complications but since this is the first of the trilogy, romantic relationships are not properly developed.

Let me say that a little patience is required of viewers who have not read the book.

Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The film opens in a post-apocalyptic nation called Panem where foppish tyrants rule 12 poorer districts from an opulent Capital City. Every year, the rulers hold the Hunger Games where a boy and girl are randomly selected as 'tributes' from each district to fight one another to the death - until a hero or heroine remains as champion.

In District 12, however, when a petite and delicate Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is picked, her older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers in her place. She is joined in the competition by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker's son who has a secret crush on Katniss. For her district, Katniss holds more hope for victory than even Peeta because she often hunts with bow and arrow to supplement her family and is more adept at surviving the Games held in the wilds outside the Capital - and with hidden cameras all over. 

HITS & MISSES: As expected, lead star Lawrence has us eating out of her hand in almost every scene that she appears in. After watching her  captivating performance in Winter's Bone, we should be familiar with her Katniss prancing about among the trees and woods. However, part of the Hunger Games also requires the contestants to appear fashionably dressed for TV interviews conducted by host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). In these interviews, Lawrence look ravishing as 'Girl on Fire' and in a stunning red dress. Yes, the film-makers know how to rev up the eye-candy.

Other notables in the cast are Woody Harrelson who provides the requisite humour as Katniss' mentor Haymitch; an unrecognisable Elizabeth Banks as the giddy-headed PR girl Effie; and the dashing Liam Hemsworth as Katniss' other love interest Gale Hawthorne. Lots of females in the audience would clamour to see more of Gale but he has limited scenes in this first instalment. Hutcherson (below) is relegated to second-fiddle both in his character and in his stature at the Games.

I have not read the book but I have been told that director Gary Ross is staunchly faithful to the book. Moreover, author Collins is also one of the screen-writers. This may explain the conspicuous lack of vision and imagination that aided the success of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series. Indeed, I had expected more from Hunger Games besides just a predictable gladiatorial adventure with a reluctant love story.

And like the "May the Force Be With You" slogan in Star Wars, here, it is "May the odds be ever in your favour" - although the odds are 23-to-one that each will end up dead.

THE LOWDOWN: A rather manipulative film, the odds are definitely not in your favour.


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