I’d never heard of The Hunger Games series of books until I started hearing hype about the film version of the first book. They’re teenage fiction so I suppose they’d passed me by. When I did hear about them, what I heard was positive, and the film got good reviews so I went to see it.
The story is set in futuristic and dystopian America, called Panem. It’s ruled by a region (or possibly just a city, it’s not too clear) called the Capitol. There are 12 outlying districts, some of which are very poor. In penance for a failed uprising years previously, every year a boy and girl between 12 and 18 are chosen at random from each district. The 24 “tributes” head to the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games.
The Games are a brutal fight to the death between the teenagers. The winner is the last tribute standing. Tributes receive training in fighting and survival skills before being sent to a large but enclosed area for the fight. The Games can take days as the tributes try to survive. Some take an aggressive position and try to hunt down their rivals, whilst others simply try to survive by hiding and outlasting the others. They have to find food, water and shelter to survive. All the while, their exploits are broadcast to their fellow citizens.
Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for tribute in place of her younger sister. Katniss is an engaging protagonist, flawed enough to seem real while still being easy to root for. The male chosen from District 12 is Peeta. The two come to support and rely on each other to an extent, which is difficult as the rules state only one can survive. How will this affect their relationship?
A few minor quibbles. At times the camerawork is frustratingly jerky, making it dificult to follow the action. I appreciate that in order to get the film the necessary PG13 classification the director had to do something to suggest the horrific violence without actually showing it, but it could have been a little less all over the place. On other occasions the action cut away to the tv presenters discussing the events for their audience as they happened. This slowed the pace somewhat, but it was interesting to see the action from the audience’s point of view.
On the plus side, the acting is stellar throughout. Jennifer Lawrence will really make a name for herself after her performance as Katniss and she is ably assisted by Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, as well as more recognisable supporting actors including Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland and even Lenny Kravitz.
Book to film translations often struggle to convey all the information necessary for those who haven’t read the book to understand the film. The Hunger Games succeeds. Sure, there are certain things which I’m sure are crystal clear in the book which I felt could have been portrayed better (Katniss’s friend Gale seems to be a potential love interest, but is it one-sided? Given the cruelty and brutality of it, why do people watch the Hunger Games at all?) but nothing which really causes a problem. In fact, this stands extremely well on its own.