"The Hunger Games"
Being well outside the target demographic, I was unfamiliar with Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” novels about a dystopian future society in which young people representing their various districts are forced to fight to the death on live TV, in order to distract the oppressed masses. My expectations of Gary Ross’ film, initially fairly low because of lazy “Twilight” comparisons in the media, had been raised by a series of adulatory reviews. And it is a perfectly decent film – it’s nicely shot, in a jittery, verité style, and the contrast between the worlds of dustbowl poverty and Regency-style opulence is cleverly evoked. The performances are good, too - Jennifer Lawrence is an appealingly tough/vulnerable heroine, Woody Harrelson (with a lovely head of hair) and Lenny Kravitz impress as her advisors, and it’s good to see Wes Bentley again. “Battle Royale” is an obvious inspiration, but “The Hunger Games” goes for tension rather than insane violence, and manipulative sentimentality over dark humour, which is understandable given its mass-market aspirations. Some of the story-telling seems confused, though (e.g. the electronic animals that are somehow able to tear people apart; and are TV cameras omnipresent or not?); its take on the shallowness of the mass media is itself somewhat shallow; and it sets up its status as the first episode of a series in a painfully obvious manner, with one apparently major character having little to do other than stare moodily into the middle distance at odd intervals. It’s perfectly serviceable, then, but its huge success seems unfair when more inventive films aimed at a similar audience (e.g. Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”) have failed at the box office.